Dialogues on Human Rights and Legal Pluralism

Volume 17 of the series Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice pp 229-245


Thinking About Indigenous Legal Orders

  • Val NapoleonAffiliated withFaculty of Law, University of Victoria Email author 

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Rethinking Indigenous legal orders and law is fundamentally about rebuilding citizenship. The theory underlying this chapter is that it is possible to develop a flexible, overall legal framework that Indigenous peoples might use to express and describe their legal orders and laws so that they can be applied to present-day problems. This framework must be able to first, reflect the legal orders and laws of decentralized (i.e. non-state) Indigenous peoples, and second, allow for the diverse way that each society’s culture is reflected in their legal orders and laws. In turn, this framework will allow each society to draw on a deeper understanding of how their own legal traditions might be used to resolve contemporary conflicts. Colonial histories cannot be undone. This means that Indigenous peoples must figure out how to reconcile former decentralized legal orders and law with a centralized state and legal system. Any process of reconciliation must include political deliberation on the part of an informed and involved Indigenous citizenry.