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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Recent Legal Opinion

Linguistic Basis

Historical Evidence

Oral Tradition

European
"Authorities"

Indigenous
 Testimony

Recent Legal
Opinion

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As is well known, in 1991 Chief Justice McEachern of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed the oral testimony of elders of the Gitxcan peoples in the so-called Delgamuukw land claim case. His opinion was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, which found no cause to dismiss the case out of hand because of oral testimony. In the Benoit case (2002), the Supreme Court refused to hear arguments for an appeal of a lower court ruling that had denied that oral testimony could validate a claim that Indigenous members of Treaty 8 made regarding the fact that they had negotiated and been granted a no tax clause in their Treaty. Yet, most Indigenous people believe that these cases really say little about the fundamental issues: How, what and when is oral testimony to be accepted in the courts? If it categorically does not, it is undercutting the very foundation by which most territorial and cultural distinctions are made by Indigenous peoples. Such a rendering would be regarded by most Native peoples in Canada to be a betrayal of their rights and their heritage.

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