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Witnessing the Colonialscape: lighting the intimate fires of Indigenous legal pluralism

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Law has been used to impose and enforce colonial power relations in Canada, as well as being used as a tool of resistance within Indigenous-state relations. The day-to-day lives of Indigenous people remain shaped by the foundational geo-legal construction of Indians and Indian reserves through which the violence of settlement has been neutralized. Yet Indigenous law and Indigenous geographies continue to produce their own socio-legal identities and territories of meaning, which exist alongside colonial ideas about Indians and Indian space. Working from the understanding that Canada is a legally pluralistic state, it follows that the legal consciousness of Indigenous people are formed within relationships to multiple legal orders, and the individual identities of Indigenous people are produced through these heterogeneous relationships. In this dissertation, a grounded analysis of legal pluralism emerges as I investigate dynamics of law, violence and space through the frequently unheard perspectives of Indigenous people working to address violence in communities across BC. Although widespread efforts have been undertaken to seek justice for offences against native people, violence continues to be a daily reality for Indigenous people across BC and Canada. Thus, I first examine several cases of violence which have emerged into public discourse in recent years, asking what has been accomplished in these efforts to gain social and legal recognition of violence. Second, efforts to address violence within Indigenous communities are explored, suggesting that these initiatives at community, family and interpersonal scales might be understood as expressions of Indigenous law. These diverse initiatives are changing norms around violence at a community level among networks of people who share a reciprocal sense of responsibility to one another, rooted in Indigenous territorialities. These efforts to address violence form a countermeasure to the violence of Canadian law, providing possibilities for engagement of individual and collective agency, power, and self-determination. I conclude by discussing how the recognition of Indigenous jurisdiction opens up the possibility for Indigenous people to escape justice wormholes, recategorizing themselves and the violence against them within Indigenous geographies of law rooted in intimacy rather than violence.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Blomley, Nicholas
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