The decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in rejecting the land claims of the Gitksan-Wet'suwet'en of northern B.C. stands apart from other recent decisions on Aboriginal rights. The case involved the claim by hereditary chiefs to a 22,000 square mile section of land. They argued that title there had never been extinguished. The Gitksan-Wet'suwet'en asserted their right to govern the territory and demanded damages for the use and loss of resources and land to others. In deciding the case, Chief Justice McEachern overlooked several recent Supreme Court decisions and stirred controversy for the manner in which he chose to render his decision. He affirmed the arguments of St. Catharine's Milling, although they had been overturned in Calder (1973), and stated that Aboriginal title had been extinguished in 1858. He denied jurisdiction to the Gitksan-Wet'suwet'en, pointing out that all governmental powers had been divided between the federal and provincial governments when B.C. entered Confederation in 1871, leaving no area for Native control. The only right they retained was that of fishing, hunting, or trapping over lands for which the Crown as yet had no use. McEachern drew further attention to an already controversial decision by his derogatory attitude toward Natives, expressed in a dismissal of oral history testimony and in the use of language the Supreme Court had described as unacceptable in the Simon case. Although the Gitksan-Wet'suwet'en initially suspended their pursuit of title through the courts, they eventually filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. In 1997, the Supreme Court overturned the B.C. court's decision. (See 1997 entry for the Supreme Court decision.)

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