Page 1

Volume 2, Issue 1:



Kaelyn Macaulay Brandon Montour Executive Editor Executive Editor Executive Editor

Advisory Council



Genny ClaraChloePlumptreRourkeMcGaugheyMichellePlyas Senior AssociateEditorsEditors


Cover art by Isabelle Zwicker © McGillRootedFaculty of Law, Tiohtià:ke Indigenous Law Association at McGill

A Publication on Indigenous Law at McGill Editorial2021-22Board

To be cited as: (2022) 2:1 Rooted


Sarah Nixon

Matthew Tse Managing Editor

James Sákéj (Youngblood) Henderson Kirsten Anker HadleySayreFriedlandPotter

A Letter to the Indigenous Women Who Inspire Me Everyday Laura Morales

Law and Medicine

Volume 2 - Rooted - Issue 1 Summer 2022 8276706256544438261682

Table of ConTenTs

As Far As Time Can Tell, We Were Trappers

Indigenous Resurgence,Education:Re-emergence and Sovereignty Erica Neeganagwedgin

The Art of Reclaiming, Renaming, and Reoccupying: Inspiring Everyday Acts of Resurgence Jeff Corntassel

Time is of the Essence: Restoring the Treaty Relationship Kate Gunn

Resurgence As Critique and Intellectual Tradition Matthew Wildcat

Kerry Sloan

On Reconciliation and Resurgence Taiaiake Alfred

Anishinaabe-aadiziwin, Knowledge (Awaadiziwin), Kaws (Naakonigewinan) and Language in Seeking Climate Justice Deborah McGregor, Hillary McGregor, Marion McGregor

Resurgence of Indigenous Legal Orders Nationhood Coucil House (Angela Day, Charu Murti, & Sarah Mercer)

Nation Building After an Apocalypse Sylvia McAdam

Chloe Dragon Smith

The Legacy of Colonialism on a Young Girl: A Look at Colonialism’s Attack on Language Veronica Ann Guido


Marsee, niá:wen, thank you, Kaelyn, Brandon, and Sarah

leTTer from The ediTors

The second volume of Rooted was assembled in the wake of widespread publicity after the remains of over a thousand children were uncovered in unmarked mass graves at former residential school sites across Canada. With the added context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, deadly international conflicts, and an urgent climate crisis, communities are facing grief and uncertainty on a global scale, but the consequences disproportionately affect Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups. While recognizing such bleak circumstances, the diverse perspectives in this issue are focused on how to build a brighter future. The authors in this issue - professors, students, artists, and community activists - highlight the resilience and wisdom of the many Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island and the world. Laura Morales expresses her hope that younger generations are “working to open more doors for future generations.” The writers from Nationhood Council House share this optimism by explaining how empowering Indigenous initiatives can help tackle broader social issues. The following articles, stories, and art pieces demonstrate that it is not possible to merely decolonize the Canadian systems which have caused centuries of harm - they must be dismantled and replaced with systems that recognize and respect Indigenous ways of knowing and being. We believe that in order to build a relationship of peace and prosperity for all, Canadians must embrace systemic changes that support Indigenous Resurgence.

Of course, just as Indigenous Peoples have a range of unique cultures, histories, traditions, teachings, and experiences, the authors of this issue have a varying (and on some points, conflicting) range of perspectives on resurgence. For example, Taiaiake Alfred positions resurgence as an alternative framework, with separate criterion of success, to reconciliation, whereas Matthew Wildcat advocates for separating resurgence as a grassroot movement from its practice as an academic theory. Sylvia McAdam, however, describes her resistance to the very word itself. Kate Gunn provides a legal analysis of treaty relations in Canada, and Jeff Corntassel explores artistic expressions of reclamation, while Deborah and Hillary McGregor engage with resurgence on a foundation of story-based teachings from the Anishinabek tradition. Similarly, Chloe Dragon Smith interweaves poetry and prose to trace the history of Indigenous-Canadian relations in the fur trade, framing resurgence as an opportunity to build reciprocal relationships which follow natural law. All of the perspectives in this issue provide invaluable insight for the path ahead, and we cannot thank each of our contributors enough for sharing their time and labour to create such a powerful collection. We invite our readers to listen carefully to the authors, to spend some time with each piece, and to consider the underpinnings of their own role in Canadian society.

As law students, we are keenly aware of the massive role that education plays in shaping cultural perceptions and social movements, for better or for worse. It was no coincidence that an industrialized school system formed the cornerstone of a concerted effort to violently erase Indigenous existences in Canada. Nor is it a coincidence, then, that the topic of education recurs throughout this issue. Veronica Guido shares insights of colonialism’s impacts from her personal journey to learn her family’s linguistic heritage. Kerry Sloan uses poetry to explore the systemic intersections between the transmission of knowledge and disease. Erica Neeganagwedgin reflects on the teaching methods of her Taino upbringing to develop her theory of “wholistic” educational. Throughout these perspectives, there exists a call to confront the harm that colonial models of education have done to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and cultures. To us, resurgence means not only giving space to Indigenous Peoples’ traditional practices, but actively empowering them in recognition of Indigenous self-determination and nationhood. We at Rooted have the privilege of using our transystemic legal education to think critically about the structures which benefit colonial settlers at the expense of Indigenous Peoples. But for some, resurgence is a matter of survival. It is our hope that this issue will serve as a call to action for a future where settlers and Indigenous Peoples can thrive, living good lives in relationship with the Land and others.

Chloe cares about revitalizing Indigenous systems – self-determined systems of living, learning, management, economies, and governance. As a mixed blood person, she feels a constant responsibility to bridge barriers and help create balance however she can. She is the co-founder of an outdoor learning initiative called Bushkids, located in Yellowknife. She now lives on the Land in Wood Buffalo National Park with her partner, Robert Grandjambe, where they are full time harvesters and co-owners of a small business: Beb(a)ski - for the Land consulting and services. Robert and Chloe collaborate on all projects, and Robert’s knowledge of the fur industry as a longtime fur harvester contributed a depth of information and perspective to this piece.


By Chloe Dragon Smith

as far as Time Can Tell, We Were Trappers

Chloe Dragon Smith is a young woman born and raised in Somba K’é (Yellowknife), Denendeh (NWT). Of German, Dënesųłiné, Métis, and French heritage, she grew up close to her Indigenous cultural values and learned traditional skills for living on the land. Her mother is Brenda Dragon, and her father is Leonard Smith, and her grandmother is Jane Dragon. The women and men of her maternal lineage lived, harvested, ate, shared, struggled, loved, and died on the Land in the boreal forests of northern Canada.

My grandfather, his dad was a great, too. The old man was French, he trapped for a living. How he learned, I don’t know. The principles he followed? I don’t know those either But he passed the knowledge to my grandfather.


My great, great grandfather. Two greats, seems old doesn’t it?

His son, my great grandfather, he patrolled Wood Buffalo National Park, The Lands his ancestors used to live freely on. A Native man, enforcing Canadian law to make a living. Still, he harvested fur.

It would be called Northern Saskatchewan, But the Land didn’t know that yet.

As far as time can tell, we were trappers.

There, my maternal ancestors livedBuilding the foundation for who we are today.

My grandmother and my grandfather, A Dene woman and a French man: Two worlds collide.

My mother, she is her own force. She gave us everything she had, Then she created a company – Aurora Heat. Selling fur for warmth. As only she can, making sense of a lifestyle, Trapped within a foreign system.

But my Grandmother, my SetsunéWho made me tea and moccasins my whole life, she knew him. He worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, before they sold pillows and handbags.

Or at this point, was it already more complex than that? They worked, for the school, for the town.

Raised a big family. They trapped. She sewed, and they held on to what they could. More than most, maybe.

And me?

My great, great grandfather. Two greats, seems old doesn’t it?

our close ties with Land, Indigenous laws come directly from natural laws, wherever they have evolved. This is why they outline processes and ways to live a good life, and why they are often shared through actions and community practices. We are Dene, and so our laws come from our range in the north of Canada. I see Dene laws as guiding wisdom that has accumulated over time, sharing knowledge with all about how to coexist with each other, the environment, and other beings on the Land.

meeting at different stages in time and space. It may be understood that nations of plants and animals have agreements of roles and responsibilities (or treaties) between them that maintain natural law for all. Fur harvesters are important observers and actors for the human nation. They interface with the boundaries of these treaties, building bridges so we can best understand one another. They work to maintain balance and prosperity by acting on their knowledge of what is needed – relaying this information to others in their roles as well.

But my Grandmother, my SetsunéWho made me tea and moccasins my whole life, she knew him.

He worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, before they sold pillows and handbags. His son, my great grandfather, he patrolled Wood Buffalo National Park, The Lands his ancestors used to live freely

Within natural law, the role of the Indigenous fur harvester is a portal. To be successful, a harvester must fully interact and participate with the Land every day. The Land works in intricate and overlapping relationships,


It would be called Northern Saskatchewan, But the Land didn’t know that yet. There, my maternal ancestors livedBuilding the foundation for who we are today.

The circular pattern of petals on a wild rose, the sweet taste of a moose in July, the way a foot sinks into crystal snow, or the way a wolf acts when on the chase – these are natural laws. I understand natural law to be the way the Land works when under its own rules, self-determined, with its own agency. These are the laws all beings lived by, before Becausecolonization.of

As an example, if populations of beavers are too high in a certain area, they will fight each other and diseases will spread, causing distress and ultimately crashes in numbers. By stabilizing the population, fur harvesters keep the beavers healthy. Relationships with other nations of animals were always reciprocal. Overall, the investments of time, love, and our lives dedicated to the Land were fair trade for the warmth and the nutrition we received.


man, enforcing Canadian law to make a living.

Still, he harvested fur. My grandfather, his dad was a great, too. The old man was French, he trapped for a

The thing about natural law that makes it so important, is that it is always operating –whether or not we choose to acknowledge it in a society. This has proven to be the hazard of losing our connection with Land, natural laws, and as it follows, Indigenous laws. We lose our understanding of the rule book – and thus our strategies for how to be successful, how to be abundant, and how to thrive as beings on Earth.

Even by my grandparents’ time, the fur industry would have been unrecognizable to our ancestors. The importance of the process of trapping has been close to completely lost. Fur harvesters no longer hold an honoured role, rather they are widely misunderstood as villains and killers.

industry was controlled by business people who operated from the top-down, making choices that served to increase their own wealth. From there, many have jumped into positions in the middle, making money down the chain until we reach the fur harvester… at the bottom.



I understand about my ancestors, the fur industry seemed a good fit with our Dene bush economies – we could be on the Land using the skills that allowed us to thrive and the lifestyles we were accustomed to. The role of the fur harvester was essential to our societies, and the fur trade seemed to support that.

My grandmother and my grandfather, A Dene woman and a French man: Two worlds collide.

But critically, the new trade system did not follow natural law. It prioritized growth over balance and connection, relying on far away markets to determine the value of skins – not the local abundance and needs of the Land and the peoples. When we work backwards, it is clear how the fur industry moved away from natural and Indigenous laws which require adaptability, participation, and personal accountability. Fur harvesting became increasingly regulated by colonial rule. Instead of the Land informing harvesters’ decisions, governance of the fur

living. How he learned, I don’t know. The principles he followed? I don’t know those either

Remaining fur harvesters are forced to follow market trends to survive, or to trap as a hobby (if they can afford to). There is organized anti-fur activism that occurs all over Canada. Big companies (including Hudson’s Bay –the original fur trade company) opt out of selling fur so as to appease public opinion. As Indigenous fur harvesters, this irony is hard to stomach. The disconnect is clear when we consider that the clothing products purchased by so many cause harm to the Land. Fleece and other synthetic products hurt the Land by their creation (chemical use and oil extraction). They do not recycle back into the earth like natural products. No part connects people with the Land.

Perhaps the most blatant sign of disconnect

Or at this point, was it already more complex than that? They worked, for the school, for the town. Raised a big family. They trapped. She sewed, and they held on to what they could. More than most, maybe.

When explorers came to this Land, they saw the richness that existed in fur bearers. It must have appeared to them that they had simply stumbled upon healthy populations of animals (what luck!) – they certainly did not recognize the role that people played in cultivating and maintaining abundance. If they had, history may have played out differently. What they saw was a fortune to be made, and so began the first industry in Canada – the fur industry. It drove physical colonization of the Land through travel and expansion by Europeans, and it drove philosophical colonization through the principles that governed the fur trade

But he passed the knowledge to my grandfather.

I live now in Wood Buffalo National Park, off

We are all interconnected; where animals feel the effects of imposed law, people do too. This comes out in many ways, lateral violence being one. There is entitlement and privilege related to the distribution of traplines, with many wanting to hold onto the title of the Land, but not fulfilling their roles as trappers. There is separation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fur harvesters based on politics and privilege – just as we see across society today. Arguably, no one is healthy in this construct, not even those who benefit in a monetary sense.

Since the beginning of the fur trade in Canada, we have seen progressive collapse. Principles that governed the fur trade expanded to all manner of economies on the Land now called Canada. The same principles of capitalism –growth and expansion – grew from the early foundations of the Canadian economy and the fur trade.

Now we see the fur industry struggling, even by its own rules. The largest auction house in the country (North American Fur Auction) recently closed down due to financial insecurity. Bowing to pressure, Canada Goose publicly ended their iconic use of fur trim just this last year. The pandemic has shaken the industry irreparably, with COVID-19 outbreaks on some fur farms, resulting in large-scale culls and permanent closures.

My mother, she is her own force. She gave us everything she had, Then she created a company – Aurora Heat. Selling fur for warmth. As only she can, making sense of a lifestyle, Trapped within a foreign system.

Through her business, my mom has taken on sharing and marketing beaver fur with a larger audience in Canada. She does her best to elevate local economies and support fur harvesters. Because conduits to the Land have long ago been broken, the resulting systemic disconnect is formidable. The foundations of natural law are not intact; so while she does her best, she is beyond her time.


Far beyond the fur industry we are seeing extensions of the same effects, of the Land telling us we have breached her boundaries. Systemic problems are growing and becoming impossible to ignore in Canada and around the world: climate change, biodiversity loss, economic collapse, and pandemics. It is accepted by the realms of both Indigenous knowledge and western scientific knowledge that we are approaching tipping points.

And me.

within the industry today is the reliance on and the use of ranched or farmed fur. Ranched fur completely removes the need for the fur harvester, and has served as the final nail detaching the economy from the interaction between humans and the Land. Over time, as our connection broke down, the accountability we actively maintained to one another broke down, too. Animals are robbed of the self-determination that comes with their way of life, meaning the ancient agreements of natural law are no longer being Nothonoured.foranimals, and not for people.

Of my ancestors, my living memory holds only as far back as my grandparents. While I understood that they were fur harvesters, by the time I came along they no longer practiced trapping. We, my family and my grandparents, went on the Land for several weeks a year. Like many, knowledge and skills were lost through the generations. What I know is a brief window in time, and the result of many forces acting around me.

Let us start with those of us in the fur industry today. What are our roles? What are our responsibilities to the animals we profit from? What could reciprocity look like? Through this examination, we have the potential to build bridges and share what we learn. From this root, other systems must connect with natural law, too. Those of education, health, justice, and ultimately governance. A resurgence can lead us to understandings about our place on the Land, the same ones the fur industry took from us long ago. Fur harvesting is both the problem and the solution – and it’s a solution that everyone is looking for.

“Natural law does not discriminate based on age, race, politics, or any of a multitude of factors that have come to divide us. It calls on us to use our unique gifts in a connected web, to create a world that is stable and balanced for all.”

grid in a small cabin. Sitting in front of our wood stove, I write from the home I now share with my partner Robert, our daughter Sora,

The fur industry has had the most drastic impact of any process in the history of this Land. Its progression through time illuminates the critical stages that have led to the escalations we see today. From our place on the Land, Robert and I imagine radical transformations. What if we could reclaim fur harvesting from capitalism and Canadian law, to realign with the natural and Indigenous laws that made harvesting a force

for abundance?


We harvest fur as a lifestyle because it is our responsibility. Our life on the Land is not without sacrifices; however, we see the beauty in it every day. Participation with natural law is our first priority – we earn our acceptance within the communities that surround us, and it is then that we can add value as collaborators and equals. This is the role of the fur harvester.

We all need resurgence now, amidst the collapse of so many natural and humanbuilt systems. The root of strife is known, and it still breathes. As fur harvesters, we cannot transform the system alone. Neither can artisans, businesses, auction houses, or governments; it is only together that we have a chance. Natural law does not discriminate based on age, race, politics, or any of a multitude of factors that have come to divide us. It calls on us to use our unique gifts in a connected web, to create a world that is stable and balanced for all.

and two sweet black pups – Zea and Nichi. Robert has been harvesting fur since he was 6 years old, and he has maintained what he could from his family, his commitment, and his love of the Land. He carries irreplaceable knowledge that allows us to exist here today. Where there was loss, we are stubbornly prepared to grow roots.

Hillary McGregor, Anishinaabe (Whitefish River First Nation), is a youth leader and developed a regional youth sport wellness program based on traditions/culture. Hillary is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program and is completed his study of Anishinaabemowin (language) at Georgian College. He has delivered culture based sport and wellness programming to Indigenous youth from all over Ontario.


Marion McGregor, BA, B.Ed. (Anishinaabe Nookmis). Marion is a fluent language speaker. She was a teacher/principal for 30 years in a community day school. She is a residential school survivor. For decades, she delivered land and language based programs to school age children. Since retirement, Marion continues to develop and deliver Anishinaabemowin (language) programs to all ages from the local daycare in Whitefish River First Nation to programs for community.


By Deborah McGregor, Hillary McGregor, and Marion McGregor

Deborah McGregor, Anishinaabe (Whitefish River First Nation). Dr. McGregor is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous environmental Justice. Dr. McGregor is currently an Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School and Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. Her research is focused on Indigenous environmental and climate justice.

“Knowledge without spirit is soulless, lacking in love, humility and responsibility that must guide and constrain its application.”—Turtle Lodge Declaration, 2017, 21

We will begin with what we consider an instructive climate change story in the Anishinaabek tradition. The following summary of the Pipe and the Eagle is drawn from the Mishoomis Book, by Edward Benton Banai. Other retellings and variations told in educational contexts are also incorporated into this summary below. The story of the Pipe and the Eagle or Migizi Miinwaa Debenjiged is summarized as follows:

It has been our experience as part of conventional climate change fora, including meetings, conferences, research, symposiums, advisory committees, and think

i n T rodu CT ion

As Anishinaabek, we have had to face our potential annihilation before. Our stories speak to these collective experiences and from these stories we can obtain critical guidance and insights. They provide strong indications of what needs to be done, and why, to ensure that we all contribute to the continuance of life.

In this contribution, we will focus on stories that contain potentially critical insights into how we can meet one of the greatest challenges we as a global society are currently facing – the climate crisis.

To live well, the Anishinaabek received many gifts: knowledge, laws, drums, pipes, ceremonies, and sema (tobacco) from the Creator/Creation to provide them with the spiritual strength to support the continuance of life. There were also various helpers and teachers sent to assist the people in learning how to live well and co-exist with the rest of Creation.

Over time, however, the Anishinaabek


tanks, we find Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and considerations sorely lacking. Defining and diagnosing climate change, in particular the root causes, and then generating proposed solutions fails to consider the lived experience and reality of Indigenous peoples. It is our intention in this contribution to shed insight into how our stories/teachings – aadisookaanan – can provide guidance for seeking more viable solutions than are currently presented to us by various levels of government.

For the Anishinaabek, our sources of knowledge are thousands of years old, even millions or more when you consider the age of the living Earth – Shkagamikwe . Anishinaabe-aadizwin has also been informed by sharing our personal and individual experiences and stories with each other so they become part of our collective memory. The opportunity to share our experiences and knowledge in a collective and public way is part of the transformative process of consolidating our knowledge so others can draw upon and apply it in their own lives, communities and work.

with the Earth, who knew how to use the gifts respectfully and to support life, would life then be spared on Earth?

“Let me fly over the Earth each day at dawn and look over the people,” the Eagle asked. “The unborn,” the Eagle said, “can learn from the humble few who still follow the instructions of living in harmony with the Earth.” It is the unborn that provide hope for the future and for the people to correct their ways. It is out of love for the unborn, those yet to come, that Eagle petitions on behalf of humans, despite their destructive Theways.Creator

thus holds back the destruction and entrusts the Eagle with the responsibility to fly over the Earth each day to find people who continue to live according to principles of mino-bimaadiziwin (a ‘good life’, or a good way of living). Migizi reports back to the Creator with his observations and thus holds back the destruction. 2

The Pipe and the Eagle story is ageless, going back countless generations, yet it is instructive in informing contemporary challenges faced by the Anishinaabek. In 2019, at the 4th Onjisay Aki Gathering of Elders, Youth & Scientists on Climate Change (held at Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba), Elders were asked, “What is climate change from an Indigenous perspective?” Those in attendance stated that from an Indigenous perspective, “climate change is really nature releasing its forces to clean the Earth, to bring us back into balance.” 3 Rapid, human-induced climate change is happening because people are not conducting themselves in the way they should, both with each other and with the natural world (or all of Creation). If we do not conduct ourselves appropriately, then there are consequences.

came to forget the teachings of love, respect, honour, generosity, humility, truth, and bravery. Instead, they began to disregard the natural laws and to behave disrespectfully toward other orders of beings. The people became vain and arrogant, and used the gifts from the Creator, that were supposed to remind us of our duties, obligations, and responsibilities to Creation, against other life for their own gain and personal power, and to feed their own ego and greed.

