Supreme Court decision supports K.I.’s sovereignty, chief says

A declaration made by the Tsilhquot'in that started their 25-year journey to last week's Supreme Court ruling is familiar to one northern Ontario chief.

The Tsilhquot'in issued the Nemaiah Declaration back in 1989. It asserted Tsilhquot'in jurisdiction over the land which would become the heart of land mark court decision recognizing Aboriginal title to that land.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (K.I.), in northwestern Ontario, issued a similar declaration in 2011.

"We declare all waters that flow into and out of Big Trout Lake, and all lands whose waters flow into those lakes, rivers, and wetlands, to be completely protected by our continued care under KI's authority, laws and protocols," the declaration states.

"No industrial uses, or other uses which disrupt, poison, or otherwise harm our relationship to these lands and waters will be permitted." 

'We just have to stick it out'

Chief Donny Morris said he is optimistic the Supreme Court decision will help Ontario recognize K.I.'s authority to make such a declaration and act on it.

"Now we just have to stand together like what they [the Tsihquot’in] did over there and really push our sovereign issues on our traditional territories," Morris said.

But Ontario's Minister of Northern Development and Mines told CBC News that the B.C.-based decision might not directly translate to First Nations that have signed a treaty.

K.I. is a signatory to Treaty 9. But Morris said the government's interpretation of the treaty relationship isn't valid. 

"So we just have to stick it out. The way we want to approach it is that we're a sovereign community," Morris said. "We can't afford to go to the courts."

K.I. has continued to assert its jurisdiction by issuing eviction notices to mining companies and creating its own land-use permits within its traditional territory, Morris said.