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
Reprinted from with permission from Lobstick:
An Interdisciplinary Journal.