The Creator became upset about the abuse and corruption of these vitally important gifts that were intended to engender peace, humility, love, and generosity, and to support life-giving ways. A spirit was therefore sent to destroy the Earth after the sun rose four times. On the fourth day, just before the sun was to rise, the Creator set forth destruction...


Just before dawn on the fourth day, Migizi (the Eagle) flew out of the crack between darkness and light – that edge between night and day. He flew to talk with the Creator. The Sun was about to come over the rim of the Earth. The Eagle screamed four times to get the Creator’s attention. The Creator saw the Eagle and held back the Sun. The Eagle petitioned the Creator/ Creation in an effort to save the people. Migizi acknowledged that while indeed there was corruption and evil in the world and people had forgotten their instructions, the unborn could still learn and therefore there was still hope. Although things looked grim, there were still a few who were humble and trying to live in harmony with the Earth. The Eagle appealed to the Creator and asked that, if he could find people who still honoured the original instructions, who cared for and lived well

Our Elders always told us to take care of ourselves. Love ourselves and take good care of every aspect of our wellbeing. Sharing and learning – it’s a never-ending learning journey. How important it is, if you really love your people . 6 We maintain our connection to the Creator and Mother Earth through our ceremonies, water, land, coming together and supporting life. 7 Roronhiakewen also added that, “It is through our own language, laws and knowledge that distinctly Indigenous climate solutions are forged.” 8

was held over 3 days in Thunder Bay, Ontario with 70 Elders, leaders, community members, and youth. The main purpose was for Elders and youth to learn from each other and share knowledge about how climate change affects the everyday experiences and way of life of First Nations people. The second goal was to explore how we can reconnect to Mother Earth as a strategy to address climate change. 5 There were some wonderful insights shared at this gathering, including those from Dan Longboat ( Roronhiakewen – He Clears the Sky – a Turtle Clan member of the Mohawk Nation and a citizen of the Rotinonshón:ni ) who, in his workshop on Indigenous food sovereignty, emphasized in his remarks the importance of love:

As in the Pipe and the Eagle story, Indigenous peoples continue to uphold the principles of love and hope in the climate change dialogue. The Elders at the 2019 Onjisay aki Gathering 9 stated how it is understood that the Earth also loves us and seeks to correct us, to have us conduct ourselves appropriately and live peacefully with other life. Love – Zaagi’idiwin – emerges as a critical principle for understanding why climate change has happened and what can be done to address it. We have been part of many conversations relating to climate change and it is only in Indigenous contexts that love/zaagi’idiwin is offered as a path forward for addressing the climate challenges that threaten all life. Hope – Dabagosendamowin – is another

in 2017, an Elders/youth climate gathering was convened by the Ontario First Nation Young Peoples Council. The Reconnecting with Mother Earth: Elders and Youth Gathering on Climate Change


The Elders at this gathering also conveyed a different understanding of not only why the climate crisis exists, but also of where to look for solutions. They stated that “[i]t is the Earth herself who has the solutions to climate change. We cannot overstep the Earth who can offer guidance to those willing to listen by including her in the dialogue, connecting with her as a living being.”

“We are called upon to love the Earth and take direction/guidance from the Earth. Our responsibilities to life are guided through natural and spiritual laws.”



principle that guides Indigenous dialogue relating to climate change, particularly for young people and future generations. The Eagle holds out love and hope for future generations because of the ones who will heed the instructions from the Earth to support the continuance of all. 10

Youth drumming at the Reconnecting with Mother Earth: Elders and Youth Gathering on Climate Change (2017)

We are called upon to love the Earth and take direction/guidance from the Earth . Our responsibilities to life are guided through natural and spiritual laws. Languages form a foundational aspect of seeking solutions to climate change. Indigenous languages are not often considered in conventional climate narratives, yet they emerge in Indigenous-led gatherings. This was shared at the 2017 Onjisay Aki International Climate Summit , 11 which generated calls to action to address climate change. It was conveyed that in Anishinaabemowin (language of the Anishinaabek), the concept of Onjisay (meaning “our changing Earth” 12 ) offers hope for the future as it conveys that Mother Earth will lead the way. The concept also conveys that “as Earth changes, so must we as people.” 13 It is people who must take responsibility. Onjisay conveys that “to effectively deal with climate change

there must be a change of heart .” 14 The twelve calls to action generated from the Onjisay Aki Summit provide instruction for Indigenous leadership based on ancestral knowledge, sovereignty, relationships, and transformation. A core tenet of ancestral knowledge is informed by “[t]he traditional wisdom of Indigenous peoples, rooted in laws of peaceful conduct, and a love for and spiritual relationship with the land , air, water, fire, and plant, animal, human and celestial worlds, has allowed them to live sustainability within diverse homelands for millennia.” 15

16 We are called upon to love the Earth and take direction/guidance from the Earth. Our responsibilities to life are guided through natural and spiritual laws.

One of the main insights from these Indigenous-led climate gatherings is that solutions based on other peoples’ laws, knowledge, and values are failing. It has been stated repeatedly that “[o]ur laws, culture, and language are what keep us strong, and we have to ensure these are passed on and practiced by current and future generations. The stronger we are, the more able we will be to deal with climate change.”

— Jade Willoughby, youth participant at the Reconnecting with Mother Earth: Elders and Youth Gathering on Climate Change, 2017. 17

“Climate change is Mother Earth communicating with us to tell us what is happening to her.”

Our awaadizwin , reflected in the knowledge, stories, and words shared by Elders and youth alike, reinforces the recognition of the immense power possessed by our relatives – such as Migizi – as willful entities that can change the course of events in the minds and hearts of people, the natural world and the future. These stories remind us that we, as humanity, are not the only climate change storytellers and source of solutions (though more often than not we are the ones who precipitate destruction on ourselves and others). Stories about what is happening and what will happen are

The principle of love/zaagi’idiwin continues to inspire Indigenous peoples as a motivating force to address climate challenges that threaten all life.

l is T ening T o T he e ar T h

being told every day, every minute, by our relations. We have forgotten to listen to the storytellers of the natural and spirit worlds and are simultaneously failing to support the emergence of new stories yet to be created by future generations. We have to act on the stories being told by our relatives, if we can first know how to listen and follow the guidance offered. We must take such guidance from our own knowledge, traditions and laws, and from the Earth itself. Our approaches to solutions must be based on love, kindness, courage, and the willingness to transform our behaviour to support all life.

Youth generated art depicting climate futures at the Reconnecting with Mother Earth: Elders and Youth Gathering on Climate Change (2017)


Ibid .

See Storytellers”DeborahScientistsDeclarationindigenous-knowledge-keepers-and-scientists-september-2017/>.<,“AllOurRelations:ClimateChangeinCatrionaSandilands,ed,

Rising Tides: Reflections for Climate Changing Times (Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press, 2019) at 125–29.

Chiefs of Ontario, “Elders and Youth Climate Change Gathering 2017” (22 March 2018) online(video): < Vimeo>.

Ibid at 13.

e ndno T es :

See Turtle Lodge Elders & Knowledge Keepers, “4th Onjisay Aki Gathering of Elders, Youth & Scientists on Climate Change, March 19-21 2019, Final Report”, online (pdf):

Ibid at 13.

Dan Longboat ( Roronhiakewen ), cited in ibid at 12.

See Deborah McGregor, “Taking Care of Each Other: Taking Care of Mother Earth. Summary and Highlights Report on “Reconnecting with Mother Earth” Elders and Youth Gathering on Climate Change” (Toronto, ON: Chiefs of Ontario, 2017), online (pdf): <>.

Ibid . Ibid .


supra note 5 at 23.

Ibid at McGregor,2.

SeeRiverTranslationsOnjisayAki_2019_web2.pdf>.<“OnjisayAkiInternationalClimateSummit”(June2017)online: Onjisay Aki <>.Aki,Onjisay

Ibid .

Aki International Climate Calls to Action (2017) at 1, online: <>.



By Erica NeeganagwedginEricaNeeganagwedgin (Taino) is an Associate Professor in Critical Policy, Equity and Leadership Studies within the Faculty of Education, in Indigenous Education at Western University.


iii I have chosen to use the term “wholistic” as the spelling

throughout the article instead of “holistic” as it

Unfortunately, land displacement is not new for many people, but has occurred historically through colonization. Structural and epistemic violence have systemically targeted Indigenous Peoples,

Indigenous Peoples i engage in various education methods, models, and approaches in their everyday lives, and they carry with them ways of teaching their youth how to live in this world that secure and protect their future. Key features of learning come from living, walking on the land, and building understanding and relationships with the land. I understand this from the heart and my own experience of living on rural lands in the Caribbean. For instance, in rural Caribbean life, young children carry plants, stars, and land knowledges. Lessons are learned daily, and people understand how to live based on their relationship with the land and, by extension, the seasons and natural cycles. My informal education through doing and observing my parents, grandparents, community members, and extended family have been foundational to my identity today as a Taino person. I still carry these multigenerational knowledges which I have learned about plants, trees, the land, and the sea with me. These knowledges have taught me a deep meaning of ethical care. Even today, youth often learn from early on about natural Medicines. As a result, they develop relationships with, and understanding of, the land and environment in which they live. Across the world, Indigenous Peoples engage in reciprocity with the land.

Among the various details and principles which Indigenous Peoples share to teach Indigenous youth, the land is a central feature. Author Leigh Joseph/Styawat writes that “when I am out harvesting on the land, I am completely present in my body, mind, and spirit. I am partaking in an activity that my ancestors have practised since the beginning of time, and when my children are with me, we are sharing ancestral knowledge.” 1 This reflection on land represents the ways in which Indigenous Education ii knowledge practices are transmitted and regenerated. Some of the key characteristics of Indigenous Education include interconnectedness, lifelong learning, language, community, and experiential learning. These are expressed through the work of renowned scholar Gregory Cajete who explains that learning, as espoused by Indigenous paradigms, “is always a creative act.” 2 Indigenous Education naturally occurs in wholistic iii social contexts. 3 Indigenous

and the ideology of building of empire, land theft, and genocide of Indigenous Peoples are continuing. Nevertheless, Indigenous Peoples understand the significance of land, how it teaches and what it teaches. This article examines Indigenous expressions of education and resurgence and provides a discussion of the ways in which Indigenous Peoples build their systems and draw on their ancestral-based knowledges regardless of the oppressive systems that Eurocentric education imposes.

i n T rodu CT ion

ii The terms “Indigenous Peoples” and “Indigenous Education” are capitalized to demonstrate the respect for Indigenous Peoples and their worldviews and systems.


i The term Indigenous Peoples is used throughout to signify that Indigeneity and Indigenous Peoples are not homogenous but come from many nations, languages and cultures throughout Canada and the world.

i ndigenous e du C a T ion and W holism

h is T ori C ally u n J us T

The recent news of thousands of Indigenous children being found in unmarked graves throughout Canada and the USA shows the grotesque and intentional systemic violence which Indigenous Peoples experienced through the removal of Indigenous children from their families and lands. 7 As one embodies the totality of relationships and worldviews that Indigenous Education encompasses.

example, in their special report providing an update on Canada’s status of reconciling and action on reconciliation in 2021, Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby remark that on May 27, 2021, Kukpi7 iv Rosanne Casimir confirmed that the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Yet they note that, while Canada’s 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, which has been publicly available for the past five years, contained an entire volume dedicated to Missing Children and Burial Information, the news was surprising to many people nationally and around the world. 8 That is an indication of the minimizing of the history of erasure and genocide in Canada against Indigenous Peoples.

It is imperative that education and ‘schooling’ be historicized and that the impact of land loss, family disruption and destruction, and the impact of Indigenous Peoples not being able to determine their own lives also be put into context. For example, laws making it compulsory for Indigenous parents to send their children to school must be understood in the context of the systematic formation and operation of Canada’s residential schools, as well as the denial and legacy that continue, and the formation of what we now know as Canada. Canada’s forced residential schools were carefully thought out by colonizers who went to every length to strategize and develop colonizing laws to force onto Indigenous Peoples. These were legally well-established and systemic acts justified and sustained against Indigenous Peoples. 9 As a result, Christopher George explains that “State control over Indigenous futurity, most blatantly in education, has its roots deeply embedded in old-world colonial

Peoples use the knowledge gained from learning in their natural environments to inform their everyday life paths. Education and learning occur in multiple forms and contexts through living and interacting with the environment. Even Indigenous legal principles of wholism are based on Indigenous pedagogies which center on how the full person can develop and grow. Principles of self-awareness, including emotional, social and spiritual growth, are also considerable elements of Indigenous Education. These elements are connected to form the whole person and are valued. 4 As Wendy Peters states, Indigenous Peoples have, and carry, their own “embodied knowledge within them.” 5

These wholistic intellectual traditions of Indigenous Education, as interconnecting processes, have experienced disruption historically due to the settler-colonial governments forcing their linear forms of education on Indigenous Peoples. They have ignored Indigenous systems of law and education while establishing and solidifying their own systems on Indigenous Lands. This has impacted Indigenous Education’s relationships and reciprocal systems. Cajete states that, Indigenous Education presents something for everyone to learn at every stage of life. 6 These approaches to Indigenous Education are taking place in present day contexts.

iv The term for Chief in Secwepemc.


Current education systems in Canada remain Eurocentric and often collide with the ways in which Indigenous Education systems work. This means that Indigenous youth, still today, are forced to fit into alienating Eurocentric structures which reflects a continuous intent of assimilation. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs points to the lack of respect which is often found throughout curricular material, the numerous obstacles to education (including discrimination and violence which are experienced within the school system), and the impact on identity which remains consistent and emerging for Indigenous Peoples. 12 The impact on identity becomes more apparent as increasing numbers of Indigenous Peoples add their voices and share their stories of Canada’s residential school system. The impact is further reinforced with news about hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children which were identified in former school grounds throughout North YetAmerica.Corntassel

are outlines of four examples of the ways in which Indigenous Peoples are rebuilding their own foundations of nourishment for intergenerational and wholistic learning. Indigenous Peoples are implementing education practices from preschool to adult education. I have witnessed many examples of these acts of

the role of education and points out that there is also an educational component to the challenges for a resurgence. Education in Canada, through its forced system of residential schools, has had significant and dire consequences for Indigenous Peoples. Despite the hardships, indignities, and pain that they suffered, Indigenous Peoples are, and have been, demonstrating many ways of resurgence and re-emergence in relation to their education systems. Corntassel asserts that “Indigenous resurgence means having the courage and imagination to envision life beyond the state.” 14 (Some examples of Indigenous models of education that epitomize Indigenous wholistic approaches are further discussed below.) Cajete asserts that Indigenous Education is wholistic, and Indigenous Peoples having control of their education systems is a matter of education for “life’s sake.” 15 Indigenous Education is, at its very essence, learning about life through participation and relationship to community, including not only people, but plants, animals, and the whole of Nature. 16 From the time of European imposition, Indigenous Peoples have used many methods to challenge these structures, but have also engaged in the furtherance of their education through resurgence. Heather McGregor reminds us how Indigenous ways of making meaning from the past are mirrored in the idea of continuity and are not static. Rather, Indigenous nations have their own ways of governing their lives through their own self-determination and agency.


writes that “if colonization is a disconnecting force, then resurgence is about reconnecting with homelands, cultures, and communities.” 13 The author emphasizes

i ndigenous e du C a T ion r esurgen C e


It is also significant to know, and remember, that Indigenous Peoples have lived their lives in their lands, and they continue to do so today. They have always espoused their own systems of education which they created and implemented using their own frameworks with educational methods which are unique to each people and nation. In other words, Indigenous Peoples personify Indigenous Education through living, and it “is understood as relational; it emerges and is maintained in a web of reciprocal relationships with others.” 11

attitudes, behaviours, and policies.” 10

Another example of Indigenous Peoples leading their education, notably, given the history of genocide in Canada and the ways in which education has been used to erase Indigenous Peoples, is the Mother Earth’s Children’s Charter school. This school is described as Canada’s only Indigenous Charter school, and is in Alberta, Canada. It provides instruction from kindergarten to grade 9, and Indigenous worldviews are woven into every element of the school. The philosophy and foundation of the Mother Earth’s School’s community and program “are based upon ...traditional Indigenous teachings of the Medicine Wheel passed down from our Elders.” 21 According to Asmana-hi Antoine et al., a “basic assumption of

Many Indigenous-based schools in Canada are at the heart of Indigenous

Indigenous education scholars is that there are modes of Indigenous pedagogy that stem from pre-contact Indigenous educational approaches and are still ingrained in Indigenous contemporary culture.” 22 These examples of schooling in the current Canadian context exemplify what it means to draw on Indigenous methods of teaching, pedagogy and resurgence while creating new Indigenous ways of learning in these contemporary contexts. Kiera BrantBirioukov writes that “Indigenous education has demonstrated its relentless commitment to the resurgence of the languages and cultures that residential schools were designed to destroy.” 23 Indigenous-focused schools such as Xpey’ and Mother Earth, in their very philosophies, emphasize the significance of land, and local Indigenous Knowledge systems, which are foundational to Indigenous life. Noeline Villebrun states a decolonized Dene school would follow our traditions and values, our Elders would be in the classrooms, the classrooms would be equally indoor and outdoor, out on the land and in the community. Dene will always learn best on the land, and we need to bring the computers, books, and classes onto the land, into the context of Denendeh and what it means to be Dene. 24


W holis T i C l earning and T ea C hing

C en T ering i ndigenous K no W ledges

Moreover, Jeff Corntassel and Tiffanie Hardbarger point out that centering “everyday acts of resurgence shifts the analysis of the situation away from the statecentred, colonial manifestations of power to the relational, experiential, and dynamic nature of Indigenous cultural heritage.” 25 This highlights the importance of identity, Indigenous Education, and connections and relationship in contemporary times.

Xpey’ Elementary school in the province of British Columbia is one example of a school that represents Indigenous sovereignty. As the school’s web site states, the school is the Vancouver School Board’s Indigenous choice-focused school, and it was developed in response to community requests. It also explains that “[t]he teachers at [Xpey’] are Indigenous and bring their own cultural knowledge and experiences to the school.” 18 They infuse Indigenous pedagogies into the BC curriculum with the aim of providing classrooms and teaching which encompass a wholistic model of education. Students can also participate in a weekly Smudging ceremony and sing the Coast Salish National Anthem as part of the school’s programming. 19 For McMahon et al., an important part of Indigenous resurgence is the ability of Indigenous Peoples to retain control over their knowledge systems. 20

self-determination and ways of Indigenous governance.

Throughout history, Taino children’s lifeways in the Caribbean, including their living on the land and in their learning, were suppressed. However, Taino People continue to maintain their governance systems which are living and are still alive. For instance, I am reminded of, and reflect on, the Heketi Community School which was designed to support the needs of many Taino youths in New York. The school philosophy was guided by the Taino law of unity and the philosophy that we are one . 32 These principles are based on relationships and community. Although the school has closed its doors, being able to establish such a school centering Taino curricula speaks to the spirit and purpose of Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination on a broader level to gain control of their own education. As Corntassel states, Indigenous resurgence is about reclaiming relationships which are grounded in land, culture and community that promote the health and well-being of Indigenous Nations. 33 All of these factors are related to Indigenous Education.

e veryday r esurgen C e

T aino i ndigenous C aribbean p edagogy

It is important to note that Indigenous resurgence occurs daily, and it takes multiple forms. While I have focused on some Indigenous led schools in this article, Indigenous Peoples, both locally and globally, are structurally and spiritually dismantling colonial hegemonic ways of learning within schools generally. One example that comes to mind involves the efforts of Taino People throughout the Caribbean to create awareness for Caribbean children to know that Taino and Indigenous Caribbean people were

commitment and leadership of Indigenous Peoples “to disrupt the policies of genocide, and extermination.” 31

i ndigenous f u T uri T y

Another school that emphasizes Indigenous Knowledge systems is the Academia Semillas del Pueblo Xinaxcalmecac, which is an Indigenous Mexican school in Los Angeles, California. A review of the school’s website movingly asserts that “the future is Indigenous.” 28 The school philosophy and curriculum are Indigenous communitybased and focus on Indigenous Education. Indigenous Peoples understand the necessity of centering and protecting their education systems because the imposition on Indigenous Education is not only historical. These community-based schools are exemplars of Indigenous sovereignty in action. Tlayekantsi Marcos Aguilar explains that Indigenous Resurgence Education is “a strategic response to colonizers as we imagine, create, and organize alternative parallels to governmentimposed mandates to assimilate.” 29 Cajete further adds, Indigenous Education, as it is now being developed by Indigenous Peoples themselves, combines an evolving and integrative critical pedagogy with practice based on Indigenous philosophies and the identified needs of Indigenous communities. 30 Self-determination and self-governance are occurring due to the


resurgence, which is a global phenomenon given colonialism’s reach, and the fact that education was, and still is, used to further systemically negate Indigenous communities. For instance, the report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission points to the imposition of missionary and residential Christian schools in places such as Asia and Africa. 26 Paul Whitinui et al. comment that “Indigenous nations are collecting their energies and driving the resurgence of Indigenous People and their knowledge worldwide.” 27

never extinct as the dominant narrative has asserted for over 500 years. The Taino Indigenous resurgence movement and Peoples are ensuring that youth learn about contemporary Taino People and contexts. Therefore, even when they are not engaging in developing their own schools, they are bringing Taino worldviews into schools and transforming education. I have had many opportunities to share information about the language and knowledge systems of Taino People with youth in K-12 throughout the Caribbean. The fact that I am even asked to do so speaks to the vitality and resurgence of our Taino language and Peoples. Similarly, in one local Southwestern Ontario high school, youth can take courses such as the Oneida Language, English, Civics based on Indigenous pedagogical approaches and drawing on Indigenous authors. The same school has introduced the grade nine Indigenous Focus Program Package for students entering high school where they will be able to learn from Indigenous Elders and learn about local Indigenous epistemologies. 34 These are significant paradigm shifts occurring due to the leadership of Indigenous Peoples and their communities who continue to ensure school systems are wholistic, fosters nurturance

Leigh Joseph/Styawat, “Walking On Our Lands Again: Turning to Culturally Important Plants and Indigenous Conceptualizations of Health in a Time of Cultural and Political Resurgence” (2021) 16:1 Intl J of Indigenous Health 165 at 167.

