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1899 and After

Oral Traditions and Treaty 8

Article Feature By Tom Flanagan

   
katy sanderson, photo courtesy terry garvin Aboriginal oral traditions are of increasing importance in land-claims litigation involving Treaty 8 and the other Numbered Treaties.  Aboriginal litigants now routinely argue that the true meaning of treaties is to be found not in the written text but in the oral traditions passed down in Aboriginal communities.  Although the Delgamuukw decision dealt with aboriginal rather than treaty rights, its favourable view of oral traditions may well be extended to treaty litigation.  Oral traditions, however, cannot be accepted uncritically; they should be subjected to the same process of critical analysis that is applied to other forms of evidence.  The provenance of oral traditions must be investigated; and their logical coherence must be tested, as well as their consistency with other sources of information.  If the critical process is omitted, the use of oral traditions will interfere with the search for truth in both historiography and the judicial process.

For more information on Treaty 8 Revisited: Selected Papers on the 1999 Centennial Conference, visit the Lobstick website

Reprinted from with permission from Lobstick: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 

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