Canadian Supreme Court Decision will Have Effects on Many Indigenous People Now Living in America—including Peskotomuhkati in Maine

peskotomuhkati territory map us and canada

Passamaquoddy Reserved Land

The recent Supreme Court decision about Indigenous rights on the west coast will have positive implications for Peskotomuhkati rights on the east coast.  The ruling upheld the rights of an Indigenous man living in Washington State to exercise his rights in British Columbia. Richard Desautel has those rights because his ancestors came from what is now BC.  But, many were expelled to the US after European settlement, and then were declared extinct by the Canadian government.


The Supreme Court ruled that the Sinixt Nation, whose reservation is in Washington State, has always maintained their Indigenous rights to hunt in their ancestral territory north of what is now the international border.  The ruling was 7-2 and means Indigenous groups outside of what is now Canada can claim their constitutional rights in Section 35(1).  The court’s exact wording is “persons who are not Canadian citizens and who do not reside in Canada can exercise an Aboriginal right.”


The Court ruling also means that the Sinixt, part of the Salish people, did not lose their identity by moving within their traditional territory below what is now the Canada-US border.


The case began in 2010 when Richard Desautel went from Washington State to southeastern British Columbia, hunted and killed an elk and then reported his actions to a BC Conservation Officer.  Mr. Desautel won all through the BC court system, and now at the Supreme Court.


The Peskotomuhkati Nation welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada decision. We intervened in the case to support the Sinixt and to protect our own rights. All the citizens of our nation have the same rights in the lands and waters that we have used for more than 14,000 years, on both sides of the border between what is now Canada and the United States.  We also all share in our treaty relationship with the Crown. Our Treaty relationship was created before there was a US-Canadian border and has been renewed both before and after.  The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized those principles. We expect the Government of Canada to continue to honour that relationship.


“Excluding Aboriginal peoples who moved or were forced to move, or whose territory was divided by a border, would add to the injustice of colonialism,” - The Supreme Court of Canada

As one united Peskotomuhkati Nation, we are engaged in comprehensive negotiations with Canada and New Brunswick. The Supreme Court’s decision affirms that it is our right to do so. This ruling should remove any of our treaty partners’ hesitations about recognizing and implementing our rights.


The decision also means that all our citizens share in the right to harvest food in our lands and waters in Canada. Our treaty relationship also addresses commercial fisheries. Peskotomuhkati rules, regulations, and policies will govern the conduct of our citizens and take conservation and safety as fundamental obligations. We are working in partnership with the governments of Canada and New Brunswick to ensure that those laws, our Treaty rights, and Aboriginal rights are implemented, protected, and respected.


Media Contact:

Hugh Akagi, Chief of Peskotomuhkati at Skutik

Paul Williams, Lead Negotiator – 905 516 1755

Via: Allan Bonner, Communications Coordinator – 416 888 8540

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