Gregory Cajete, Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous education , 1st ed (Durango, CO: Kivakí Press, 2003) at 45.

Indigenous Education by Indigenous Peoples is active. Locally and regionally throughout Canada, and in global contexts, Indigenous communities are drawing on their Ancestral Knowledges. They are constructing and co-creating their own knowledges to nourish future generations. Indigenous Peoples have retained their forms of education despite the imposition of foreign and oppressive systems by outsiders. Paul Whitinui et al describe this as “culturally unique and revolutionary.” 35 Indigenous Peoples continue to teach, learn, and adapt their epistemologies. Indigenous Education is relational, wholistic, ongoing, nonstatic and sacred. For those who wonder how the continued re-emergence and reestablishing of Indigenous Knowledges can occur, Indigenous Peoples, through their leadership, have shown the possibilities as they exercise their ways of knowing and are in control of their own lives. These examples of Indigenous-led schooling, education methods, and Indigenous leadership and

e ndno T es :

See ibid .

i ndigenous e du C a T ion for T he f u T ure

See Asma-na-hi Antoine et al., Curriculum Developers: Pulling Together: A Guide for Indigenization of Post-secondary Institutions (Victoria: BCcampus, Open Textbook Project, 2018) at 18.


and espouse Indigenous thinking.

See Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future” (2015) at 255, online: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

See Heather E. McGregor, “One Classroom, Two Teachers? Historical Thinking and Indigenous Education in Canada” (2017) 8:14 Critical Education at 1 at 5.

Andrew Kendall, “’Fostering a sense of identity’: χpey Elementary, The Vancouver School Board’s Indigenous Focus School” (2020), online: The National Centre for Collaboration in Indigenous Education indigenous-focus-school/>.sense-of-identity-%CF%87pey%CC%93-elementary-the-vancouver-school-boards-<

Anja Rudiger, “Pathways to education sovereignty: Taking a stand for Native Children” (1 December 2020) online: SSRN Electronic Journal < Seessrn.3877444>.UnitedNations, “Education” (n.d.), online: U nited Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs - Indigenous Peoples < Indigeneity,DecolonizationJeffdesa/indigenouspeoples/mandated-areas1/education.html>,“Re-envisioningResurgence:IndigenousPathwaystoandSustainableSelf-Determination”(2012)1:1Decolonization:Education&Society86at97.


See Eva Jewell & Ian Mosby, “Calls to Action Accountability: A 2021 Status Update on Reconciliation” (December 2021), Yellowhead Institute , at 7, Seeupdate-yellowhead-institute-special-report.pdf>.<, supra note 7 at 144.

Cajete, supra note 2 at 178.

Christopher T George, “Decolonize, Then Indigenize: Critical Insights on Decolonizing Education and Indigenous Resurgence in Canada” (2019) 9:1 Antistasis 73 at 89.

See ibid at 46.

Wendy MK Peters, “The Embodied Library: The Culmination of All Who Came Before” in Camille Callison et al., eds, Indigenous Notions of Ownership and Libraries, Archives and Museums (Berlin: De Gruyter Saur, 2016) 25 at 37.

Cajete, supra note 2 at 28.

Ibid at 89.


supra note 11 at 42.

“Xinaxcalmecac Academia Semillas del Pueblo”, online: Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America FebruaryTlayekantsijsp?uREC_ID=328173&type=d&pREC_ID=735324>.<,“Xinachohtli:IndigenousResurgenceEducation”(102021),online(blog):

Antoine et al., supra note 4.

Paul Whitinui et al. “The World Indigenous Research Alliance (WIRA): Mediating and Mobilizing Indigenous Peoples’ Educational Knowledge and Aspirations” (2015) 23:120 Education Policy Analysis Archives 1 at 4.

Jeff Corntassel & Tiffany Hardbarger, “Educate to Perpetuate: Land-Based Pedagogies and Community Resurgence” (2019) 65:1 Intl Rev Education 87 at 87.

See Canada, supra note 7.

Kiera Brant-Birioukov, “Covid-19 and In(di)genuity: Lessons from Indigenous Resilience, Adaptation, and Innovation in Times of Crisis” (2021) 51:1-3 PROSPECTS 247 at Villebrun252Noeline, “Athabaskan Education: The Case of Denendeh Past, Present and Future,” in Ismael Abu-Saad & Duane Champagne, eds, Indigenous Education and Empowerment: International Perspectives. Contemporary Native American Communities (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2006) at 24.

See Dawn Marsden, “Independent Review Findings for Xpey’; the Only Indigenous Focus School in the Vancouver School District” (2019), G ood Relations Research & Consulting, online at MotherJournalIndigenousSeeFinal%20Reduced.pdf>,Indigenous_District_Programs/Documents/sbfile/210414/Xpey’%20Review%20<,TimLaHache&TimWhiteduck,“DigitalDataManagementasResurgenceinKahnawà:ke”(2015)6:3TheInternationalIndigenousPolicy1at3.Earth’sChildren’sCharterSchool,“Philosophy”(n.d.),online: Mother Earth’s Children’s Charter School

Medium Rudiger,EstadosDevelopmenttheSeeindigenous-resurgence-education-5190d1fb001f>.<,“ExploringAmericanIndianSystemologist:PerspectivesTowardsofaContemporaryIndigenousPedagogy”inElDiálogoDeSaberesenlosPlurinacionales(2013),ColecciónCuadernosdeTrabajoNo.1.

See “About Us”, online: Heketi Community Charter Schoo l < page/our-mission-history>.


“Saunders Grade 9 Indigenous Focus Program Package” online (pdf): Saunders Secondary School Course Guide 2022-2023 <> at 7.

See Corntassel & Hardbarger, supra note 25.

Whitinui et al., supra note 27 at

The arT of


Osiyo nigada. Jeff Ganohalidoh Corntassel dagwado’a. Tsalagi ayetli agwenasv’i. Echota galsgisgo’i. Jean agitsi nole Gary agidoda. Dagwaltina’i Westville, Ogalahoma nole Huntington Beach, California aneha. Jacqueline nole agwetsi ageyutsa Leila Victoria otseha. Nigohilv tsigesvi anehe’i Ani Lekwungen nole Ani W̱SÁNEĆ ahani tsitsinela’i nogwu. Hello. My name is Jeff Ganohalidoh Corntassel. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee nation and a member of the Echota ceremonial grounds in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. My parents, Jean and Gary, live in California. I live with my family on the unceded territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations and peoples, whose relationships with these lands and waters shape their political thought, governance and self-determining authority that should inform how we all relate to this place. As I share this critical self-location, I pose two interrelated questions to promote accountability as a visitor to Salish lands and waters: how will the lands, waters and communities benefit from my time here? And how do we go beyond land acknowledgements to take actions that make space for Indigenous resurgence?


By Jeff Corntassel

— From the sign installed at the top of PKOLS on May 22, 2013


On the afternoon of May 22, 2013, over 600 people gathered at the base of a mountain in METULIYE (AKA Victoria in so-called British Columbia, Canada) to reclaim PKOLS, which means “white head” or “white rock.” 1 Several local Indigenous leaders, including Tsawout Hereditary Chief WEC’KINEM (Eric Pelkey), and knowledge-holders and activists from the W̱SÁNEĆ and Lekwungen nations were present along with other Indigenous and non-Indigenous supporters. While PKOLS had been known to the general public by its settler colonial name “Mount Douglas” since 1910, 2 change was in the air. Previous efforts to reclaim the name PKOLS had led to the removal and destruction of community PKOLS signs in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As I walked up PKOLS with my daughter that day, I was reminded of the persistence and strength of our ancestors. Reclaiming PKOLS was a community-led expression of self-determination that took place without seeking permission from the municipality or parks services. This was about renewing

i n T rodu CT ion

“Located in W̱SÁNEĆ territory and on the border of Lekwungen territory, this has been, and remains an important meeting place for many nations. The reclamation of PKOLS to replace the colonial name Mount Douglas recognizes the nation-to-nation agreements negotiated here and supports ongoing efforts of Indigenous and settler people to restore balanced relationships to the lands they call home.”

Acts of reclamation, such as PKOLS, embody community resurgence. Indigenous Resurgence is ultimately about turning away from the state in order to engage more fully with the complex interrelationships of land/ water relationships, Indigenous languages, and cultural practices that reinvigorate everyday acts of renewal and regeneration. 3 Resurgence has a long genealogy that is inspired by the earlier writings of Frantz Fanon, Standing Rock Sioux scholar Vine Deloria, Jr., Secwepemc Chief George Manuel, Sto:lo writer Lee Maracle, Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith and several others. It is rooted in counter-colonial struggles to revitalize languages, artistry such as carving and weaving, fish-ins, and land reclamations. There are multiple strands of resurgence and Indigenous youth are continuously reinventing and renewing it through “Land Back” and other

relationships to a landscape (and seascape) rich with sacred living histories; restoring the PKOLS name also countered attempted settler colonial erasures of Indigenous peoples from the lands and waters.

community-centered movements.

As key disruptors to the colonial status quo, Indigenous artists engage in what Cree and Dene activist Jarrett Martineau calls “creative combat” and act as “creative visionaries and cultural warriors at the forefront of contemporary resurgences against colonialism.” 4 In this article, I examine how Indigenous artistic expressions are forms of refusal that generate new “alternatives” and create “islands of colonial disruption in the present.” 5 In this article I examine expressions of “creative combat” by four Indigenous artists: Hayalthkin’geme (Carey Newman), the late Shan Goshorn, ‘Tayagila’ogwa (Marianne Nicolson), and Yéil Ya-Tseen (Nicholas Galanin), whose work expands understandings of resurgence. In the concluding section, I look at some future directions for reclaiming, renaming and re-occupying.

And that was what our people understood that treaty to be -- a “peace treaty,” amongst Douglas’ people and the Saanich People.

W̱SÁNEĆ artist and master carver TEMOSEN-THUT (Charles Elliott) designed the PKOLS sign, which shows a thunderbird rising up from behind a mountain range. According to TEMOSEN, the thunderbird represents one of the highest forms of spiritual power and PKOLS is a place where thunderbird resides. Additionally, mountaintops have been places of refuge for W̱SÁNEĆ and other Indigenous peoples. TEMOSEN’s sign depicts the spiritual power of PKOLS as a place of refuge and ceremony for W̱SÁNEĆ and Lekwungen peoples. The power of the sign is that it puts W̱SÁNEĆ stories and relations back onto the landscape. As the late Standing Rock Sioux scholar Vine Deloria Jr. used to say, “Power and place produce personality,” 7 which highlights the personal and ethical relationships Indigenous peoples have with the natural world. It is our placebased relationships that shape who we are. TEMOSEN’s artwork on the PKOLS sign is an expression of W̱SÁNEĆ relationships to place and also counters colonial narratives by breathing W̱SÁNEĆ and Lekwungen stories back onto the landscape. Reclaim, rename, reoccupy.

The 2013 reclamation of PKOLS was much more than new signage. It was about “restorying” relationships from the ground up. 8 Part of the PKOLS reclamation involved the re-enactment of the signing of the Douglas Treaty in 1852. Everyone present at the PKOLS reclamation learned of the WSÁNEĆ oral history of the signing of the Douglas Treaty as a promise of “peace and friendship” and that WSÁNEĆ people were to be free to hunt and fish as they needed to on their territory. As W̱SÁNEĆ knowledgeholder J,SINTEN (John Elliott) explains:


T he a r T of r esurgen C e

The mantra of “reclaim, rename, reoccupy” was an important way to situate the reclamation of PKOLS within a community resurgence context. Ultimately, the reclamation of PKOLS would not have been possible without the long memories of community relationships to this place. Everyday acts of resurgence, which are often unseen and unacknowledged daily actions, are important ways to reinforce place names and relationships within intimate spaces, such as family and ceremonial life. 6 For example, earlier efforts to put PKOLS signs up on the mountain in the 1970’s and 80’s did not make the headlines but they were community responses to counter the attempted erasures of Indigenous presence on the land. Smaller scale everyday actions, such as individuals placing PKOLS signs on the mountain, can eventually lead to larger scale actions, as seen by the May 22, 2013 reclamation of PKOLS.

“Ultimately, resurgence is about being and becoming a good ancestor by sharing knowledge intergenerationally and turning away from the state and other settler colonial institutions to emphasize our intimate connections to land, culture and community.”


distinct meanings within the context of community resurgence. Reclaiming is about renewing and reinterpreting the meaning of places and deepening relationships. Renaming requires us to have longer memories and to act on those remembrances by sharing knowledge intergenerationally and practicing relational responsibilities to lands, waters and relationships. Finally, reoccupying entails the reinstatement of “Indigenous laws on Indigenous lands” through Land Back. Reoccupying might also entail an increased everyday Indigenous

In solidarity with the reclamation of PKOLS on May 22, 2013, the Ogimaa Mikana Project, which is a grassroots Indigenousled movement to restore Anishinaabemowin place-names to the streets, avenues, roads, paths, and trails of Gichi Kiiwenging (Toronto), installed an Anishinaabe name over College St. at Bathurst. 11 Solidarity actions like those of Ogimaa Mikana reinforce the importance of what Anishinaabe scholar and activist Leanne Simpson calls “constellations of co-resistance and freedom.” 12 As Simpson points out:

The reclamation of PKOLS was about honoring Indigenous laws, stories, and relationships of W̱SÁNEĆ lands and waters, and opening up the space for deeper forms of connection, such as Land Back. According to geographer Reuben RoseRedwood, “The reclamation of Indigenous place names is thus about far more than the historical trivia of academic toponymy alone; it rather goes to the very heart of competing claims to authority over the performative enactment of “place.” 14 Reclaim, rename and reoccupy takes on

As witnesses to the re-enactment of the signing of the Douglas Treaty, the over 600 people attending were learning about the W̱SÁNEĆ living histories of PKOLS. Everyone present had a story to share about this place and the reclamation of the PKOLS name. This is what it means to put Indigenous stories back on the landscapes/ seascapes so that we honor “Indigenous laws on Indigenous lands.” 10

They didn’t want to be threatened anymore. And if they were, that’s why they got gifts. Got blankets. That’s the way we heard our parents talking about the treaty, and that’s the way we understood the treaty to be…. That he [James Douglas] was pointing out the borders of where we were free to roam and hunt, and fish. 9

Resurgence cannot occur in isolation. A collective conversation and mobilization is critical to avoid reproducing the individualism and colonial isolation that settler colonialism fosters. 13

The proposed “seedling” project by Kwakwak’awakw and Sto:lo (located in socalled British Columbia, Canada) artist and scholar Hayalthkin’geme (Carey Newman) illustrates a pressing need to think based on a longer community time frame. The seedling project that Hayalthkin’geme describes begins with planting a western red cedar seedling on Lekwungen territory where the University of Victoria is situated,

C hallenging C olonial T imelines

presence on the lands and waters so that future generations will experience Land Back. Each of these mantras offer different pathways to community resurgence. Ultimately, resurgence is about being and becoming a good ancestor by sharing knowledge intergenerationally and turning away from the state and other settler colonial institutions to emphasize our intimate connections to land, culture and Ascommunity.ofthiswriting, the District of Saanich is considering a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the W̱SÁNEĆ leadership council regarding the official renaming of PKOLS. However, no action has been taken on the MOU since July 2021. 15 Fortunately, everyday acts of resurgence don’t follow colonial timelines. The restoration revolution continues at places like SṈID Ȼ E Ƚ (AKA Tod Inlet), which was one of the first W̱SÁNEĆ village sites and means place of the blue grouse. 16 W̱SÁNEĆ


“It is important to shift the relationship from one of property and ownership to a perspective more closely aligned with the Kwakawa’wakw concept of “Awina’kola,” which means “to live in good relationship with the land, air, water, spirit worlds, and everything in them.”

knowledge keepers are propagating native plants while removing invasive species and remnants from the old cement factory. Elsewhere, W̱SÁNEĆ youth in the fourth grade at Ƚ ÁU,WELṈEW̱ Tribal School started a petition to change the name of John Dean Provincial Park back to Ƚ ÁU,WELṈEW̱, which means place of refuge and played a

and then designing a three-dimensional digital rendering of a totem. The artist then asks the “host” (in this case the University of Victoria) to commit to making and raising a full-scale pole when the tree is mature, which will be 600 to 1000 years from now. Halyalthkin’geme emphasized that for this agreement to work, we must engage in an innovative form of Land Back by changing

key role in the W̱SÁNEĆ flood story. Their advocacy led to the passage of Bill 16 in 2019, which includes adding the Indigenous name Ƚ ÁU,WELṈEW̱ to John Dean Provincial Park. 17 All of these actions embody the everyday actions that Indigenous peoples undertake daily to envision and breathe revolutionary resurgent movements into life. Artists and their work have been at the forefront of these movements, and I will discuss some innovative examples of the arts of resurgence in the following section.



our relationship with the land where the seedling is planted. It is important to shift the relationship from one of property and ownership to a perspective more closely aligned with the Kwakawa’wakw concept of “Awina’kola,” which means “to live in good relationship with the land, air, water, spirit worlds, and everything in them.” The people taking care of the seedling are making a 600 - 1000-year commitment and need to ensure the health of the seedling across multiple generations into the future. This expanded notion of time aligns with community forms of planning that emphasize thinking ahead and taking action for the health and well-being of future generations. Just as with the seedling project, communities are mobilizing for resurgent practices now so that future generations and relationships


was from Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians but spent much of her life in Tulsa, Oklahoma (U.S.). Sadly Shan passed over in 2018 but the legacy of her amazing artwork, including ᏔᎷᏣ (talutsa or basketry), lives on. While Shan worked in multiple mediums (photography, glass, jewellery etc.), her message was about challenging prevalent stereotypes of Indigenous peoples. According to Shan, “I don’t consider myself a basket maker. I don’t consider myself a photographer. I don’t consider myself a jeweler. I don’t consider myself someone who works in glass. I consider myself an artist that chooses the best medium to express a statement.” 18

I first came across Shan’s ᏔᎷᏣ in 2008

The late Shan Goshorn with a selection of her protest baskets. Photo by Adela Sanchez

such as violence against Indigenous women (“Squaw,” 2018), ceremony (“The Fire Within,” 2016), Indigenous women’s power and leadership (“Grounded Strength,” 2017) and the spiritual and legal aspects of Indigenous resistance (“Defending the Sacred,” 2017). Overall, Shan’s work exemplifies resurgence and the ways that Indigenous peoples turn to their cultural practices and intimate spaces to ground themselves and promote their health and well-being. Her baskets are a warning not to allow the stories of colonization and destruction be the sole story of Indigenous peoples and that Indigenous ways of knowing provide a way to honor community strengths and revitalization.

at an Indigenous art exhibit critiquing the imposition of Oklahoma statehood in 1907. Shan’s work was entitled “Pieced Treaties; Spider’s Web Treaty Basket” and I found it so layered and nuanced. It was the first basket she had woven using a single weave style and it was made entirely out of splints of paper adorned with the Cherokee Nation Tobacco compact. I had never seen anything like this before and the basket was purposely left unfinished with frayed edges at the top, which made a profound statement about the tenuous nature of relationships between Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation. As Shan described the basket, it was “the result of an idea to illustrate the tangled rewriting of the Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation Tobacco Compact.” 19


Shan went on to create several other “protest baskets” after first learning to create double-weave baskets. By closely observing a completed double-weave basket and emulating the style, Shan was able to create her first double-weave entitled “Sealed Fate”, which took over a year to complete. A subsequent double-weave basket entitled “Educational Genocide” was made with paper splints “printed with boarding school founder Captain Richard H. Pratt’s speech that coined the phrase ‘Kill the Indian, Save the Man.’” As a way to honor the Indigenous children who attended the Carlisle Boarding School, the red interior of the basket “was woven from the 1012,000 names of children who attended Carlisle from 1879-1918.” 20 Boarding schools, which had a similar goal to that of Indian Residential Schools in Canada, were attempts to use educational institutions to destroy Indigenous families, languages, cultural practices, and relationships to the land, water and more-than-humans; these “schools” were forms of genocide against Indigenous nations and peoples. Shan’s subsequent ᏔᎷᏣ examined various topics,

Tayagila’ogwa (Marianne Nicolson) is from Dzawada̱’enux̱w First Nation (part of Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw Nation in so-called British Columbia, Canada). Tayagila’ogwa engages in multiple mediums for her work, including paintings, light, and sculptures, to name a few. One of her most striking works is a 38 by 28 foot pictograph that she painted on a cliff in Kingcome Inlet in 1998. This powerful work (see below), demonstrates Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw storied relationships to the lands and waters. As Tayagila’ogwa states, “The history of the land points to our right to exist on these territories.” 21 With her work, Tayagila’ogwa was calling for an “awakening” to ongoing injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples who are being pushed off their lands and waters.

