The Nuxalk have the right to sovereignty, a traditional way of life and a traditional government. Nuxalk sovereignty has never been relinquished through war or treaty. According to international and Canadian laws, to which Canadians are bound, Nuxalk jurisdiction remains. International law supports the Nuxalk sovereign stance through the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which states that no unceded Indian lands in North America should be surveyed or granted to settlers. Therefore, a doctrine of continuity exists, meaning that unpurchased Aboriginal tenure has not been extinguished or superseded by Canadian law. Therefore, indigenous laws continue to exist until they are extinguished through a treaty or the people are conquered through war. Further, the Canadian Constitution (1982) affirms and protects aboriginal rights, and Canadian case law such as the Sparrow and Delgamuukw decisions further interpret and affirm indigenous rights to the land and resources. Since the Nuxalk have never signed a treaty or been defeated in war, Nuxalk laws and jurisdiction remain. As Nuxalk lawyer Asits’amniyaak – Andrea Hilland said, our laws have been subverted, not extinguished.
Nuxalk territory includes one of the last areas of coastal temperate rainforests remaining in the world. We want to protect and maintain the environmental sustainability of our territory to ensure the continued existence and survival of the natural ecosystems, including our place within it as the Nuxalk Nation. We depend on the land for survival, and in return, the land depends on the Nuxalk to be caretakers.
Traditionally, there are very strict laws regarding the use and protection of our traditional territory. Hereditary Chiefs had helpers to assist them in maintaining and enforcing the laws. For example, there were and continue to be laws to protect the river, our primary source of salmon and eulachons, so river guardians were put in place to protect the river. These laws continue to be passed down and current Hereditary Chiefs still have strong ties to the land and work hard to protect Nuxalk territory from negative outside influences. The Hereditary Chiefs have sought and received international recognition as a sovereign Nation, primarily through the work and organizing of the House of Smayusta. The Nuxalk are represented in Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) by the House of Smayusta, which is the Longhouse (government), governed by the Hereditary Chiefs and Council of Elders.