A small indigenous community is using ancient cedar trees and British explorer Captain Cook's journal to fight a historic land rights claim in Canada. The Nuchatlaht First Nation filed the lawsuit against the province of British Columbia in 2017, claiming approximately 20,000 hectares of land in northern Nootka Island. The Nuchatlaht must prove they continuously and exclusively occupied the land in 1846, when Britain gained sovereignty over what is now BC. Their evidence includes thousands of culturally modified cedars that were regularly harvested for bark, and Captain James Cook who, in 1778, wrote that the indigenous people on Nootka had “such high notions of everything the country produced being their exclusive property." The case is the first test of a 2014 Supreme Court of Canada decision which granted the Tsilhqot'in First Nation title to more than 1,700 sq km of its ancestral land in BC - the first time in Canada that indigenous title was confirmed outside a reserve.

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