Another one of Tayagila’ogwa’s paintings is entitled “Turbulent Waters” (2017), and it examines current forces disrupting Indigenous relationships to the lands and waters, such as climate change, environmental degradation, and extractivism. The red on charcoal mural depicts animals who represent “developed” countries and they are swimming in Indigenous waters signalling global


catastrophe. However, as Tayagila’ogwa says, “I believe Indigenous world views can benefit all peoples … especially our deeplyfelt connection to community and land.” 22

Cliff Painting, Kingcome Inlet, 38 x 28 ft, 1998 by’ogwa

the Hollywood sign, which initially spelled out HOLLYWOODLAND and was erected to promote a whites-only development.” 23 Yéil’s artwork is a call for Land Back and to go beyond land acknowledgements to meaningful action. According to Yéil, “The original Hollywoodland sign [erected in 1923] was an advertisement for a real estate development for white-only land purchases. This work is essentially the opposite: a call to landowners and others to invite them to join the landback movement.”


Yéil Ya-Tseen (Nicholas Galanin) is a Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist and musician. For Yéil and his artwork, it is important to convey how memory and land are intertwined. His 2021 work entitled “Never Forget” was a massive 60 by 360-feet installation on Cahuilla Nation land as part of the Desert X festival in Palm Springs, California (U.S.). As the description of the “Never Forget” installation states, “The 45-foot letters of Never Forget reference

According to Yéil’s artist’s statement on “Never Forget”: “... The term ‘Indian’ is a refusal to acknowledge sovereignty, and

repatriating land back to Indigenous communities and to support the LandBack movement, to continue the acquisition of land titles for Indigenous nations to have legal standing under U.S. law to protect traditional territories. The LandBack movement is a regenerative, sustainable effort to center Indigenous knowledge and repair damages done to land and all people living here. 26

View of the installation Never Forget, 2021, Palm Springs, CA. Photo by Lance Gerber.


Yéil also started a “Gofundme” page for “Never Forget” with the following statement: All funds raised will go towards

seeks to erase the diversity of over five hundred distinct nations preexisting the invasion of this continent by Europeans. Never Forget refuses to legitimize settler occupation, and reframes a word of generic reduction to a call for collective action.” 25 He worked directly with the Cahuilla peoples for the installation and sought to challenge public thinking around the ongoing colonization of Indigenous lands.

Currently Indigenous nations and peoples

C on C lusion


The artwork examined in this article is just a small sample of the creative and provocative work being undertaken by Indigenous peoples around the world. Indigenous artwork leads us back to our relational responsibilities and our connections to lands/waters, cultures, and community. Strategies of reoccupation guide us in implementing Land Back and restoring consent-based jurisdictional authorities. Renaming requires us to “never forget” and to center Indigenous knowledge systems, governance, and self-determining authority. Reclaiming entails reinterpreting and deepening our relationships by taking action to protect and perpetuate sacred living histories and cultural practices so that Indigenous nations and peoples will thrive. All of these point to our strengths as Indigenous peoples and the ways we share knowledge, protocols, and practices across generations. Resurgence is ultimately about envisioning new futures that transcend the state and settler colonialism and lead us to live out our ancestors’ wildest dreams.

ndno T es :

The article is a celebration of PKOLS and all of the everyday acts of resurgence that foster the spirit of rebellious dignity and relational responsibilities led by Indigenous nations and communities. As Simpson points out, “PKOLS reclamation was a generative refusal. It is an example of radical resurgent organizing and mobilization.” 27 Indigenous artists provide us with new pathways for reclamation and regeneration. As demonstrated by the extensive and powerful works of TEMOSEN-THUT (Charles Elliott), Hayalthkin’geme (Carey Newman), the late Shan Goshorn, ‘Tayagila’ogwa (Marianne Nicolson), and Yéil Ya-Tseen (Nicholas


have rights and title to less than one percent of the land across Turtle Island. For the above-mentioned artists, their work is about raising awareness and challenging stereotypes. Land Back is about restoring “Indigenous laws to Indigenous lands” and regenerating community-led consent-based jurisdictional authority. It is also about climate justice by challenging the destructive extractivism of settler colonialism, which threatens all of our futures. Indigenous artists, such as the four mentioned above, are in a unique position to make their work accessible to a wide audience. All four utilize innovative and provocative new ways to generate new conversations around Indigenous self-determination and resurgence and provide new pathways to reclaim, rename, and reoccupy.

e These meanings are based on the SENĆOŦEN language. The name PKOLS reflects longstanding Indigenous oral histories stating that this was the last place glaciers receded from on W̱SÁNEĆ and Lekwungen territories. A related explanation is that the top of PKOLS produces a white reflection when you were paddling up to it from the ocean.

Galanin), Indigenous artwork is embedded with ancient messages and technologies. These are insurgent educators whose work challenges us to have longer memories and defy colonial timelines.

For example, see Jeff Corntassel and Tiffanie Hardbarger, “Educate to Perpetuate: Land-based Pedagogies and Community Resurgence” (2019) International Review of Education <>; Jeff Corntassel, Taiaiake Alfred, Noelani Goodyear–Ka‘ōpua, Noenoe Silva, Hokulani Aikau & Devi Mucina, eds, Everyday Acts of Resurgence: People, Places, Practices (Olympia: Daykeeper Press 2018); Jeff Corntassel and Mick Scow, “Everyday Acts of Resurgence: Indigenous Approaches to Everydayness in Fatherhood” (2017) 19(2) New Diversities 55; Jeff Corntassel, “Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination” (2012) 1(1) Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 86.

See “Land Back” (2021) 1:1 Rooted : < Seeland-back-3/>.pictureand caption at: solidarity-with-reclaim-pkols-formerly-college>.<

Jeff Corntassel, “Restorying Indigenous Landscapes: Community Restoration and Resurgence” in Nancy J. Turner, Pamela Spalding , and Douglas Deur, eds, Plants, People, and Places: The Roles of Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology in Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights in Canada and Beyond (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020) at

Mount Douglas is named after James Douglas who was the first Governor of the Colony of British Columbia.

Vine Deloria, Jr. and Daniel Wildcat, Power and Place: Indian Education in America (Golden: Fulcrum Resources, 2001) at 27.

R. Knighton, The Oral History of the 1852 Saanich Douglas Treaty: A Treaty for Peace (MA community governance project, Indigenous Governance, University of Victoria, 2004) at 21, 23. Available at: “Discussingpdf,seeJoniOlsen’spodcastentitledtheDouglasTreaty”:



Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), at 199.

Jeff Corntassel, “Life Beyond the State: Regenerating Indigenous International Relations and Everyday Challenges to Settler Colonialism” (2021) A narchist Developments in Cultural Studies at 73. < Jarrettview/20172/8930>.Martineau,

Creative Combat: Indigenous Art, Resurgence, and Decolonizaton (PhD dissertation, Indigenous Governance, University of Victoria, 2015) at 3.

It is important to note, based on the oral histories and historical context, that W̱SÁNEĆ peoples reject the view that the Douglas Treaty was a land cession treaty, but, rather, was a treaty for peaceful relations.


Ibid . You can also watch a short six minute video of Marianne discussing her “Awakening Memory” exhibit here: <>.

supra note 5 at

For examples of some of the restoration work at SṈID Ȼ E Ƚ , visit these links: <https://> or Paulettecolumbia/indigenous-john-dean-park-saanich-vancouver-island-legislature-1.5119986>.provincialJeanca/story/many-perspectives-tod-inlet-s%E1%B9%89id%C8%BCe%C6%9A>.<https://crdcommunitygreenmap.Paetkau,“IndigenousGrade4studentsgetgovernmenttochangenameofpark”CBCNews(May3,2019):<,“#ThrowbackThursday:ArtTalkwithShanGoshorn”N ational

Nicholas Galanin, “Never Forget” (2021): <>.

Nicholas. Galanin, “Artist Statement” (2021): < nicholas-galanin>. You can watch a short two-minute video on ‘Never Forget” here: Simpson,Nicholas<>.Galanin,“Landback”(2021):<>.

CBC News, “Mount Douglas or PKOLS? Park getting closer to new name requested by local First Nations,” (July 7, 2021): pkols-renaming-decision-1.6093382>.<

Ibid at Reuben69.Rose-Redwood,

““Reclaim, Rename, Reoccupy”: Decolonizing Place and the Reclaiming of PKOLS” (2016) 15(1) ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographie s 187 at 200.

Endowment for the Arts blog (November 15, 2018): awakening-memory.html>.lessLIE,Franceeducational-genocide>>.Shanblog/2018/throwbackthursday-art-talk-shan-goshorn>.<,“PiecedTreaties:Spider’sWebTreatyBasket”(2008):<http://www.Goshorn,“EducationalGenocide”(2011):<épanier,“OpenSpacepresentsAwakeningMemorywithartistsSonnyAssu,andMarianneNicolson”(March24,2017):<

Simpson, supra note 5 at 231.


Kate Gunn is a partner at First Peoples Law LLP. She represents Indigenous Peoples across Canada on issues related to the protection and implementation of their inherent and constitutionally protected title, rights, and treaty rights. She holds an LLM from the University of British Columbia, where her research focused on the interpretation of treaties between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown.

By Kate Gunn


Time is of The ressenCe:esToring The TreaTy relaTionship

In the early days of colonization, the Crown and Indigenous Nations in the Maritimes negotiated treaties of peace and friendship to advance both parties’ strategic and economic interests. In the decades preceding and immediately after Confederation, the so-called ‘numbered’ treaties facilitated the westward expansion of European settlement and the construction of national infrastructure, including the transcontinental railway. Treaties remain a cornerstone of the legal basis on which federal and provincial governments claim ownership and jurisdiction over most of Canada today. In short, the majority of non-Indigenous people in Canada owe their right to live here to these foundational

treaties are much more than the words set out in their written English texts. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed, treaties are sacred agreements which must be interpreted in light of the historical and cultural context and the parties’ intentions at the time of the negotiations. 5 They include both oral and written records prepared by the Indigenous treaty parties, as well as promises made by the Crown’s representatives during treaty


Negotiations with the Crown were informed by both British colonial policy as expressed in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 , and the Treaty of Niagara, which reflected the Indigenous parties’ understanding that they would remain self-determining, independent nations in their dealings with the Crown. 4


of treaties and protections for treaty rights go hand in hand. Where lands are subject to treaties, the presentday descendants of the Indigenous treaty parties hold constitutionally protected rights, including, but not limited to, rights

The treaties negotiated prior to and following Confederation established the terms on which Indigenous Peoples agreed to share their lands and resources with incoming settlers throughout much of what is now Canada. 1 For decades, however, provincial and federal governments in Canada have refused to honour and uphold the Crown’s treaty promises. 2 This failure remains one of the most significant barriers to decolonization today.


Much of the development in the field of Aboriginal law in Canada has focused on defining the scope of Aboriginal title and rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 . 3 By contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to the treaty agreements negotiated between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown. This lack of attention obscures the fact thatmost of Canada is subject to treaties, and that the relationships which underlie the treaty agreements are fundamental to Canada’s constitutional structure.

Despite these challenges, the treaties still have the potential to support the development of a mutually beneficial CrownIndigenous relationship based on respect for the perspectives and legal traditions of both treaty partners. Below, I explore why, at a time of national reckoning with the truth about Canada’s colonial past and present, treaties should be at the forefront of conversations about both reconciliation and the revitalization and implementation of Indigenous laws and jurisdiction.

Treaty negotiations began hundreds of years ago. Indigenous Nations entered into negotiations with the Crown based on their own laws and governance systems, including longstanding traditions of treaty-making with neighbouring nations to determine how lands and resources would be shared.

W hy d o T rea T ies m a TT er ?

Critically, the Crown’s approach to treaty implementation fails to account for the significant unresolved issues regarding the legal basis on which the Crown purports to exercise ownership and control over treaty lands. Indigenous Peoples negotiated treaties with the Crown based on their own laws and systems of governance. They continue to exercise decisionmaking authority based on those laws today. It is not a foregone conclusion that treaties resulted in the extinguishment of Indigenous Peoples’ title and jurisdiction. Rather, serious questions remain regarding the constitutional legitimacy of Canada’s position that it owns and has the sole right to manage and determine who benefits from lands subject to treaty.

to hunt, fish and harvest. These rights were not created by the treaties. Treaty rights refer to the traditional, cultural, legal and economic activities of Indigenous Peoples the Crown promised to safeguard in exchange for the Indigenous treaty parties’ agreement to allow settlers to live on and share their territories. The flip side of treaty rights is the Crown’s treaty responsibilities, including the responsibility to ensure their Indigenous treaty partners are able to exercise the rights guaranteed to them on entering into treaty now and into the future. This means that under Canadian law, provincial and federal governments are legally obligated to uphold their treaty obligations to Indigenous Peoples before making decisions about lands subject to treaty. In many cases, those obligations go beyond those associated with unrecognized Aboriginal title and rights in other parts of Canada.

The specific terms of each treaty are distinct, as are the circumstances under which they were negotiated. Notwithstanding these differences, Indigenous Peoples have repeatedly and unequivocally expressed that their ancestors negotiated the treaties in order to establish a relationship of peaceful co-existence with incoming settlers, and that they never surrendered their rights and jurisdiction over their territories. 6

cases, the uncontested findings of Canadian courts that both parties understood the agreement to be about sharing, rather than surrendering, rights and benefits to lands subject to treaty.

By contrast, federal and provincial governments rely on the written English texts of many treaties as a basis for the position that the Indigenous treaty parties ceded ownership and control over their lands and resources in exchange for reserves and limited rights to hunt, fish and harvest. This approach ignores the historical context in which the agreements were negotiated, the Indigenous parties’ understanding of the treaties, and in some

i ndigenous & C ro W n p erspe CT ives

The Crown’s interpretation of the treaties further disregards the fact that treaties encompass more than just treaty rights. Indigenous Peoples have been clear that at their core, treaties are intended to serve as a living guide to how we will live together on the lands they occupied prior to colonization. Too often, however, federal and provincial governments disregard this fundamental relationship in favour of a narrow interpretation of the treaties which focuses on the specific rights enumerated in the written English text of the treaty documents. This approach allows governments to continue to benefit from the Crown’s unilateral assumption of ownership and control over treaty territories, as well as its historic suppression of Indigenous laws and governance structures.


If implemented honourably, the treaties provide a blueprint for how lands and resources in Canada are to be managed and protected in a manner that reflects the perspectives, objectives and respective jurisdictional authority of both treaty parties. They could also stand as living examples of how Indigenous legal orders and the common law system can co-exist and interact on a mutually respectful basis. Despite recent direction from the courts, federal and provincial governments continue to disregard the Crown’s outstanding obligations to its Indigenous treaty partners.

For too long, Indigenous Peoples have shouldered the burden of protecting their territories and enforcing the Crown’s treaty obligations. In the context of climate change and increasing pressure to develop treaty lands and resources, Indigenous Peoples now face the growing possibility that they will no longer be able to rely on their lands and waters for sustenance or to exercise the rights guaranteed under treaty. If the full potential of the treaties is to be realized, Canadian governments must commit to undertaking the hard work and compromise required to rebuild its relationship with its treaty partners. This is not a commitment which can be postponed. As the Court noted in Yahey , time is of the essence.

To date, Canadian courts have failed to meaningfully consider the implications of the treaties in relation to Crown sovereignty and jurisdictional authority over Indigenous Peoples and have instead proceeded on the assumption that these are settled issues in the parts of Canada covered by treaties. However, recent decisions suggest a growing willingness on the part of courts to hold governments to account for failing to uphold their treaty obligations. For example, in 2021, the Supreme Court of British Columbia held in Yahey v. British Columbia that the provincial government breached Treaty 8 and unjustifiably infringed the rights of the Blueberry River First Nations by failing to protect those rights from the cumulative impacts of resource development. The Court further confirmed that decisions made by the provincial government about lands and resources must be made in a way that upholds treaty promises and protections, including the Indigenous parties’ right to maintain their way of life as a whole.

T he r oad a head

41 T rea T ies & C anadian C our T s

call on the Crown to honourably implement its treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and to impose significant consequences where governments fail to do so.

In another recent decision involving Treaty 8, the Alberta Court of Appeal held that the Government of Alberta is obligated to make decisions about treaty territory in a way that advances the intended purposes of the treaty, and that regulatory agencies are obligated to consider impacts on treaty rights when determining whether a project is in the public interest. 7 Similarly, Ontario courts found that the Crown and the Indigenous treaty parties agreed to share in resources from the development of territory subject to the Robinson Treaties, and that the Crown breached its obligation to increase annuity payments to its treaty partners. 8 Like Yahey , these decisions affirm that governments do not have free rein to develop and benefit from treaty lands and resources. The decisions also demonstrate that courts are increasingly prepared to both

See e.g. the findings of the trial judge regarding the Anishinaabe perspective on Treaty #3 in Keewatin v. Minister of Natural Resources , 2011 ONSC 4801 (CanLII).

More generally, see Krasowski, Sheldon, et al. No Surrender: The Land Remains Indigenous. University of Regina Press, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2019.

See Fort McKay First Nation v Prosper Petroleum Ltd , 2020 ABCA 163.

See Restoule v Canada (Attorney General) , 2018 ONCA 779.


e ndno T es :

See generally Michael Asch, On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014); John Borrows, “Wampum at Niagara: The Royal Proclamation, Canadian Legal History, and Self-Government” in Michael Asch, ed, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada: Essays on Law, Equality, and Respect for Difference (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1997).

This article is adapted in part from blog posts published by First Peoples Law LLP. Many thanks to my colleagues Bruce McIvor and Cody O’Neil for their valuable insight and feedback on this article and the original posts.

See e.g. R. v. Sparrow , 1990 CanLII 104 (SCC), [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1075; Delgamuukw v. British Columbia , 1997 CanLII 302 (SCC), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 1010; Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) , 2004 SCC 73, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 511; Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia , 2014 SCC 44 (CanLII).

See e.g. Yahey v. British Columbia , 2021 BCSC 1287 [ Yahey ], in which the Court held that the Province of British Columbia’s interpretation of Treaty 8 in the context of resource development in northern BC would leave the treaty beneficiaries with an “empty shell of a treaty promise.”.

See e.g. R v Marshall , [1999] 3 SCR 456, 1999 CanLII 665; R. v. Sioui , 1990 CanLII 103 (SCC), [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1025; Simon v. The Queen , 1985 CanLII 11 (SCC), [1985] 2 S.C.R. 387; R. v. Badger , 1996 CanLII 236 (SCC), [1996] 1 SCR 771.


laW and mediCine

By Kerry Sloan

Kerry Sloan is an Assistant Professor and former Junior Boulton Fellow at the McGill Faculty of Law. A citizen and past board (council) member of the Metis Nation of Greater Victoria, she is also connected to Metis communities in the southern BC interior.


ii Kayanesenh Paul Williams, Kayanerenkó:wa: The Great Law of Peace (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2018) at 7.


iii Tracey Lindberg, Critical Indigenous Legal Theory (PhD Dissertation, University of Ottawa, 2007) [unpublished] at 326.

“From this point forward, it was no longer a given that Canadian law was right or powerful, it had to prove to me it was right or powerful. I had to learn to learn Canadian law in order to unlearn it. I thought of it like a vaccine: I needed part of the disease in order to make myself immune to it.”

Respiration I

“The inherent challenge of legal education is not to simply produce lawyers (or law professors) who lawyer (or profess law) ethically, but to enable people to grow in virtue through their study of law.”

— Kayanesenh Paul Williamsii

Exhausted, the woman snored, dreaming a story she had once heard: a boy – tall, thin and darkhaired, also laboured in his breathing; he, too, dreamt. Adults were speaking, seemingly far away. He heard feelings: fear, apprehension, love. He smelled yellowed paint peeling, felt damp creeping; a high ceiling echoed the iron lung’s hum. Murmuring tersely, the doctor warned; rattled, his parents squeezed nearer. He sensed tentative hoping … how could they help it? He saw the long tunnel, approaching, receding; receding, approaching; lung pausing, compressing, releasing. He woke alone, numb, dizzy. He knew what they heard; he heard he was dying. The woman woke, her man’s startled gasping prompting sudden, sharp terror, the veil of sleep rending. Once again, the old nightmare … She took a deep breath.

Inspiration I

i Roderick A Macdonald & Thomas B McMorrow, “Decolonizing Law School” (2014) 51:4 Alta LR 717 at 724-25.

— Rod McDonald & Tom McMorrow i

For all her years her forebears taught her: love, life, wahkotowin, gifting: the sun and moon, the earth, the stars; the rain, the wind, the soil, the air, rivers, oceans, magma, mountains; movement, scent, feeling, sound, light, taste, colour, vibration; four-leggeds, plants, eight-leggeds, fungi, winged ones, crawlers, slitherers, finned ones; invisible beings, forces, energies; gills, lungs; sun conversion, gas exchange; the flux, the helix, the matrix; the unknowable, the mundane; the otherworld, the innerspace; dimension, time, scale, iteration; dreams, thoughts, perceptions, utterances; invention, imitation, transformation; birth and death, breaching and healing, rotting and blooming, regret and rejoicing; migrations, gatherings, dispersions; patterns, chaos; spirit suffusing: expanding,

— Tracey Lindbergiii

“… ‘peace’ is a combination of factors, including health (mental and physical), for a person whose mind or body are in pain will be distracted from peace.”

Not just through the mouth, the mind, but through the hands, the feet, the womb, the eyes: assessing, dispensing, engendering: skill, knowledge, wisdom: gifting community, connection, wahkotowin

My gram’s parents: At Roche Percee, Saskatchewan, their hearts met again through a hole in the border. Strayed, crossing over, this time they stayed safely. Only a little trouble in one lung: kokum’s cold weather memento; hell frozen over.

