Document Type


Publication Date


Source Publication

Forthcoming in UNB Law Review, Special Issue on “Puzzles of Pipelines and Riddles of Resources”.


Aboriginal and Indigenous law; Canadian legal system


The paper stems from a research collaboration with the Anishini community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), known as the people of Big Trout Lake in the far north of Ontario. In the face of renewed threats of encroachment by extractive industries onto their homelands, our research team visited the community on the invitation of leadership in 2017. The community was engaged in strategic planning and reflection on the work that they have done in recent years to articulate and record their own laws for the territory, and to gain recognition for those laws from settler governments. Between 2008 and 2018, the community drafted a Declaration of Sovereignty, a Governance Framework, a Watershed Declaration and a Consultation Protocol, amongst other ‘operational documents’ describing their Indigenous legal order. This period of legal drafting was stimulated by a legal dispute between the community and a mining company, Platinex, that culminated in 2008 with the jailing of the Chief, 4 members of Council and another community member who became known as the “KI6”. Despite community members describing their obligation to protect the land drawn from the key legal concept of Kanawayandan D’aaki, roughly translated as “keeping the land”, the KI6 were convicted of contempt of court for disobeying a court order to provide Platinex with access for its drilling program. The message from the settler courts to the community in 2008 was essentially that only ‘one law’ could govern the land; the application of settler law on KI lands could not accommodate the community members’ obligations under Indigenous law. In this paper, we draw on the transcripts from workshops conducted in KI in 2017 to share insights into the motivations of the community in articulating their laws, and we explore the question of how to reinvigorate historic treaty interpretations so as to produce ‘one law’ inclusive of Indigenous legal orders. We conclude that if there can be only ‘one law’ on treaty territory, it must be a renewed and reinvigorated treaty law.