Clayton Thomas' wolf killing trial leans on Yukon First Nations history

Clayton Thomas of Whitehorse was back in court Thursday, fighting wildlife charges related to the killing of two wolves in 2013. Arguments on Thursday focused on Thomas' claims of aboriginal right.

Tahltan man says it was his aboriginal right to kill wolves, territorial government disagrees

Clayton Thomas was charged under the Yukon Wildlife Act two years ago, after he shot two wolves in his Whitehorse neighbourhood. (CBC)

Aboriginal trade in Yukon and the historic value of wolf pelts were in dispute Thursday in a Whitehorse courtroom, as a man fights wildlife charges for shooting wolves in the Mount Sima subdivision.

Clayton Thomas was charged under the Yukon Wildlife Act two years ago, after he shot two wolves in his neighbourhood. He said the two wolves had been lingering around his property and he was worried for the safety of his family. 

He has also argued in court that it was his right as an aboriginal Canadian to kill the wolves.

The territorial government said it was illegal for Thomas to shoot the animals and said he was preparing to illegally sell the skins.

Thomas is a member of the Tahltan First Nation, in northern B.C. He is represented at trial by a Tahltan oral historian, Kusta.

Kusta told court on Thursday that Thomas should not be on trial because Canada cannot enforce laws on citizens of other nations. 

Kusta has also argued that it has been customary for young Tahltan men to travel throughout northern B.C. and into Yukon without losing their right to hunt. He says it was normal for Tahltan people to live off the land and occasionally sell furs for food or other items.

A historian, testifying for the territorial government, disputed those claims.

Adrian Clark said there's no evidence members of the Tahltan First Nation had much historic contact with First Nations people in the Whitehorse area. He also cited one historical source that says wolf pelts were not historically sought after or traded.

Kusta disagreed and pointed out there are huge gaps in the histories written by people of European descent. He said the oral history is more accurate.

Both sides will make their final arguments in this phase of the trial next month.