The Plains’ greatest Sundance; a sacrifice; a Song gifted and received, retained and treasured; a Story sung ’til this moment, breathed down the years through waving grasses, curling tobacco; smoke wisps tenderly weaving lands, braiding laws like tendrils; linking arms as one new, big family; connected to all, together forever; wahkotowin

Before the school, networked, riverine, they knew each other; married, adopted, traded, welcomed. Full hearts were gifted. Later, a refuge: after Manitoba they came, the resisters, then crossed back; fleetingly: sanctuary, peace, communion; after Batoche they came again, medicine crossing the medicine line.

But before the school, the plateau: the ancient heart, by the ancient lake; rivers ran, alluvial: the pipe lit, nations strengthened, life-giving, arterial: the Iron Alliance – Nehiyaw, Chippewa, Assiniboine, Metis – blood breathed through them, suffusing, sacred, connubial

My gram’s parents: Their small hands met through a hole in the fence. Between the girls’ side and the boys’ side. If not for them, I wouldn’t be here. The school sat smack dab in the middle of nowhere; in the middle of everywhere. In the middle of Turtle Mountain. In the middle of Turtle Island. Aflame in the sacred heart sanctum, love flickered. The son danced on his turtle’s back: pierced and tied to the centre pole. Thirsting, hanging by a thread; his mother received him, umbilically; the veil rent: water flowed: corn flowered, grass waved. Triumphant, shining, yet sorrowing, he cried: was the lesson rejected? The cure despised? Despite his offering: sanctioned by law, the children suffered: tubercular, transubstantiated: inoculum in the tabernaculum

If not for them all, I wouldn’t be here.

Inspiration II

contracting; blood beating and breathing; thoughts circulating: dividing, encompassing, replicating An encyclopedic mind, a compendious mind; yet a mind like a labyrinth, a network, touching other minds, imparting, yearning, permeating, spilling its banks, deltaic: silt and sediment, loam and loess: germinating, fulminating; fractal, nucleic; what went before, what’s yet to come: Through generations: botany, astronomy, geology, philosophy, genealogy, history, language, law, medicine, sport, literature, music, ceremony, dance, art, friendship, warriorship, diplomacy, psychology, hunting, farming, cooking, weaving, beading, sewing, building, trading, hauling, riding, canoeing, visiting, advising, healing, judging, governing, loving

Spirit Gifting


A curious child, she watched chickadees courting, nesting; coyotes running, winking; worms

Not that there was ever a lack of instruction: mistakes were learning, hardships too; sometimes dreams … or silence. She listened; heart open, she watched: mamaan’s rough hands, her soft singing; papa’s stern mouth, his laugh crackling. Siblings teased, played, conspired … older, sometimes, she scolded; tired, she brokered.

But the library! Chores done, school done, she ran faster, braids flying. New stories from far, from other lives, worlds opened. There’s more where these came from … I’ll tell you a story!

Even the day school, with its grey sisters, with its exactitudes, its beatitudes and platitudes, didn’t dampen her ardour: nothing could squelch her science; her catechism: natural laws; her baptism: the well of knowledge; her confession: the medicine of love; even as a novice, she caught the Mother’s Hereye

She tried catching rabbits, building birdhouses, shoeing horses, mending pots, fixing rifles, plastering poultices, soothing babies, sewing saddles, collecting honey, telling tall tales

Her mind yearned in all directions (the four, the seven), encompassing. Womblike, laughter warmed her heart. Her body wrung laundry, picked berries, hauled water; barnwards, she swung the kerosene lantern: cows questioned shyly, cats purred, milk frothed … such richness! though sometimes swinging, she spilt it …

Years later, a four-year-old boy burned, skin blistering. He sensed the long tunnel, approaching, receding. He was burnt in the fire and yet was still not consumed. The medicine held, steeped long by his sister. Pustules finally pitted. Later that year, through Portal, North Dakota, my moshom held his mother’s right hand and his sister’s left: they crossed the border, straitly through the gate.

mind yearned in all directions (the four, the seven), encompassing. Her heart learned where she was: round the stove, clockwise, lovingly … lignite warmth filling the kitchen; ancient nations flickering with life

working; fish spawning; gazelles leaping; cactus blooming, lichen spreading, spores spilling, seeds blowing; water freezing, icicles crashing; mud cracking; soil spreading

Spirit Gifting

The young girl swung her lunch pail, quickly unbannocked; she flew down the road. The travelling library! Her mamaan told her: it was finally here!

Before the school, another scourge: smallpox bubbled. Down one coast and up the other. Madre de Dios. The pestilence sojourned: crossing, centering.

Not that there was ever a shortage of stories: family stories, funny stories, sad stories, teaching stories … not always in words, but in fiddle tunes, stomping hooves, crackling pitch, crunching snow, whistling kettles, crowing hens. Chickadees chattered morning fibs; coyotes told howlers. Sewing machines treadled, stitching time; dodged bullets whistled; hay was made; chaff winnowed; bellows mended. Beyond morals, the same old, old story: a good life, love, respect, connection.


Inspiration III

My grandparents: At Pierced Rock, near the ruts of Red River carts, their lips met, their stories met, laughing, embracing …


As a former graduate burger-flipper, I was now down with practicality. Legal theory was not for this bacon-bringer. I didn’t realize how far I’d flown from my stories.

Growing up working-class, it was still “town and country”: hibernally, a grungy garret, and – in the Season – a wood stove shanty hideaway. Well-intentioned, a classmate told me my family was “slumming”, they were “hanging with the underdog”; there’s no life without “lifestyle”. A non-starter: my ’86 Cutlass with the puppy-chewed dashboard (I’ve come a long way, baby, just running on fumes …)

Inspiration V

I’ll tell you another thing: Others came, from other lands, other crucibles, other epidemics. Of war. Of famine. Of hatred. Law’s modest proposal: rents racked, hopes blighted; tubers tubed: the Lumper lumping the lumpenproletariat; typhus touting coffin cargo. Law’s libellous blood: toddler trophies within the Pale, yet beyond: poison deep in the wells of time: pestilential pogrom prescriptions. Strayed, crossing over, frayed, they settled: quarantine scum; ghetto dogs. Russian roulette, Irish luck: life granted, sustained, in some ’til this moment. If not for them (all my relations), I wouldn’t be here.


Presumptuously, I loved the law (if not the assumptions) … even Property (Indigenous students’ bane): mystical, arcane, a consumptive muse. Even more, I loved equity, law’s suffering poet.

about business, I thought “the patch” was about smoking (… and it was).

Inspiration IV

My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmothers, chapanak: Loving knowledge, she taught me to love. Living the law, she taught me to love knowledge.

At my alma mater, five of us started the first-ever Native Law Students’ Club – such mavericks! We studied (sometimes), played pool, told stories, commiserated. We mapped our minds. Exorcised the cite-geist. We cooked up cans. Electrified the avenue. We crammed. We jammed. We became better step dancers. We laughed, we cried, then laughed some more (because otherwise we would cry

Perspiration I

Spirit Gifting

My parents: their hearts touched, hot blooded, through a hole in the order. Transgressing, tribe to tribe, crossing the line. Iron rails through Iron lands. Handfasted, linking arms, though not a treaty, or a trust. De jure: an extracontractual meeting of the minds, the organs. De facto: an education. New stories from far, from other lives, worlds opened. The once-braided girl, now grown, heart willing, listens.

Fact pattern: a Scot who loved ginger beer changed the law quickly, but at a snail’s pace. Delictual victuals? A civil wrong: contradiction in terms?

Fact pattern: Carbolic Smoke Ball: a mere puff, or a promise? The ’flu flown? A duty of neighbours, or a treaty of care? Vanity or a virtue?

Later, as a grad student, learning from relations, I realized how little I knew, how far I’d flown. Happily, sadly, I listened, mind open.

Perspiration II

Perspiration III

Chores over, school’s over; the work begins …

Slowly, I was colonized, seduced by stanzas, beguiled, uprooted: new stories from far, from other lives; worlds opened.

A professor chased paper, poetically; chewed chalk, bemusedly. Jousting with words: he shivved us with Shakespeare, dirked us with Denning; he was cutting, yet jesting; remedies were remedial; the cure like curare; yet, torn, I’m left with his stories, a lifeblood of law.

b) Perspiration IV

Working as a lawyer on reserve, I heard some new/old stories … and finally read the history of my country. Foolishly, I felt empowered.

In the movie Lagaan, all castes bet far better, beating the British at their own game. Batting beyond averages. Not a sacrifice, but a duel. Still, a gamble. The master’s tool wasn’t really the master’s, though: it was gillidanda – and some Indigenous talent! But was it cricket?

Breathing by day, he remembers the Alamo; at night, unconsciously, ventilated, he senses Tejanos, greyish, ghostly: their resistance, like polio, is ancient history, eradicated; joining one colonizer to

A professor said, musingly, “Law’s about people”:

Socrates, that gadfly, spurned law to keep it. Defiantly downing his draught, he dodged downfalls. The one, for the many.

c) Respiration II

A methodological primer (for example):

Suffering the slings of the Socratic method, the impositions of IRAC, I kept a silver locket on a chain close to my heart. My own little rosary, now a relic. A paper inside said, “This too shall pass … and so will you.” And I did. But that was the easy part.

The last in an iron lung: a lawyer, a Longhorn. The old rattle and hum: fixed by friends, backed up by battery: the neighbour principle versus the clock; upon pressure, soporific, the law depends.

Fact pattern: a primrose path (with picket fence) through a cricket ground? Battened, but batted to blazes, the Millers moved out, battered, redeeming their equity. Collective consensus: a sticky wicket. Pick your battles.


a) Expiration I

The land – our mamaan – is the boss. Not men, madre de Dios …

Cut off from families, friends, homes, communities; yearning for more than the plague that connects us; yet learning still rages, viral, contagious; virtually, really, mixedly; in time and beyond time; alone yet communally; virtue flourishes, suffuses, vitally: the neighbour principle, the good life, love, wahkotowin

Little spike proteins have toppled the order of things (or revealed them). Inhale. Masks may be on, but the gloves are off. Exhale.

I suffered sacrifices, duels, slings, roulette; I sensed outrageous luck, love, wahkotowin. It could have been worse.

Conspiration I

It’s the students, the youth, who are truly our gold; hearts like corn, minds like silver refined: seven generations, even seven times seven. Dancing on our turtle’s back; they’re a gift, not a sacrifice.

The poet, of course, is also the tax-man. Rank – the guinea’s stamp – that contraband, avails me little; still, without it I wouldn’t be here; the slaver’s gold bought Hochelaga; so now I’m privileged, minding the master’s house, haunting the chancellor’s hall.

OK, I know: I’m hyperventilating while others can’t breathe …

A “back to normal” plan??? A pox on that! What’s “normal”? Who’d want it?

oust another; forgotten by many: hooves thundering, the herd is immune.

Despite consultation, care, rules, machinations, diplomacy, democracy, committees, proposals: it’s a fact, a pattern: the law-as-ass (that venerable maxim) is not very good at resolving a conflict.

Suspiration I

What’sDeconstruction.atstake: education; law; talent; reputation; literally life and death.

Expiration II


For a’ that and a’ that, I did it. I made it. Despite honest poverty, hodden, sodden, grey, shapeless pudding. Slogging. Flodden fields. Boggy basins. Stuff and such.

Even here, I can’t say too much. Not much has changed. A little rank, yes, but not quite enough. All these years passed, yet still not enough hoop dancing. Yet these facts are trivial …

Derrière les rideaux: the unfathomable, yet mundane: money; a tacky magician, like Oz:

First the ’flu, then the Inquisition.

I’m lulled. Time ticks, according to plan. But whose?

Inspiration VI/Perspiration V

From all my kind mothers, I learned: laws weave together from many threads – yet, as one fabric, can be strong together; from fathers I learned that commentary is also law; together, not one, they co-exist, my relations

Memories live in the marrow, they breed in the bone: smallpox is gone, but so are the buffalo; residential schools have closed, but TB lives on; the iron rail runs through the heart of our continent; even the rights of way have become road allowances; arteries of life and love have become hellish highways; women’s tubes are still tied, consentless; their children still killed, regardless; mother love stifled; generations extinguished Knowledge cached …

We re-lit the fire

We remembered the medicine

Spirit Gifting

He survived to tell the tale, the boy in the iron lung, from behind the Iron Curtain. Crossing oceans, we met through a hole in our history. Roulette, love, luck. Wahkotowin. Dreaming beside me, I want him to live. Scarred, he breathes.


Like water in a dry land, like air in bronchioles, like sap in spring trees; we revisited river arteries, recalled rutted pathways; we flew in the old formations; flowering and flourishing, twining and spreading: beaded into our shawls, woven into our sashes, stitched in our moss bags: the networks that create and unite all things; the laws that weave and enliven: the good life, love, respect, Wewahkotowinreturned to Turtle Mountain, re-gifted the song, recalled the alliance

Yet, the land – our mamaan – cares for us; the waters heal us; the stars remember us We remember, too; we recover, uncover; unveil, reveal ... We live. We love. We breathe. We bleed. Resurgence, then, is nothing new. How do I know? Because without each other, we wouldn’t be here.

Respiration III

Waking from fever-soaked nightmares, from apneic dreams, our people slept for a hundred years. As Riel predicted, it was art that woke us, that re-educated us, mind out of time; we remembered ourselves and what we knew; we reclaimed ourselves and what we lost; we added to our stores of knowledge; we opened worlds; we listened, we taught, we learned; we unlearned; we recouped, revealed, revitalized, resurged

We grieved; we gathered

Miller v Jackson, [1977] QB 966

Derrida, Jacques, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).

Anker, Kirsten, “Reconciliation in Translation: Indigenous Legal Traditions and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (2016) 33:2 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 15, online: Anuik,, Métis Families and Schools: The Decline and Reclamation of Métis Identities in Saskatchewan, 1885-1980 (PhD Dissertation, University of Saskatchewan, 2009) Bernofsky,[unpublished].Susan, “Fresh Air: Thomas Mann and the Literature of Contagion”, American Academy in Berlin (2022), online: Bluemle, John P, “North Dakota’s Mountainous Areas: The Killdeer Mountains and The Turtle Mountains” (North Dakota Geological Survey, nd), online:

Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, [1892] EWCA Civ 1


Donoghue v Stevenson, [1932] UKHL 100


Celebration of Nations, “Coming Full Circle: Nation to Nation Alliance” (2021), online: https:// Cooke, , Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory and Film (Houndmills, UK; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

seleCTed bibliography

Bryce,ndnotes/ndn15.aspPeterH,Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the North-West Territories (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1907).

Fraser, Crystal, Tricia Logan & Neil Orford, “A doctor’s century-old warning on residential schools can help find justice for Canada’s crimes”, The Globe & Mail (17 July 2021), residential-schools-can-help-find/ Gitxsan Government Commission, Exploring Gitxsan Wellness (2014), video (10:16), online: Gowariker,,director,

Lagaan: Once upon a Time in India (2002), feature film Harris,(3:44:00).Cole,

The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographic Change (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997).

Fiola, Chantal, Returning to Ceremony: Spirituality in Manitoba Métis Communities (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2021).

Dunn, Jonathan L, et al, “An Introductory Guide to Tuberculosis Care to Improve Cultural Competence for Health Care Workers and Public Health Professionals Serving Indigenous Peoples of Canada” (2022) 6:1 Canadian J Respiratory, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine 184.

Other Sources

--------, The Story of a National Crime: Being a Record of the Health Conditions of the Indians in Canada from 1904 to 1921 (Ottawa: James Hope & Sons, 1922).

Hogue, Michel, Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Innes, Robert Alexander, Elder Brother and the Law of the People: Contemporary Kinship and Cowessess First Nation (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2013).

Long, Richard, Courtney Heffernan, Melissa Cardinal-Grant, et al, “Two Row Wampum, Human Rights, and the Elimination of Tuberculosis from High-Incidence Indigenous Communities” (2019) 21:1 Health & Human Rights 253.

Macdonald, Roderick A, “Custom Made – For A Non-chirographic Critical Legal Pluralism” (2011) 26 Can J L & Soc 301, especially pages 312-15.

Rutty, Christopher J, “A Pox on Our Nation”, Canada’s History (7 April 2020), online: https://www.’sCatholicChurchandParish,Belcourt,NorthDakota, St. Ann’s Centennial: 100 Years of Faith, Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation (1985), online: Taylor,digital/collection/ndsl-books/id/88363/Patrick,“GrosseÎle:Canada’sQuarantine Island”, Canadian Geographic (30 March 2022), online: Tranter,,“‘Unmanageable’:NunavuthamletsetsupsatellitecentreforTBtreatment”, CTV News (8 April 2022), online: Truthup-satellite-centre-for-tb-treatment-1.5854323,

Vrooman,English_Web.pdfNicholas, “Many Eagle Set Thirsty Dance (Sun Dance) Song: The Metis Receive Sun Dance Song” in Lawrence Barkwell, Leah M Dorion & Audreen Hourie, eds, Metis Legacy II: Michif Culture, Heritage, and Folkways (Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute; Pemmican, 2006) 187.

Jerome, Irwin, “Another Side to the Fenian Movement in Canadian History”, Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture, Gabriel Dumont Institute (27 May 2016), online: https://www. Kindy,,%20Jerome.pdfDavid,“TexasManLives70YearsinanIronLung:‘INeverGave Up’”, Smithsonian Magazine (5 November 2021), online: years-in-an-iron-lung-i-never-gave-up-180979008/

Native Women’s Association of Canada, “Policy Brief – COVID-19 in Indigenous Communities”, online: Ó Gráda, Cormac, “The Lumper Potato and the Famine” (1993) 1:1 History Ireland, online: https:// Poyo,,ed, Tejano Journey, 1770-1850 (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1996).

Weir, Bryan, “Robert Burns as an Exciseman”, Alexandria Burns Club (December 2004), online:

Wilk, Piotr, Alana Maltby & Martin Cooke, “Residential Schools and the Effects on Indigenous Health and Well-being in Canada: A Scoping Review” (2017) 38:1 Public Health Review 8.

--------, “The Whole Country … Was ‘One Robe’”: The Little Shell Tribe’s America (Helena, MT: Drumlummon Institute; Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, 2012).


Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015), see particularly pp 90-99 [WARNING –disturbing content], online:

Yakub, Mehanaz, “Iroquois village dug up downtown on Peel Street”, Eastern Door (6 August 2018), online:

I currently work in education and media, and as part of a personal project I work as an illustrator. My art is inspired by my Mayan culture and history. Through my work I hope to inspire young Mayan generations to feel proud of who they are and fight institutionalized stereotypes and racism against Mayan people in Guatemala.


I’ll be doing my MA soon in Animation and Game Direction in Germany, where I expect to develop a virtual reality or interactive installations project. I wish to keep contributing to our Mayan communities, so that we can live in a place where we can freely live our cultural identity and consequently have better lives and opportunities.

Laura Morales, I belong to the K’iche’ Maya people in Guatemala.

By Laura MoralesMynameis

a leTTer To The indigenous Women Who inspire me everyday

I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Contents: 3D Animation in South Korea, where I lived and worked for about 6 years.

Thank you Antonio Chavez for showing the world how inspiring are the weavings and the true colors of our lands and clothes. And last, but not least, thank you Cholitas women in Bolivia, for climbing those mountains and cheering us up from the highs.”

Thank you, Lorena Ramírez for running the long paths that are inspiring other Rarámuri women to keep running until we are free.

Many of our ancestors have opened the doors that have helped shape us and inspire us to dream.

Thank you Odilia Pablo, Mayan woman from the Mam Peoples, for riding on the roads that will encourage other Mayan women to step in and take part of the “Sqech Koya” Ceremony to honor our ancestors in the highlands of Paxil K’ayala’ (also known as Guatemala).´

Artwork by Laura Morales


“I believe there will be a time where indigenous women will not be scared or ashamed to be who we are and do what we are passionate about.

Today, I hope we -the young generations-, are also working to open more doors for future generations.

resurgenCe as CriTique and TinTelleCTualradiTion


grew up in the community of Maskwacis and is a member of Ermineskin Cree Nation. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia and is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Native Studies at the University of Alberta. His current research, the Relational Governance Project, looks at how First Nations create forms of shared jurisdiction with each other. Wildcat also is also on the board of directors for the Prairie Relationality Network.

By MatthewMatthewWildcatWildcat

That resurgence can refer to both a set of practices and an analytic tradition is vital to our understanding because the practices and theory have informed each other. But resurgence doesn’t have the luxury of distinct terminology like communist and communism to distinguish between a set of practices and the ideology. I’m concerned that if our understanding of resurgence does not centre the intellectual tradition, we will lose sight of the discerning account resurgence has offered of the interplay between colonization and Indigenous self-determination. Indigenous peoples have a wide range of interpretations around what is the nature of colonization and what kind of activities help to improve our self-determination (let alone the range of interpretations over the content of selfdetermination). My aim here is not to argue

that resurgence is the best account, rather my concern is that we will lose sight of the specific theoretical insights if we don’t make the room to define and discuss the conceptual-analytic aspects of Indigenous resurgence.

3. Settler institutions actively maintain colonial domination. Thus, appeals to settler institutions to change through dialogue, reason, political systems, or colonial legal mechanisms - while necessary aspects of Indigenous politicsare unlikely to produce the transformative changes required of decolonization.

4. Only resistance can transform settler society. Specifically struggle and contestation that changes the political calculus facing settler institutions so that they are incentivized to transform

I don’t consider myself a resurgence scholar, but a huge part of my academic training was in the resurgence tradition. Here, I provide what I think are broad contours of resurgence as an intellectual tradition. Forgive my lack of citations but here I’m attempting to synthesize not only a set of writings but countless talks and teachings on Indigenous resurgence that I’ve encountered over a 15-year period but one can consult the footnote at the end if one seeks a starting point.

