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Gitskan - Wet'suwet'en
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Gitskan - Wet'suwet'en
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The Gitksan - Wet'suwet'en

Not all recent legal decisions were so encouraging. Because the land claims process moved at a snail's pace and because many natives have a legitimate concern that, while negotiating or while on the waiting list, their traditional lands will be stripped of their resources or become compromised in some way by third party interests, the hereditary chiefs of the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en peoples initiated a case in October, 1984, challenging the ownership and jurisdiction of almost 60,000 square kilometres of land in northern British Columbia. Both the federal and provincial governments joined to argue the case against these two nations. After three years of testimony and legal arguments, the decision of Chief Justice Allan McEachern was to deny aboriginal title to the land. Title was seen to be extinguished during British Columbia's colonial period.

In December, 1997, however, the Supreme Court over-ruled McEachern's earlier ruling, stating that the province has never had the jurisdiction to extinguish aboriginal title.

(Since this text was originally written, the B.C. Court of Appeal refused to recognize that the Gitksan-Wet'suwet'en had a fee simple title to their traditional territories but recognized that they had certain rights of usage and occupation. The appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was placed on hold.)