Indian Country Today reports that the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations from the west coast of Vancouver Island are celebrating a major court decision that affirmed their right to catch and sell fish. The Nations spent more than $1 million on a decade of legal research that was followed by 123 days in court over the past four years.
On November 3, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Nicole Garson ruled the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations have an aboriginal right to harvest and sell all species of fish found within their territories.
“At contact, the Nuu-chah-nulth were overwhelmingly a fishing people,” wrote Garson in her 307-page judgement. “They depended almost entirely on their harvest of the resources of the ocean and rivers to sustain themselves,” she wrote, adding Nuu-chah-nulth people were able to prove a long history of trading and selling fisheries resources.
Early European explorers including Captain Cook documented trading with Nuu-chah-nulth Nations, noting their clear ownership of all resources within their territories.