1. Resurgence is a radical tradition. As I have heard Coulthard say many times, to be a radical means you want to address the root causes of injustice. Resurgence argues that in order to achieve decolonization we must address its root causes of colonialism.


Resurgence is one of the main, if not the main forms of Indigenous critique in settler colonial contexts. In the following, I want to argue for the importance of defining resurgence as an intellectual tradition rather than the typical usage of resurgence that draws our attention to range of on-the-ground practices of resistance that Indigenous peoples engage in. Within academic contexts, treating resurgence as an intellectual tradition requires our attention because understanding the conceptualanalytical use of resurgence reveals a body of critique that goes beyond simply a descriptive account of grassroots activities. Rather, resurgence is a substantial theory of how to further Indigenous self-determination within contemporary settler colonial contexts. I start the article with a further defence of my position and definition of resurgence as an intellectual tradition. In the second half of the paper, I provide a brief history of resurgence as a concept and discuss the connection between resurgence and the Indigenous Governance program at the University of Victoria.

2. The root causes of colonialism are the various intersections of the following: at a structural level colonial state sovereignty and capitalist exploitation that combine with ideologies that justify and promote hierarchies such as racism and hetero patriarchy. Decolonization requires the end of these various systems of oppression.

defining resurgenCe as an inTelleCTual TradiTion

As was pointed out to me, the first prominent academic work to use resurgence in Canada was John Borrows 2002 book Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law.2 Although resurgence has been taken up by a wide range of scholars, the tradition gets associated with four thinkers – although with qualifications. Take for example the following from Michael Elliot, a Political Scientist from South Africa who conducts secondary scholarship on resurgence:

These are very important insights that deserve our attention within teaching and research beyond a descriptive account of on-theground and grassroots practices of resistance. These insights are even important for the work Indigenous peoples conduct within the systems of settler society because we can leverage them for strategic advantage. Here, I’m not just thinking of say courtrooms or legislative politics, but the ways of ‘acting otherwise’, the subversive decisions and practices that Indigenous peoples and others can practice in a multiplicity of ways in any setting. The insights of resurgence are specific, and they deserve articulation beyond simply saying that one should be critical and reflective when engaging with settler institutions.

I take as my main reference in what follows a relatively small group of thinkers, concentrating mainly on the work of Taiaiake Alfred, Jeff Corntassel, Glen Coulthard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, each of whom has been central to the development of an explicit scholarly discourse of Indigenous resurgence in the Canadian context. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that they neither represent the authentic voices of resurgence nor constitute its essential boundaries. Indeed, as each emphasizes, resurgence is less a scholarly endeavour than it is a practically situated—or grounded— mode of being and resistance.3

5. Indigenous forms of life are valuable not simply because they can provide individuals with a positive sense of self. Rather, Indigenous forms of life are important because they form the basis of creating societies built on non-domination.


themselves. Within these struggles, Indigenous resistance needs to maintain a thoughtful and disciplined coherence between means-ends or what can also think of as a prefigurative politics. Hence, the strategies, methods and theories that people employ in the present should mirror the vision of decolonized society we have for the future.

a brief aCademiC hisTory of resurgenCe as inTelleCTual TradiTion

Sheryl Lightfoot’s critique of the resurgence tradition – that resurgence overly forecloses constructive relationships with the state - also focuses on the work of Alfred, Corntassel and Coulthard. These scholars are all associated with the Indigenous Governance program at the University of Victoria where Alfred and Corntassel were full-time faculty members for over a decade and of which I am a graduate of along with at least 10 other Indigenous faculty members across Canada.4

6. Finally, we need to maintain a wide diversity of land based and cultural practices that allow us to learn from our relationships with the natural world and maintain the intellectual, spiritual, and material traditions of Indigenous nations. The variety of grassroots practices can then provide means necessary to give strength to decolonial movements and foster the individual subjectivities needed to create societies built on non-domination.1


has helped me to see colonialism as a social process with stable features where colonial society attempts to maintain domination. By extension, decolonization as a strategy must be able to properly respond to these stable features like capitalism, hierarchies such as heteropatriarchy and the propensity of settler society to actively maintain these injustices. And while my research is more invested in exploring how Indigenous institutions provides services like education and healthcare, resurgence informs my understanding of the how colonization operates and how transformation involves various postures combining confrontation and subversive action.

“I understand that not everyone realizes or accepts that Onkwehonwe are on the verge of extinction.”8 On such a premise, there is little room for disagreement because matters of survival leave little room for amicable differences of opinion. A survey of Alfred’s “First Words” in Wasase shows that Alfred describes the challenge confronting us as survival fourteen times in twenty pages.

that we might otherwise subject to further clarification or reflection. In short, hardening our thinking impedes our interpretive capacity to respond to colonialism because we are forced into choices that we must be this and not Still,that.resurgence

Treating resurgence as an analytic tradition requires a grappling with not just with Alfred’s transgressions but the rigid intellectual climate that creates sharp boundaries say for example in how we make assessments of those who are colonized and decolonized. One can see in Wasase how Alfred lays out the stakes facing Indigenous peoples in stark terms – the very survival of Indigenous peoples as “authentic” was on the line.7 Alfred is very clear about his interpretive disagreement with others:

For example, my understanding of resurgence emerges from what I think is an important but rarely discussed distinction between regeneration and resurgence that Alfred makes.9 In Alfred’s theorizing, Indigenous nations require cultural and spiritual regeneration that provide the foundation required to wage an outward resurgence against colonial society: “A big part of the social and political resurgence will be the regeneration of Onkwehonwe existences free from colonial attitudes and behaviours.”10 The strength created by regeneration is necessary because an outward resurgence will “engender conflict, but it would be conflict for a positive purpose and with the hope of recreating the conditions of coexistence”. In other words, confrontation for the sake of confrontation will lack direction. Confrontation is only valuable if it is strategic and can effectively target areas of vulnerability within settler society. Regeneration of Indigenous political understandings and practices is required to

Any intellectual tradition that begins to draw sharp dichotomies and works to harden boundaries runs the risk of perpetuating unjust relations as various ways of thinking become uncontestable. When attitudes and political positions become rigid, it is easy for practitioners of intellectual tradition to begin treating social processes as solidified structures and we bury various tacit understandings

Resurgence is of course a broader tradition, having also received treatment by Tully and Borrows in the Resurgence and Reconciliation collection and the term is used widely.5 Nonetheless, for the purposes of my argument, responsibly upholding resurgence as an intellectual tradition requires a discussion of Alfred’s resignation from the University of Victoria in light of student complaints about the Indigenous governance program. A review of the Indigenous Governance program found “’dysfunctional classroom dynamics’ … [and] the program suffered from ‘discrimination’ and ‘hyper masculinity’ that provided little classroom space for diverse points of view”6 and led to the resignation of Alfred.

Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law, (Toronto: university of Toronto Press, 2002).

Michael Elliott, “Indigenous Resurgence: The Drive for Renewed Engagement and Reciprocity in the Turn Away from the State”, (2017) 51:1 Can J Pol Sci at 63-64.

ndno T es :

Michael155.Asch & John Borrows & James Tully, Resurgence and Reconciliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations and Earth Teachings (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2018).

Glen S Coulthard, “Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the ‘Politics of Recognition’ in Canada” (2007) 6:4 Contemporary Political Theory; Taiaiake Alfred, “Deconstructing the British Columbia Treaty Process” (2000) 3, Balayi: Culture, Law, and Colonialism; Jeff Corntassel, “Toward Sustainable Self-Determination: Rethinking the Contemporary Indigenous-Rights Discourse” (2008) 33:1 Alternatives; Leanne B Simpson, “Indigenous Resurgence and Co-resistance” (2016) 2:2 Critical Ethnic Studies; Leanne B Simpson, “Land as a Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious” (2014) 3:3 Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & JohnSociety.Borrows,

In many ways, my position that we should treat resurgence as an analytic tradition is easy to critique because the theory and practice of resurgence are deeply intertwined. But I want to be provocative because understanding resurgence as a grassroots practice is already well articulated. As such, I didn’t want to provide a nuanced account of the interplay between resurgence as intellectual tradition and resurgent practices because that does not add a new perspective. Instead, I hope the specific focus on intellectual traditions will create further discussion about the importance of the rich field of resurgence within academic spaces and classrooms well into the future.

Sheryl R Lightfoot, “The Pessimism Traps of Indigenous Resurgence” in Editor of Book, Pessimism in International Relationships (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)



provide the stability and foresight necessary to wage a struggle capable of strategic transformation of settler society.


The specificity of resurgence as outward contestation with settler society has helped me to understand our current moment in Canada of reconciliation as something that has come about because settler society is required to reconfigure itself in the face of determined and thoughtful Indigenous resistance. And while I don’t believe reconciliation will bring about decolonization, I am equally suspicious of actors who claim that any engagement with the settler state will make things worse instead of better because such a position does not account for how various forms of Indigenous political and legal regeneration minimizes colonial interference.11

Jorge Barrera, “Enrolment suspended after report finds UVic indigenous Governance Program left students ‘traumatized’” (2018) online: Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission

Taiaiake Alfred & Jeff Corntassel, ibid at 24. Taiaiake Alfred & Jeff Corntassel, ibid at 34.

Russell Diabo, “When moving past the Indian Act means something worse” (2017) Policy Options, online: Institute for Research on Public Policy online:CanadaSeeworse/>.org/magazines/september-2017/when-moving-past-the-indian-act-means-something-<https://policyoptions.irpp.alsoRussDiabo,“RussDiabo:WithBillC-15(CANDRIP)andanIndigenousGG,spreadstheliethatit’simplementingUNDRIP”(2021)VancouverFreePress, The Georgia Straight 15-candrip-and-an-indigenous-gg-canada-spreads-lie-that-its-implementing>.<

TaiaiakeColonialism”Taiaiakegovernance-program-suspended-1.4633889>.<,“BeingIndigenous:ResurgencesagainstContemporary(2005)40:4Gov’t&Opposat28.Alfred&JeffCorntassel, ibid at 36.


resurgenCe of indigenous legal orders

Nationhood Council House (NCH) is an Indigenous-led charity organization with leading Indigenous lawyers and experts working to advance Indigenous resurgence and nationhood with the aim to effectively influence the amendment of Canada’s colonial constitutive structures and help Indigenous people assert their inherent rights.

Charu is of Southeast Asian background. She has worked for last 15 years for First Nation organizations. She has a masters in Indigenous Nationhood from the University of Victoria and a certificate in Aboriginal Law from the Osgoode Law School.

Angela is Anishinaabe kwe from Serpent River First Nation of the Nemeh dodem (Sturgeon Clan). She brings more than two decades of experience in working for Indigenous communities and has education from Kenjgewin Teg and Algoma University. Angela works to assist Indigenous people advance their inherent and nationhood rights. Angela is a mother of three and embeds her parenting in Anishinaabe values.

Sarah has an education in Indigenous Studies and Decolonization from the University of Victoria. Sarah brings experience of working with academia, environmental groups, and healthcare organizations.

By Nationhood Council House — Angela Day, Charu Murti, and Sarah Mercer


Indigenous nations’ languages can best describe and name the concept of Indigenous legal orders. To attempt an explanation here, we would like first to describe Indigenous Nationhood (here, Nationhood) — Nationhood is what defines an Indigenous Nation spiritually, culturally, and traditionally. It is Indigenous peoples’

There is a compelling and urgent imperative for Indigenous legal orders. Legal orders are the roots of a community’s social structure. Canada’s foundation was built on racist and violent politics. Its constitutional and justice frameworks impact everything from taxation to corrections policy. This foundation was set up for the attrition of the


As a topic, Indigenous resurgence has been well analyzed over the years, especially academically. 3 However, resurgence can be something very broad. In this article, we address specifically and simply the resurgence of Indigenous legal orders and their vital role in the well-being of the First Peoples and the well-being of this land.

sense of belonging, bringing them together in shared language, heritage, history, and geography. Their sovereign and inherent rights are asserted through their laws. Their identity, multi-generational experiences and undivided relationship with their land, water and non-human beings is sustained and furthered through their laws and governance, referred to here as Indigenous legal orders. Indigenous legal orders are a frame of reference for an Indigenous nation’s distinct and self-determined way to maintain harmony, justice, and governance in their community and with outsiders. Indigenous laws, legal traditions, and governance are all a part of Indigenous legal orders

Indigenous Legal Orders or ways of being have always existed and have been passed down through the generations. These orders are now resurging through education. Law students across Turtle Island are learning that Indigenous peoples have always had laws to help us to be responsible and to maintain relationships with all of Creation. There is a lot of work ahead in this area to repair the harm that colonial law and genocidal policies have done on this land and to Indigenous peoples just in the past few centuries.

Without a doubt, Indigenous resurgence 1 is occurring on this land and across Turtle Island. 2 One just has to look back to the last ten years or so to observe this increase. This widespread practice of Indigenous resurgence can be understood as a mobilizing agent of empowerment and change for Indigenous nations; the ‘fuel in the tank,’ towards their self-determination.

T he i mpera T ive

— Beverley HaudenosauneeJacobs,Lawyer, Professor and Land Defender

What are Indigenous legal orders?

If there’s anything that the last 200 years of Canadian Indigenous relations has taught us, it is that our jealous need for control is destructive. Now is time to do what we should have done when we arrived here, as uninvited guests, and demonstrate that we care enough to discover and learn and to act responsibly within the matrix of Indigenous customs, traditions, and protocols…Our assumptions about law and equity must be supplemented, and maybe in some circumstances be supplanted.

Indigenous peoples have been stewards of this planet since time immemorial. The fight against climate change is not possible without their knowledge and leadership. Any agreement on a path forward must protect the rights of Indigenous peoples. Full stop.


vital imperative is climate change. In a few decades, we have turned around the potential of earth’s sustainability. What was stewarded and nurtured for millennia by Indigenous populations all over has now been extracted, polluted, and destroyed beyond recovery. Perhaps not coincidentally, the timing of such impactful human activity parallels the period of colonization.

— Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland (November 12, 2021)

— Chief Justice Robert Bauman, Conference of Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice (November 2021) 6

Amending Canadian legal or governance frameworks is still not a significant priority on the government’s agenda; the status quo 9 for Indigenous nations remains. Constitutionally, Indigenous Peoples will never be fully protected, respected or situated within an imported constitution that is built on their elimination or Aassimilation.secondand

Yet, the Wet’suwet’en people in western Canada are currently going through the third state and court enabled military-style invasion on their lands in the past three years.10 Their crime? Environment protection. This too, in the wake of another climate catastrophe–the worst climate emergency in the history of British Columbia (BC)–massive flooding and landslides that came a few months after relentless wildfires in the region. 11

Indigenous legal traditions are among Canada’s legal traditions. They form part of the law of the land.

— Federal Court Justice Sébastien Grammond (2018) 7

Even with this realization at some judicial levels and even with the overall rise in mainstream awareness of the travesty on this land, the tactic of Deny, Delay, Distract by the Canadian state continues. 8

original residents and rightful stewards of this land. Pre-eminent Indigenous lawyers like Murray Sinclair, John Borrows, Bruce McIvor, Beverley Jacobs, and Gordon Christie have pointed out how the rule of Canadian law is used to stack the system against Indigenous people. 4 From the Doctrine of Discovery to the Indian Act to Comprehensive Land Claims to the more recent Rights and Recognition Framework, most of Canada’s legislative frameworks operate with a confining intent: to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land. 5

T he W ay f or W ard


Indigenous Led Network – The resurgence work is monumental as colonial structures are deeply entrenched on this land. With access to resources stacked against Indigenous people, being part of a collaborative network of Indigenous and human rights experts, nationally and internationally, is needed.

ways of being and governing that have sustained life for eons–continues to stare at us in the face.

Indigenous Community Driven – Any resurgence process for Indigenous legal orders starts and ends with the community. Indigenous rights and self-determination policies are ensconced at the communitynation level. 18 There is a vital place in this area of work for law societies, allies, law schools, law firms, government bodies and non-profits. However, at the heart of a successful resurgence is community-driven effort and community-led decision making. Communities draw out their nation’s legal orders from their own worldviews and their own Creation stories. They need to articulate their laws and nationhood goals before starting the work of resurgence or legal order assertion. Communities need to consider building a ‘nationhood house’ for this work. 19 Such a ‘house’ can be modelled to serve a region, or a language or dialect or culture group. Any support in this work by outsiders has to be clearly outcome-oriented as Indigenous communities have expended much with minimal outcomes so far.

The work ahead to tackle these issues will neither be easy nor quick. However, we need to be aware that the situation’s urgency continues to escalate. While a straightforward solution–of looking into

Another major imperative is the crisis in democratic systems in Canada and many other parts of the world. Westminster-style democracy 16 is failing in various countries. There is a growing realization of the impact of colonization (and its product, globalization) on many aspects of life—from access to clean water, food, healthcare, cultural traditions, etc. As we pen this, President Biden of the United States is hosting the Summit for Democracy , with attendees from more than a hundred countries deliberating over the down-sliding values in the governance of their nations. 17

Climate change is significantly impacting First Nations—and their livelihoods—across Canada, and there is evidence that the worst is yet to come. Canada is warming by about twice the global average, and northern Canada, where many First Nations are situated, is warming even faster. 12 Although most vulnerable to the effects of climate change both legally and geographically, Indigenous Peoples steward the highest levels of biodiversity in Canada. 13 Treaty lands in Canada form the 2nd largest carbon sink in the Indigenousworld.resistance to extractive industrial practices has an immediate beneficial impact on environment protection. For example, Indigenous resistance to oil and gas projects in North America over the past decade is said to have saved nearly 1.6 billion tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions. That’s about a quarter of what Canada and the U.S. release together each year. 14 Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous participation can help in the better management of the environment. 15

Indigenous Clearing House – Information is power. There is good work being done through Indigenous organizations, 20 universities, and international non-profits. 21 Indigenous legal education is on the rise through law schools and legal research. 22 There is a rise in Indigenous scholarship that analyses case law to help assert Indigenous

— Bruce McIvor, The Current, CBC (November 22, 2021)

The framing of Indigenous sovereignty and nationhood in Canadian courts must change. This is a call to action for establishing Indigenous legal think tanks to tackle the legal work needed to do that.

— Land Back-Part II, Yellowhead Institute, Red Paper

At a higher and broader level, a call is needed for an independent judiciary to review the principles of federalism, democracy,

Indigenous legal think tanks – We have come a long way from the time when Section 141 of the Indian Act prevented Indigenous people from hiring lawyers to pursue their land claims and other rights. Many Indigenous lawyers are practicing on this land now. 23 And many more are preparing to do the same. But there is a mountain to climb.

Even where Indigenous nations have proven in courts the continuity of occupation, use and unceded title, from pre-contact to the present, according to Canadian law, there is no legal pathway to resume full jurisdiction and governance authority over Indigenous lands.

— Gordon Christie, Director, Indigenous Legal Studies, UBC


Image provided by NCH

Wet’suwet’en have Indigenous title. They’ve been owners of their land since time immemorial. We still have to settle the matter as to how Canadian law and Indigenous law are supposed to co-exist. 24

The core problem with reconciliation is the way it’s been framed by the courts in Canada. You’re trying to reconcile a right —which is the pre-existing rights of Indigenous people to their land —with a lie. The lie —and it’s a hard one for a lot of non-Indigenous Canadians to hear —is that colonizing governments can just show up, plant a flag, and take control over Indigenous lands and displace Indigenous laws. And that is what is irreconcilable — that right with that lie.

constitutionalism, and the rule of law, and sovereignty issues.

rights. There is a rise in allyship. There has been work done through commissions and research like the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). Above all, there is a wealth of information from work done ancestrally on this land. A clearinghouse of information that useably brings all this knowledge and wisdom together is needed for the resurgence of Indigenous legal orders.

Many writers have researched and written about Indigenous resurgence. We recommend writings by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Jeff Corntassel, Bruce McIvor, John Borrows, Jaskiran Dhillon, and James Youngblood Henderson to name a few.

For reading references by these legal scholars visit https://nationhoodcouncilhouse. org/book-list

“Indigenous resurgence is nothing new. It can be found throughout the history of our people. From early conflicts to that which necessitated the Treaty making process, the underlying social contract. We couldn’t trust the settler society, but we inherently knew that there needed to be a relationship aided by high level diplomacy. We also knew that resurgence of our nationhood identity, structures, and laws was needed so that we do not become assimilated. There are figures over time who embodied Indigenous resurgence like Tecumseh and Shingwauk.” — Isadore Day, Founder of NCH.

Nationwide, the resurgence of Indigenous identity, values, ethics, laws, and obligations, in all its diversity, may be on the horizon. However, as of today the dial has not moved in the various systemic disparities for Indigenous peoples. This has to do with Land and Laws. And the need for our collective attention to judicial change. Resurgence needs focussed attention. How can we maintain that attention? We must stay in action.

e ndno T es :

“Indigenous resurgence is nothing new. It can be found throughout the history of our people. From early conflicts to that which necessitated the Treaty making process, the underlying social contract. We couldn’t trust the settler society, but we inherently knew that there needed to be a relationship aided by high level diplomacy. We also knew that resurgence of our nationhood identity, structures, and laws was needed so that we do not become assimilated. There are figures over time who embodied Indigenous resurgence like Tecumseh and Shingwauk.” — Isadore Day, Founder of NCH.

The action of resurging Indigenous Legal Orders. We must first resurge Indigenous legal orders.


