No aboriginal right to traffic eagle parts
VANCOUVER A man who told a judge he had an aboriginal right to trade eagle parts that he kept stashed at a North Vancouver workshop has lost his argument in court. provincial court rejected James Carl Joseph’s claim that he had an aboriginal right to possess and trade eagle feathers and parts. In making his ruling, Jardine said Joseph had presented no evidence that the right existed as central to the culture of his Tlowitsis First Nation.
The trading in illegal eagle parts came to light in 2005, with the discovery of 50 butchered eagles on Tsleil Waututh Nation land in North Vancouver. Fifteen men were eventually charged with trafficking in the eagle parts.
Joseph, fingered as one of the key players in the ring, was found guilty in 2009 of seven offences under the Wildlife Act.
Afterward, his lawyer argued that the conviction should be set aside because Joseph was exercising his aboriginal rights.
According to court documents, Joseph a respected carver traded ceremonial eagle parts with First hermes uk Nations band members in the United States. Joseph used a carving workshop attached to a relative’s house on Tsleil Waututh Nation land to stash the eagle bodies and dismember them.
During the trial, one local man, Ben Hunt, testified that when he went to the workshop on in December of 2003 he noticed a smell, like game, and saw garbage bags stuffed into two big wooden crates hermes uk on the floor. He picked up one the bags and felt the outline of wings, a head, a beak, feathers and talons. When he came back a few weeks later, the crates were empty. Hunt told the judge he began to get concerned the workshop was not a good place to work, because what was going on there was attracting “a lot of bad medicine.”
Another time, Hunt was sanding in the workshop when Joseph walked in and began removing eagle bodies from the garbage bags and dismembering them, taking off wings, talons, collarbones and tail feathers.
Hunt asked Joseph, “Where’d you get all your birds?” Joseph didn’t answer the question but said he had permission to use them.
Joseph’s lawyer told the judge his client’s aboriginal rights case had been made more difficult because following publicity about the charges, no elders were willing to testify about the oral history of the Tlowitsis. The lawyer added Joseph couldn’t afford to pay historians or expert anthropologists to bolster his case.
The judge said that left him with no evidence of an aboriginal right.
He added the Native American Church hermes uk to which Joseph said he belonged was more of a loose cross border conglomeration of people and practices, and not a group capable of holding an aboriginal right.
A sentencing date has been set for May 11.
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