Indigenous law is law.
Indigenous law – like law in general – is how people govern themselves, and how they solve problems together. Some people say law is more of a process or way of thinking than a thing in itself.
Indigenous legal orders are specific to Indigenous peoples. For example, Haida law differs from Kwakwaka’wakw law or Tsimshian law. It’s also important to distinguish Indigenous law from Aboriginal law. Aboriginal law is generally considered to be the law of the state, and comes from legislation and the common law through the courts and the Constitution; whereas, Indigenous law refers to Indigenous peoples’ own law, and has many sources such as custom, songs, stories, language and ceremonies.
Through our work, we’ve come to see how Indigenous law generally acknowledges humans’ deep relationships to the land, the spirit world, and water.
At West Coast Environmental Law, we understand the process of articulating, revitalizing and applying Indigenous law to be collaborative and deliberative, and we are committed to deepening community-based capacity to engage in this process. Indigenous laws are part of living Indigenous legal orders, and it can and should be used on the ground today.