There is a groundswell. There is a rise in mainstream awareness, and it is manifesting in movements in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. From supporting Idle No More and the TRC Calls to Action, to the toppling of colonial statues, Indigenous place names, spaces, and ceremonies are being rightfully reclaimed. Even politically, there is aspiration if not action through ‘nation-to-nation’ commitments and United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) legislation. Recent Child Welfare laws show progress in the area of jurisdiction. 25 We have learnt the protocol of land acknowledgement and have, perhaps, started to unravel its connection to the brutalizing effects of 15th century Terra Nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery.

C on C luding T hough T s

See Arno Kopecky, “The B.C. flooding isn’t just a regional catastrophe – it’s a warning that climate change is coming for everyone” (18 November 2021) online: Globe and Mail <

Pastion v Dene Tha’ First Nation, 2018 FC 648 at para 8.

RCMP attacked and removed Wet’suwet’en land defenders opposing the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. The RCMP acted on the behest of Coastal GasLink and the Province of British Columbia to enforce an injunction issued by the B.C Supreme Court against Wet’suwet’en land defenders. See video at “BC Greenlit More Mounties on Wet’suwet’en Territory Before 3rd Raid” (2 December 2021) online: APTN News territory-3rd-raid/>.<

See Jody Wilson-Raybould, Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power (Toronto: Harper Collins, 2021) at 2.

See Isadore Day, “Reflections on Land Back” (2021) 1:2 Rooted 29 at 30.

Seeregional-catastrophe-its-a-warning-that/>.KatharinaRall,“‘Myfearislosingeverything’: The Climate Crisis and First Nations’ Right to Food in Canada” (21 October 2020) online: Human Rights Watch <https://>.LouCorpuz-Bosshart,“Biodiversity highest on Indigenous-managed lands” (31 July 2019) online: UBC News indigenous-resistance-against-carbon/>.atSeeprotection-1.6273262>.online:24org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.07.002.areasindigenous-managedindigenous-managed-lands/>,<,VertebratebiodiversityonlandsinAustralia,Brazil,andCanadaequalsthatinprotected(2019)101UBCEnvironmentalScience&Policy1-6,online:https://doi.SeealsoLinyLamberink“N.W.T.peatlandsstorebilliontonnesofcarbonandareworthprotecting,expertssay”(06December2021),CBCNews<,“IndigenousResistanceAgainstCarbon”(August2021)1,online(pdf):IndigenousEnvironmentalNetwork<


Refer to reports like: Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women or the Auditor General to understand how Indigenous issues in Canada remain dire or are getting worse.

See Zena Olijnyk, “Recognition of Indigenous legal systems crucial to reconciliation, delegates told” (18 November 2021), online: Canadian Lawyer Seecrucial-to-reconciliation-delegates-to-conference-told/361854#.YZpLu-h9TLh.twitter><https://www.

See Sue Halpern, “Biden’s Global Democracy Summit Raises an Awkward Question: Can Ours Endure?” (30 November 2021), online: The New Yorker

“Legal divide lies behind Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest, expert says” (18 January 2020) online: CBC JanuaryIndigenoussuwet-en-pipeline-protest-expert-says-1.5431526>.to-close-iranian-embassy-still-controversial-1.5429624/legal-divide-lies-behind-wet-<,“ReducingthenumberofIndigenouschildrenincare”(172022)online: Government of Canada < 7352297/1541187392851>.

See Daniel Fish, “How Aboriginal Lawyers are Fixing the Mess Canada Made” (2 December 2015) online: Precedent <>.

Decolonizing Law: Indigenous, Settler and Third World Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2021); Randall S Abate & Elizabeth Ann Kronk, eds, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013).

Democracy and governance structures that can trace their roots to the British parliamentary system.

15. See John Borrows, Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 200) at 29–55.

SeeSeeours-endure>.daily-comment/bidens-global-democracy-summit-raises-an-awkward-question-can-<,supranote17at111–38.“NationhoodCouncilHouse”(2020),online: Nationhood Council House

See<>.e.g.NationalCouncilHouse, supra note 19; “About the Centre” (2022), online: Centre for First Nation Governance <>; “What Guardians Do” online: Land Needs Guardians <>; “Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU)” (2020), online: University of Victoria: Law < Examplesindigenous/indigenouslawresearchunit/index.php>.include:NativeAmericanRightsFund,Center for World Indigenous Studies, McGirt and Rebuilding of Tribal Nations: a Harvard Project, Namati: Innovations in Legal Empowerment, and Australian Indigenous Governance Institute.


See Tamara (Baldhead) Pearl, “Tackling Settler Dominance Perspectives in Law” (23 June 2021), online: National Magazine Forpractice/legal-education/2021/tackling-settler-dominance-perspectives-in-law>.<,seegenerallySujithXavieretal,eds,

Sylvia is also co-founder of the “One House Many Nations” Campaign, which designs off-the-grid sustainable tiny-homes to address and raise awareness about the epidemic unacceptable proportions of homelessness in such a wealthy state as “Canada” especially amongst Indigenous/Original peoples.

(Saysewahum) is from the Treaty 6 lands in what is now called “Canada.” She is a direct descendant of Treaty peoples and Original peoples of these lands. Sylvia is from the nēhīyaw Nation. She has her Juris Doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Justice from the University of Regina. Sylvia is co-founder of a global grassroots Indigenousled movement called “Idle No More.” Idle No More has changed the political and social landscape of Canada as well as reached the global community to defend and protect all lands, waters, and animals.

By Sylvia McAdamSylviaMcAdam

naTion building afTer an apoCalypse


The Doctrine of Discovery is a complex legal tradition that arose in the West during the medieval period. The church played a central role. A series of papal bulls both reflected the thinking of dominant European powers and reinforced the trajectory of justifying Christian conquest.14 Among them was the 1455 Papal Bull, Romanus Pontifex, which sanctified the seizure of newly ‘discovered’ lands and encouraged the enslavement of native peoples.15 Then, in 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued Inter Caetera, which gave the Americas to Spain and Portugal. It is through this that the infamous explorer (or land speculator) Christopher Columbus was given his royal prerogatives.16 Columbus’s prerogatives were to convert the land, subdue,

I have contemplated and studied the word “resurgence” along with its synonyms: rebirth, renaissance, and resurrection. My spirit resisted the word before I understood why. When I sensed the resistance, I turned to prayer and smudging1 as well as connecting with other language speakers2 and academics3 to understand and verbalize it – to give it form.

Nêhiyawak and other Indigenous Peoples located in what is now referred to as “Canada” were forbidden, outlawed, jailed, hunted down, terrorized and killed to prevent them from using their languages, cultures and for being who they are. Colonization is a


I will position myself first so that I can speak from the lands and nation into which I am born. I am nêhiyaw4 and Anishinaabe5; niapapa6 is nêhiyaw and nimama7 is Anishinaabe. I speak nipapa’s language nêhiyawêwin8 and understand nimama’s language Anishinabemowin.9 I am an Indian Act Status Indian registered into the Whitefish Lake reserve #118 also known as Big River First Nation situated in what is now Saskatchewan. More importantly, I am a descendent of Treaty 6 makers and Original Peoples of these lands. For purposes of this article, I can only speak on the experience from the place I come from and in no way speak for nêhiyawak.10

The doCTrine of disCovery

Indigenous Peoples have always been here in these lands now known as “Canada.” We lived as vibrant, independent, and free Peoples enjoying structured leadership, centuries-honed legal orders, and intimate relationships with all the diverse landscapes and waterscapes that make up Turtle Island.13 Our Indigenous history did not begin with the arrival of Europeans. What happened when Europeans arrived is a critical turning point that Indigenous Peoples, Christians and Canadians need to understand so that they may be given the opportunity to research, inform themselves and hopefully take action to support the liberation, freedom and selfdetermination of my Peoples.

structure that has not stopped.11 This must be loudly shouted to the four directions of our Indigenous lands. The impacts are apocalyptic,12 causing the death of millions upon millions of Indigenous Peoples. Those left standing continue to be subjected to forced colonial assimilation, dehumanization and domination.

I attempted to interpret and translate “resurgence” into my first language, nêhiyawêwin. Nêhiyawak believe language has a spirit and is animate so the interpretation and translation must be done carefully and diligently as well as with prayer. We have words similar to resurgence however, does “resurgence” apply in the experience of nêhiyawak? Are Indigenous Peoples, specifically nêhiyawak, experiencing what many would describe as a “resurgence”?


In summary, the fifteenth century papal bulls defined all unbaptized persons, including Indigenous peoples (Original peoples), as barbarians, heathens, pagans, infidels and savages. Only Christians were and are considered humans.19 Since they could not kill all the barbarians in order to acquire the wealth of land and resources; they had to do something in order to acquire control and dominance. Thus began a horrific forced baptismal of Indigenous Peoples based on the belief that we became somewhat human through conversion... though it did not prevent the ongoing massacre of thousands, if not millions.20 As Indigenous Peoples were baptized, they became baptized barbarians –not civilized humans on equal footing to EuroChristians.21 They were forever designated for servitude and slavery.22 Though baptized we were nonetheless pagans and savages. Therefore, we could not own property nor claim Nationhood as Peoples.23 As a direct result of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, millions of Indigenous peoples perished through intentional and purposeful genocide to clear the lands and memory of their existence, in some cases forever silencing their languages. It is an overwhelming erasure

does this have to do with today’s Canada? Everything. Our relatives to the south of Turtle Island had Christopher Columbus. In Canada, the arrival of John Cabot25 carrying a similar sword symbolizes the baptizing of lands for King Henry VII of England, thereby taking possession of them. Settler Christians and all non-Indigenous peoples benefit from the riches and wealth of these lands at the cost of Indigenous Peoples perpetual poverty and racism.

The very idea that one group of people could assert domination of another – through slavery, death and servitude – by virtue of being religiously superior, and by virtue of being white is racist and dehumanizing. Yet, that’s what we are dealing with today. Whenever Indigenous Peoples have taken their matters to Canadian courts questioning and challenging the Crown’s assumed sovereignty to Indigenous lands, we are told the “underlying title” of the Crown is the basis of their ownership to all lands and resources. What is the “underlying title” of the Crown? Simply put, it’s the application of the Doctrine of (Christian) Discovery.

of a peoples through colonial laws, policies and outright theft. These systems are the typologies of genocide24 that currently still So,exist.what

convert or kill the barbarians and assert the Monarchy’s title to the land; in other words, to colonize the lands and its peoples. With his royal prerogatives in hand, Columbus arrived to the far south of Turtle Island. His first act was one rich with Christian symbolism. He planted a sword into the soil and invoked a Christian chant that baptized the lands.17 This chant was a symbolic act of asserting sovereignty and dominance over Indigenous Peoples, lands and all that came with it. This seemingly simple act – a symbolic Christian ritual - set in motion a series of horrific events still felt today in many Canadian court cases, laws, and policies.18

We need to disrupt and deconstruct this myth and dominance to begin deconstructing and unpacking its continued devastation not only on language but on Indigenous lands. The mentality that Indigenous peoples are barbarians incapable of making decisions (without the paternalistic help of Canada) is imbedded in every law, policy and legislation in the federal system. as well as in the colonial education systems. The historical and current education systems create white performing obedient children who become servants of


the Crown26 thereby furthering the work of forced assimilation of Indigenous children. The ongoing existence of the Indian Act is proof; it is the most racist piece of legislation still utilized to monitor and police Indigenous Peoples and their lands. Even as nêhiyawak made Treaty with the British Crown in 1876 – a treaty based on promised peace and friendship – the Indian Act was being created in total violation to the numbered Treaties.

and genocide of Indigenous Peoples continues. There is no freedom or self-determination for my Peoples, the nêhiyawak of Treaty 6. So long as the Doctrine of Christian Discovery is used as the basis of ownership over Indigenous lands and resources; there is no real humanity and no hopeful future for anyone. Various efforts have been made to address the colonial occupation of Indigenous lands in what is now referred to as “Canada.” I say, we cannot discuss a ‘renaissance’ or ‘resurgence’ without jurisdiction over our lands, legal orders, inherent leadership structures, languages

The Doctrine of Christian Discovery is an act of theft with no basis in law. It is fiction constructed out of the imaginations of Church and State. This act of theft has left Indigenous Peoples with very little means to defend and protect an impending environmental catastrophe created by the destructive activities of colonial corporations acting under the presumed sovereignty of Canada who grants them permission to extract resources. The horrific impacts of the Alberta tar sands, hydro flooding, the potash mines in Saskatchewan, the dams of British Columbia and Manitoba, the clearcutting of old growth forests in BC, Saskatchewan and Ontario, are just a few actions of presumed Canadian sovereignty through the Doctrine of Christian

and cultures. When colonies such as Canada continue to use the Doctrine of Discovery to assume fictional title over Indigenous lands – actions need to be taken to abolish and or rescind the Doctrine of Discovery and all its Sincemanifestations.thebrutal and systemic silencing of our languages, nêhiyaw Elders would say our language has “fallen asleep”. Nêhiyawak believe our language has a spirit, therefore it can “leave” us to enter the spirit world. When it enters the spirit world, it falls into a form of “death” or “sleep”. In nêhiyawêwin, we have various words to describe falling asleep or death, whether it involves a human or creation. To describe our language “falling sleep”, we say ê-nipêpayik.27 At the core of this nêhiyaw word is nipiht which means “died” or “death”. ê-nipêpayik means to enter a sub type of “death”, a form of “death sleep” in which something enters the spirit world, not dead but in a form of death. Nêhiyawak believe there are four levels of “death”; we have various words to describe each “death”. The first level is the “death sleep” in which even a human can come back from. The second level is a bit more difficult and requires ceremonial songs28 requiring knowledge keepers and ceremonial Elders. Each level is closer to the spirit world or kisêmanitôwnâhk.29 Each level requires a process and protocol30 to be retrieved or “woken up”. For purposes of respecting nêhiyaw laws and protocols, I cannot disclose any further, nêhiyawak are not allowed to write about our spiritual knowledge.


There are less and less nêhiyawêwin speakers with each passing generation, our language continues to “fall asleep”. We need to rebuild and call upon our ceremonial lodges to bring back the spirit of our languages so that our songs can be heard once again across these

Peoples seeking to build shattered nations. Decolonization requires intensive deprogramming31 from colonial impacts and narratives of misogyny, patriarchy and language of dehumanization and domination with its roots in white supremacy from the Doctrine of Discovery. Authentic freedom, liberation, and self-determination demands that we not bring the problematic systems of the colonizer as we build our nations; let’s demand our lands back, our inherent structures of leadership, and our languages. Indigenous Peoples need to breathe life back into our Nations, we need support in doing so, and we need it now.



e ndno T es :

See Sylvia McAdam, Cultural Teachings: First Nation’s Protocols and Methodologies (Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre, 2009) at 18.

Phone call with Stan Wilson, with the assistance of Dr. Alex Wilson, 31 January 2022. Phone calls with Dr. Sheelah McLean & Dr. Alex Wilson, 31 January 2022.

the current movements for selfdetermination a “resurgence” minimizes and erases the apocalypse. As a result of this apocalypse, our Indigenous legal orders have been damaged, our teachers, judges, lawyers, lawkeepers, faithkeepers, ceremonial peoples and our historians assassinated through bounty hunters, disease, Indian Residential Schools and many other methods that I invite readers to research.

Language is critically important which is why we must analyze and critique the use of “resurgence” to describe Indigenous


See Julian Brave NoiseCat, “How Indigenous People are fighting the Apocalypse”, Emergence Magazine (23 November 2021), online: Indigenousorg/op_ed/how-indigenous-peoples-are-fighting-the-apocalypse/>.<https://emergencemagazine.namefor“Canada.”

“Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native” (2006) 8:4 Journal of Genocide Research 387.

Ibid . Ibid .

First Nation’s Protocols and Methodologies

See Indigenous Values Initiative, “Now Streaming: The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” (9 December 2020) online (video): Doctrine of Discovery Project discovery-unmasking-domination-code/>.<

Supra note 1 at 23.

See Sylvia McAdam (2016) “Wrongs to Rights” “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery: A Call to Action” Steve Heinrich (Ed), Publisher Freisens Altona Manitoba at 142–143.

Supra note 14 at 143.

Ibid at 142–143.

See Arok Wolvengrey & Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission, “Spirits” (last visited 22 February 2022), online: itwêwina Plains Cree Dictionary>.<https://SylviaMcAdam,CulturalTeachings:

Conversation with Lee Crowchild (3 February 2022), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Supra note 14 at 142–143.

(Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre, 2009) at 12.

See Neil Redcrow, “ê-nipêpayik” (2021) posted on N êhiyawêwun (Cree) Word/Phrase of the Day, online: Facebook <> (Provided Roman Orthography and nehiyaw spelling).

Supra note 14 at 142–143.

Supra note 14 at 142–143.

Supra note 14 at 143.

See Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “John Cabot” online: <https://www.>.generallyDr.SheelahMcLean,Disturbing

See Sylvia McAdam, Nationhood Interrupted: Revitalizing nêhiyaw Legal Systems, (Saskatoon, SK: Purich Publishing, 2015)


Praxis: A Foucauldian Analysis of Student Subjectivities and Classroom Pedagogies in Public Schools (PhD Dissertation, University of Saskatchewan, 2016.


is a Mohawk philosopher, writer, political strategist and governance consultant. His work focuses on the institutions of Indigenous governance, Indigenous resurgence, the revitalization of Indigenous political systems, assessing the cultural impacts of environmental contamination, and the restoration of ancestral land-based cultural practices. Taiaiake coordinates governance reform and oral history initiatives for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke and is a member of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s Circle of Experts. He is a former United States Marine and has been a supporter and participant in Indigenous nationhood movements since 1987. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from Concordia University and a doctorate in political science from Cornell University. He founded the University of Victoria’s Indigenous Governance Program and Concordia University’s Native Student Centre, is the author three acclaimed scholarly books, has held a Canada Research Chair, and is a National Aboriginal Achievement/Indspire laureate. He is the father of three sons, who are all members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and divides his time between Kahnawà:ke and Victoria, BC.

on andreConCiliaTionresurgenCe

By TaiaiakeTaiaiakeAlfredAlfred

I can say this because what we have now is an idea of reconciliation that is serving mainly to assuage the guilt nonindigenous people feel over the settling and dispossessing and exploiting. It is an attempt , in its best formulation, to bring Indigenous people into a situation in which they can access the benefits of capitalism

subjugation of its owners.

The current framing of reconciliation in Canada is a contemporary form of colonialism. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the main vehicle for perpetuating smug Canadianism and the failure-victim image of the original people of this land. In this reconciliation framework, the way it has been developed and made its way into the public mind, as well in terms of the way that we all talk about it in academic circles, perpetuates the old fallacy of the Indian Problem recast in terms that replaces the pathetic Indian with a challenged Aboriginal, still a person with problems that need to be resolved somehow, or a person who needs to be brought forward or uplifted from a situation that is unacceptable by Canadian standards. We need to get at this mistaken idea because this accepted wisdom could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is the disconnection of Indigenous nations, as collectivities, from the land bases that sustain us that is the root of the problem. The main harm of colonization, which is also the fundamental crime of this country, has been the removal of Indigenous nations from their homelands so that capitalism and then settlements and then the society that followed behind can benefit from our lands. The issues that we deal with today are the result of dispossession, destruction, and dependency; 1 it is Colonialism in 3-D.


We are in the era of reconciliation in Canada, though I think a lot of people have trouble understanding what exactly it is we’re trying to reconcile. What was the harm done, exactly? In a sense, the basic question is what was colonization’s impact on Indigenous people? In my experience –both politically and in terms of teaching in a classroom and speaking publicly, I find that most people still think of reconciliation with a colonial mentality, which is the framework of the Canadian mentality. Even if they have begun to decolonize in other ways, it is still their understanding that the problem we are dealing with is rooted in the perceived “failings” of Indigenous people –and yes, liberals, I do realize there are some Canadians who are much more sensitive and generous in their perspective -- but Canadians as a whole see the problem as Indigenous people failing to keep up, failing to somehow become part of the modern project of Canada, failing to somehow adapt to the modern reality, to the unquestioned path of progress, of industrial society, and so forth. There may well be sympathy, there may be empathy, and there may be all kinds of good intentions, but Canadians have themselves failed to decolonize because they are the ones who are failing to turn the mirror on themselves and recognize what the reality is in terms of their presence, the continuation of their way of life, their use of the land, and so forth. That’s the foundation of reconciliation, coming to an honest appreciation of what the harm was in colonization so that we can see clearly, listen without prejudice, and put our minds together to agree on solutions that mean something for the people that were harmed by colonization instead of those who have benefitted and who continue to benefit from the theft of the continent and the

and industrial society – the good things that are there for the taking if our people only want them and are willing to work for them. But it still does not get to the heart of the matter, which is that, again, our people are suffering the psychological, economic, social turmoil. and spiritual discord of not being not able to access the only thing which can free us from colonization, the fundamental thing that allows us to be Indigenous: land. When we talk about being Indigenous, it is a very different conception than any kind of ethnic affiliation or a religious or philosophical orientation, or ideological belief system. Whether you’re Kanien’kahaka, Anishnaabe, Innu or Dene, it is that intense interaction with the land, spiritually, culturally, physically in terms of what you eat, ceremonially, and the physical presence on the land that makes you Onkwehonwe , Indigenous. It is your fulfillment of your responsibilities in the web of relationships that form the natural environment that makes you a real person. If you don’t do that, you are not Onkwehonwe, you are not fulfilling your obligations.

