Nuchatlaht win Aboriginal Title to part of their territory on Nootka Island

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Wilderness Committee

A shot of mountains and rivers on Nootka Island. End of image description.

Organizations are congratulating the Nuchatlaht Nation for their victory over the  Province of B.C., renewing call to province to stop denying First Nations title

VANCOUVER / UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh AND səlilwətaɬ TERRITORIES — The Nuchatlaht Nation won a landmark legal case last week, marking the first ever declaration of aboriginal title in a trial-level court and the second ever declaration of aboriginal title, after the Tŝilhqot'in ruling of 2014. The Nuchatlaht are now one of the largest landowners in the province and the second largest Aboriginal title holders in so-called British Columbia.

The Friends of Nuchatlaht, which includes individuals, allied First Nations, subject-matter experts and organizations like Awi’nakola Foundation, and the Wilderness Committee, have been supporting the Nuchatlaht since the outset of their title case, and are overjoyed to see more than 2812 acres of land — equivalent to more than two-and-a-half Stanley Parks — returned to the rightful stewards of the Hahoulthee (territory).

However, the group points out that it should be the crown that is required to prove its title to lands and waters in B.C., not the other way around. Despite this systemic unfairness, the Nuchatlaht triumphed over the antagonistic legal tactics of David Eby’s BC NDP government and won a groundbreaking recognition.

“We’re thrilled to see this recognition of Nuchatlaht title. That said, we’re also disappointed to see such a limited ruling that falls short of returning all of the land to this Nation which has stewarded it for millennia,” said Liz McDowell, Senior Campaigns Director at “This process highlights the need for the B.C. government to stop fighting tooth and nail against Indigenous land rights and reform a legal system that’s unfortunately still built on the assumption that land belongs to colonial governments by default.”

The Friends of Nuchatlaht acknowledge that while the area the Nuchatlaht have been granted title to is some of the most sacred and important regions within the territory, it represents only about five per cent of the overall Hahoulthee. Awi’nakola Foundation, and the Wilderness Committee are renewing their call to the BC NDP government, demanding it drop its shameful denial of Nuchatlaht title and end the legal maneuvering that completely contradicts the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“The rights of Indigenous Nations are inseparably connected to the lands and waters of their territories. It is completely disingenuous for Premier Eby, Minister Murray Rankin and the rest of the BC NDP government to claim they care about advancing reconciliation while their lawyers actively deny the title of First Nations in the Supreme Court,” said Torrance Coste, Associate Director for the Wilderness Committee.

From the initial 2017 filing of the Nuchatlaht title case right up to the most recent hearings earlier this year, the provincial government took a dishonorable approach to deny that Nuchatlaht territory belongs to Nuchatlaht by using archaic colonial arguments. It claimed the Nation had abandoned its territory and said it was “too small” and disparate at the point of European contact to be a titleholder.

In 2023, and again this month, the Supreme Court ruled against the B.C. government, acknowledging the Nuchatlaht as a legal titleholder.

“Nuchatlaht's journey to get their land back from colonial occupation has blazed a pathway for other nations to follow. They have raised the bar in terms of legal precedents against all odds and the hubris of the settler-psyche in so-called British Columbia,” said Mark Worthing, Campaigns & Programs Director at Awi’nakola Foundation. “We raise our hands to the Haa’wilth and are excited to continue the work to liberate 100 percent of Nuchatlaht’s Hahoulthee so the land itself can heal.”

Friends of Nuchatlaht, Awi’nakola Foundation, and Wilderness Committee congratulate the Nuchatlaht on this historic ruling, while also voicing frustration about the limited recognition of the Nation’s rights to its Hahoulthee. If the Nuchatlaht Nation appeals this decision, the organizations look forward to offering the Nation their continued support, and the groups remain dedicated to standing with Nuchatlaht as they build a more equitable and sustainable future on their Hahoulthee.


Nuchatlaht Press Release, April 23, 2024

For more information please contact: 

Torrance Coste | Wilderness Committee


Liz McDowell | 

Mark Worthing | Awinakola Foundation


Background information:

Friends of Nuchatlaht Fundraising Page

Nuchatlaht Title case explainer

Nuchatlaht courthouse rally (March 2022)

Nuchatlaht mid trial update

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