So, if you’re not able to return the gifts you are given by the earth, to the other animals, to the plants, to all the forces in the world, you are not fulfilling your obligations, you are not living as an Indigenous person, and that is a fundamental thing that needs to be considered when you think about the effects of colonization. If we’re not living truly Indigenous lives, we can do a lot of different things when it comes to law, policy, and economics to compensate, or I should say attempt to compensate, our people for that loss on the collective and individual levels, but these attempts will be useless. Meaningful restitution and restoration as being key here…Canadians must recognize that unless they address the reality of the


effects of the disconnection they engineered and the dispossession they benefit from, they are going to continue to live in a discordant and dysfunctional relationship with people who either have anger boiling over to rage or mass-effect problems – psychologically and spiritually. As Onkwehonwe, we are all affected by this, and we are all harboring rage over it. It is from this experience and this position that I come to my critique of reconciliation, not because I don’t like the people who envisioned it, or because I don’t like the political party behind it, or because it started as a government strategy for avoiding liability, or that it is pathetically insufficient in its redress of harms… When the truth and reconciliation framework was proposed and developed and then announced, that’s what I was looking for: truth. My criterion for determining whether or not it was a good thing centered on this question: Does it allow us to reconnect? I needed to know if it was something that was going to allow us to reconnect as people to our land. Does it allow us to reconnect our communities together? To experience again, unity? To experience safety, solidarity, and all of that in our own communities? Does it do that? Does it contribute to that? My hopes are never placed all on one process. But I imagine that there could be positive steps taken in that direction. And my negative view of reconciliation, my labeling it a failure, comes out of that perspective. It is clear to me that in fact what it is doing is further reinforcing the very problems that arose out of colonization. In many cases what it is doing is allowing people to continue living and perpetuating the attitudes, and the ideas, and the behaviors, that came out of the experience of colonization, and validating these colonial mentalities and behaviors

This situation creates confusion in people’s minds, and cynicism, because they are not experiencing what they thought they’d be experiencing with this so-called reconciliation. They naively assumed that reconciliation meant the harm would stop, that Canadians would make amends for the harms they caused, and that a new kind of relationship would be built between Indigenous and non-indigenous people. That’s what people expected from reconciliation but it’s not happening. Consistency between one’s behavior and ethical principles is an important thing. But in Canadian society I really do believe that the lack of consistency – the vast hypocrisy - is something that is going to suck the spirit out of Canadian society as well. If Canadian society validates and institutionalizes a relationship with a significant and growing segment of the population that is raging and disconnected and confused in this colonial way, it’s not going to be something that the country can sustain over the years. I’m not saying this because I have such a great sympathy and love for Canada, not at all. I am saying this because the people that

It would be less of a problem if our people were totally defeated… so here’s the silver lining for us, though it actually creates more of a problem for Canadian society: if we were totally defeated, if we had been thoroughly assimilated, if we had been utterly dispossessed, if we had been truly convinced that those older ways of life, that those traditional institutions, that our Indigenous identities, were things of the past, and we had done our best to become Canadians and promoted this aspiration for our children, and if it all worked and we felt included and could experience healthy lives full of meaning and satisfaction as Aboriginal Canadians , things might be different. But this is not the case. All over the country, more and more of our people are refusing to surrender. They may be living in oppressive conditions, suffering tactical defeats and frustrations on land defenses and #landback struggles, and politically embattled, but for the most part, Onkwehonwe are not giving up. That creates a tension in Indigenous communities that is very difficult to live with. When you are told that you are the original people, and this is your country and that you have responsibilities to that river, to that land, and to represent yourself in that way and in the relationships you have with the newcomers to your territory, and you are told that that is the way to live and you are held to account for that, and you’re not able to live that out? That creates

by paying them money and saying: “Okay, here, it’s all done. We’re reconciling. We’re not going to ask you to make any significant changes in your life, and we’re not going to ask you to change your community from the way it is today. We’re going to turn the page and let’s move on.” I see it as a problem on the psychological and spiritual levels in that the central harm is something that is being either ignored or further suppressed, and the surface level is being addressed and yet conveyed to the public and younger generations in our nations as what we’re doing is fixing the problem. Everybody who lives in an Indigenous community knows that that’s not the case. 2


are going to bear the brunt, again , of this whole conflictual process and wherever it’s going – protest or discord, or violence and repression – are going to be Onkwehonwe, and younger generations of our people especially, who are not able to live out their indigeneity in their own homeland and are going to continue to suffer it and eventually act against it.

the psychology of discord, the psychology of alienation, and the psychology of anger that is common among Onkwehonwe, and typical I think of the problems that we’re facing in our communities where there are educated people, where there are cultured people, where this problem becomes even more intense because you become even more aware of your history, you become more aware. So there really is no way out of this dynamic other than to seriously address the issue of the land.

their traditional territory by learning and engaging in traditional cultural practices on the land and on the waters. They are learning to hunt and fish, they are learning and using the medicine plants, they are growing and gathering traditional foods, and so forth. There are people who can do these things and those who do are starting to recognize the transformative power of cultural restoration in resolving the very basic anxieties and psychological discords they have and recognizing how powerful a force the land is in reunited and healing families and nations. The stain colonization left on our nations manifests in the widespread discord, distrust, the disturbing pattern of disrespect and violence in our lives; people who are reconnecting with the land are finding that the way you move through these things to a better and healthier place is by reculturing yourself and by recentering yourself, as part of community, in your own territory. There are people all over the country moving in this direction. And increasingly, there are community leaders that are recognizing the failure of the current reconciliation framework who are beginning to pursue this pathway institutionally.

Someone asked me once, “What’s your

Indigenous resurgence has a different criterion of success than reconciliation. It doesn’t care about Canada. It cares about the future generations of our Indigenous nations. It is not obsessed with making colonialism palatable to its victims, abstract white notions of justice or mediating legal remedies for crimes committed by agents of the state. It is obsessed with the land and focused on generating a different reality for the coming generations, in real, practical, and immediately felt ways.


My favorite part of the whole 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) - does anyone else remember that document? – is where it bluntly states that we need to get our land back for there to be justice in this country. There were a lot of things that we worked on collectively in the years of the RCAP, and there were a lot of things we envisioned, and there were a lot of studies that were done to support that older and more multifaceted vision of reconciliation. But when it came down to it, the RCAP commissioners concluded that the only thing that really mattered was a massive transfer of land back to Indigenous nations. That was true in 1996 and that is true today. That to me is a true framework for reconciliation conceived of reconnecting Onkwehonweneha to their homelands in a real way. We can disagree on or work out political arrangements, we can argue about the legalities, we can make deals on how we’re going to do business and relate economically, but until the land becomes central to the discussion reconciliation will remain a smokescreen for recolonization.

There are people who are finding ways to truly reconcile their existence as Onkwehonwe in relation to the Settler states that occupy their homeland. People are reconnecting to

See Taiaiake Alfred, “Colonialism and State Dependency” (2009) 5:2 Intl J Aboriginal Health 42.

smoke rising from the embers. We’re not dead yet. From this perspective, an Indigenous nationhood perspective, what’s the work that we need to do? Understand and cooperate with history and the inevitability of our demise? Try to accept and reconcile with the boots that tried to stomp out our fire, and kill our families? Do we need to turn our backs to the fire and our ancestors, strap on a pair of boots and walk in the settler colonial way? Or is it our responsibility to work together to bring those embers back to life, to do the work that we need to do to make that fire rise again? What is it going to be, reconciliation or resurgence?

criteria for success in the work you do?’ – a very Mohawk question, looking right at me. “What makes you think you are doing something good?” My answer? My criterion for success is this: my child and your child and all Indigenous children having the opportunity to be more Onkwehonwe than us. Is the work that we’re doing in this community, in this program, in this organization, going to give our children a starting point for recovering the connection to land and to restoring their strength that is far beyond where we started off? Are we laying a path of resurgence that will take our children further towards the strong, strong fire that was our nation at one time?

Kahwatsire is a Mohawk word for family. It’s root is also the word for fire. What has history done to us as families, as a fire? History has come in and kicked around that fire. It used to be strong, and now it’s weak. But there’s still

e ndno T es :

81 2.1.

See Taiaiake Alfred, “Restitution is the Real Pathway to Justice for indigenous Peoples” in Gregory Younging & Mike Degagné, eds, Response, Responsibility, and Renewal (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2009) 179. See also Taiaiake Alfred, Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005). See also Taiaiake Alfred, Peace, Power Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

By Veronica Ann Guido

Veronica Ann Guido is a mixed lawyer and writer. She has a BA in Political Science from York University, a JD and Certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and a research Masters of Law (LLM) from Osgoode Hall Faculty of Law where she explored how Anishinaabe legal orders could re-write the duty to consult and accommodate. Her legal research and writing push the boundaries of academic writing and ideals by focusing on storytelling and language. She is a PhD Candidate at Osgoode Hall where she is expanding her research further into women’s roles in Anishinaabe legal orders and decision making regarding land and development. She is also the Justice Manager at the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

The legaCy of Colonialism on a young girl: a looK aT Colonialism’s aTTaCK on language


So, albeit unconventional, this short paper will explore colonization of language through my personal story with re-learning, and resurging, the languages of my family; famiglia 2 ; indinawemaaganidog . 3

my two sisters and I would sit together on the old floral couch in our Nonna’s 4 house and watch black and white Italian movies while my dad, his parents and siblings would sit together in the kitchen beside the TV room speaking in their thick, fast Calabrese, telling stories, remembering their homeland and the people they left behind, and simply talking about their days. Sitting there, my sisters and I would try to understand what they were saying while also trying to understand what was being said in the movie. Knowing no more than the few words we came to understand, we often got bored – quite quickly, at that –and took to playing pretend games instead, disconnecting ourselves completely from the storytelling going on a mere few feet away. Disconnecting ourselves, unknowingly, from the history that was, rightfully so, ours as well. The history, I would later in life come to learn, that was so deeply scared by colonialism, empires, and traumas.

Often, this boredom led to us three young girls going to bed early. We would run up the four split-level stairs to the guest bedroom at the far end of the hallway. My older sister and I would play rock-paperscissors to see who got to sleep in the first twin bed alone, while the loser would have to sleep in the other bed with our younger sister. Regardless of who won, we would end up curled up together in the small room, the two twin beds nearly touching, drifting off to sleep to the sound of a language we were never taught, dreaming that maybe one day, we’d understand the words, the stories, the Ihistories.findit

intriguing just how often history repeats itself in situations you would least expect. My mother had a similar childhood with language. She and her four siblings


I remember being a young girl and hearing my dad speak Italian to his family, his first language, and the language he chose to never teach his daughters. It was always in the Calabria dialect, and never in English, sake for a few words here and there that did not translate. When we would travel to northern Ontario to visit his family,

I have taken to storytelling as my chosen methodology when exploring any legal or theoretical question I have. When I find a legal question I want to explore, I cannot help but explore it through storytelling, whether it be a story I was once told, once read, or once lived. The same goes for this short paper. Here, I want to explore language and colonization, and how the two are so closely intertwined. This is a question I explored in my LLM thesis, 1 and something I want to continue to explore here, albeit in a different way. The inspiration for this, of course, are the stories of my own life, both as a child and as an adult, and my attempt to understand how the thread that is language ties together the stories of colonization in my own family, as well as resurgence within myself. This thread allows me, and I know many others, to resurge histories, stories, laws, and languages once lost. This thread also ties colonization and the domination of varying ‘others’ unto the peoples whom both parts of my identity tie me to: the colonization of rocky southern Italy, and the colonization of rocky Northern Ontario. The colonization of the Latin of Calabria, and the colonization of the Anishinaabemowin of northern Ontario.

were never taught anything but English, even though their mother spoke fluent French. So, she and her siblings would try to pick up the few French words my grandmother would let slip, and when their aunts or uncles were over, they too would curl up in twin beds side by side, drifting off to a language they too were never taught, perhaps also dreaming that one day, they’d Iunderstand.couldkeep

repeating this history just throughout my lineage alone. My Anishinaabe great-grandfather was not taught Anishinaabemowin, and I’m not sure if my Iroquois great-grandmother ever spoke anything but French, for she died when my grandmother was quite young, but even if she did, she never taught her 19 children for reasons I don’t think I need to explain in our colonial-Canadian context.

I want to return to the language story of my mother. Why was my grandmother taught French? Well, to put it simply, it was the language and law of the colonizers of the time and space, of course. When my greatgrandparents were alive, the assimilation of Indigenous peoples was in full swing by the colonial state, as were colonial languages of French and English, and the laws of the European colonizers. To speak your Indigenous language was to put your family in danger. My grandmother, whose mother was from Oka in Quebec, was taught French as a means of survival: speak and identify as French, and your children will be saved.


who claimed the rocky outposts of Calabria and Sicily. They were determined by the language and law of the colonizers. There were first the Greeks, then the Ottomans, the Byzantine Empire, the Spanish, the French and Napoleon empire, the Normans, the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, then the Italian feudal system. What language was spoken had to do with who was in power, which in turn meant what law was in force had to do with who was in power. Some empires let the peoples speak whatever language they wanted, such as the Roman Empire, who could not be bothered to travel to the bottom of the peninsula and enforce Latin on Greek speakers. Others did the opposite, forcing not only a uniform language on the Greek settlements in Calabria, but also a uniform religion and culture unto them, with their uniform laws quickly following suit.

While you may not view all these stops in language as having to do with the law, they all, in fact, do. The changes of language and dialect in southern Italy, for example, directly had to do with the different empires

Why my mother did not speak French is not quite the result of a direct law, like with her grandparents, but is still very much that of the law of colonization. Mohammad Khosravi Shakib writes that “[l]anguage is often a central question in postcolonial studies”

If we were to go far back in my father’s family, we would see a place in time where Greek was no longer spoken in southern Italy, replaced by Latin, then, in his part of the sunny peninsula, proper Roman Italian subbed for his Calabrese dialect; something still seen too often to this day. You would also find the colonization of language, space, peoples and histories by the Normans, Ottoman’s, Byzantines, and more; a constant bombardment of a new dominant take on life and law, which, of course, almost always included language. And when one colonizes your language, they colonize your way of life, or communication, of making your stories known to those around you.

Literature, myth, and traditions all root themselves, in one way or another, to the legal, political, social, and cultural identity of a group of peoples. When a colonial power, through law and language, destroys the language of a group, it destroys, effectively, everything about them. Gordon Christie explains that the English language is heavily influenced by English law’s political morality. 9 Therefore, English language and English law shape the words one uses to describe laws and processes, 10 all while defining in the same breath which words and languages are not used to describe laws and process. When a legal language, such as English, is translated to another’s,

Today, I am actively learning both Italian and Anishinaabemowin. I am having much better luck picking up Italian for two reasons, the first being the similarities to the French language, which I studied in high school and the beginning of my undergraduate degree. The second is the simple fact that I heard it being spoken my whole life. Words I picked up as a young child watching Italian movies and listening

because during the acts of colonization, the colonizers “imposed their language onto the peoples they colonized, forbidding natives to speak their mother tongues.” 5 Using the example of colonization in Middle Eastern countries, Shakib explains that the domination of language is the claiming of sovereignty: they are one and the same. 6 This argument, of course, makes sense to me as the colonizers of Turtle Island asserted sovereignty through the domination of their languages, as well as their languages of law. To deny a group of peoples their culture is to also deny them their language and their laws; there were rules that were applied to peoples “by sovereignty through language”, and the colonizers used language to prevail their culture over “the subordinated nation and overthrow their lingual and cultural significance.” 7 Through the domination of power, colonial powers around the world have been using – and continue to use –language as the most basic way to impose domination, in effect, destroying the “basic element of independent identity” of the languages which ties a people to “literature, myth and traditions.” 8

such as Anishinaabemowin or Italian, all three of which have their own unique and often incommensurable political moralities and lifeways, “the translation inflicts violence.” 11 The violence, of course, is to the language once spoken, the words once holding definitions and meanings, and the people who are connected to both.

My grandfather did not speak French, only English – for the same reasons his wife spoke French as a child – and he wanted his children to speak what he considered the ‘superior’ language. Law and colonialism taught him that the superior language was English. Why don’t my sisters and I speak Italian? Unfortunately, a very similar reason. My dad grew up speaking Italian and knew the derogatory comments he received about being Italian growing up in Northern Ontario. He also had a fear that his dialect of Italian – often considered the language of the traditionally poor and uneducated Calabrese – would not do his daughters any good. It was not the superior language on two fronts: there was a superior Italian to his, and English was superior to both. My mother, having internalized the patterns of colonization and the superiority of the English language through her parents and their experiences thought that having her daughters be “Canadian,” and speaking English, was best.


History has always fascinated me, and perhaps that is why my legal research is so historically informed. But even putting my legal research aside, history is a large part of my everyday life as well. I read the works of historians as well as historical fictions; I watch historical documentaries; and I even plan my vacations around history. In my professional life, I study the history of my mother’s ancestors; in my personal life, I study the history of my father’s. In both, colonization and the use of the law and language is heavily prevalent. While still very different, I am fascinated by the similarities I can find, especially those I can relate to myself. At different times in my life, I actively identified as only one of my two sides: only Italian in my youth and only Indigenous in my late teens and early twenties. Today, I find love, passion, and pride in both, equally; a personal resurgence, you could say. I attribute this greatly to learning history and language as an act of reclamation. This is why I felt inclined to write this paper and explore the connections between colonization and language through my own story. I know, from studying history and my personal experiences, that I am not the only one who has had their language stolen from them in the name of law. As I wrote in my LLM

thesis,Language is important for understanding any social structure, government system, culture, literature, and legal system, and not just in the sense of speaking

For me, learning both these languages is an act of reclamation and resurgence: I have chosen to reclaim what law, at some point or another, stole from me. What colonization, at some point or another, stole from my family. On the one hand, I get to sit down at the table with my dad and finally, finally , speak in the language I’ve been hearing for nearly thirty years. I get to see a sparkle in his eyes when I respond in the language


to dinner conversations has allowed me to understand the language much quicker than I ever thought I could. When I learn a word or phrase I heard as a child, I get a flashback to sitting on the basement stairs of my parents’ home, listening to my dad talk on the phone with his mother, sitting out of sight so he wouldn’t know I was listening and repeating the words he was saying. I get a flashback to being a young girl poking my head out the bedroom door in my Nonna’s home, straining my ears to pick up the stories being told in thick, fast Calabrese, closing my eyes tightly to focus on the long vowels and soft consonants, hoping it would magically make sense. I get a flashback to a small, rocky town at the very south of a country across the ocean where the stories of my famiglia have been told century after century, empire after empire.

I do not get the same experiences or memories when I learn a new Anishinaabemowin word, for I never had the chance to hear it spoken from my mother’s mouth, just as she never did, nor did her parents. However, when I do learn a new Anishinaabemowin word, I cannot help but think about a young girl somewhere across Turtle Island who heard her parents speaking Anishinaabemowin growing up, hiding from them as she mouths the words, dreaming one day she could understand them.

he has always known. On the other, I see a darkness flash across my mother’s eyes, her not knowing of the words I speak, her not knowing how to respond in a language she should have always known.

Back to a time where a little girl would hear her parents speak and never wonder what they are saying, and never have to dream of the day she could understand.

It explains why my mother never understood French, and why her mother never understood Anishinaabemowin or Iroquois.

It explains why my mother thought English was the superior language.


or reading language. The dialect is important, as is the grammar, the rules and exceptions, and how it translates. On top of the formality of the written and spoken language, the principles that underly the language and the peoples who speak it are equally important, especially when speaking about Indigenous languages. 12

It explains why I have set out to reclaim my Ilanguages.cantake this story so on and so forth until I get to a place where colonization had yet to exist on the one end of lineage. Back to a time where Indigenous peoples lived on Turtle Island, within their own languages and legal orders, without the threat of Europeans killing all it meant to be BackIndigenous.toatime

It explains why speaking your Indigenous language threatened the lives of your Itchildren.explains why my grandfather thought English was the superior language.

It explains why I never grew up understanding the Calabrese my dad spoke to his family.

It explains why my dad never understood the Italian Proper his sisters spoke, all three of whom did their schooling in Italy.

To add to this, language is important for understanding my own family’s culture, literature, and legal systems. It has helped me understand kinship between beings of creation, 13 and why familial ties are so strong. It is also important to understanding the dynamics and relationships that shape who I am as a person.

It explains why my dad thought teaching his three daughters Calabrese, a dialect condemned as being only that for the poor, would do them no good.

where Calabria had no attachments to countries and European empires, where it was home to peoples who would later be identified as Greeks far before ever being identified as Italians.

Italian word for grandmother.

Ibid at 72.

Ibid at page 119.

Ibid at 72; see also Aaron Mills, “Miinigowiziwin: All That Has Been Given for Living Well Together: One Vision of Anishinaabe Constitutionalism” (2019) Aaron James Mills (Waabishki Ma’iingan), University of Victoria (Mills PhD).

An Anishinaabemowin word for “all my relations”, expression encompassing kinship and Nonnafamily.isthe

Veronica Ann Guido, “ Aandaakonan inaakonigewin : Considering an Anishinaabe meaning to the Canadian law on consultation and accommodation” (2021) Masters of Law Thesis, Osgoode Hall York University, Veronica Ann Guido

e ndno T es :


The Italian word for family.

Ibid at page 120.

For more on the Anishinaabe kinship and mutual aid structures around creation, see Anishinaabe scholars such as Aaron Mills, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Basil Johnston, John Borrows, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Gordon Christie, “Culture, Self-Determination and Colonialism: Issues Around the Revitalization of Indigenous Legal Traditions” (2007) 6 Indigenous LJ 13 at 72.

Mohammad Khosravi Shakib, “The position of language in development of colonization” (2011) Journal of Languages and Culture, vol 2(7), pp 117-123 at page 117.

Ibid at page 118.

Supra note 1 at page 28.


Special thanks to Matthew Tse for this issue’s compilation and design.

Logo created by Isabelle Zwicker. See more at

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.