Statehood, Canadian sovereignty, and the attempted domestication of Indigenous legal relations

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Xavier, S., Jacobs, B., Waboose, V., Hewitt, J.G., & Bhatia, A. (Eds.). (2021). Decolonizing Law: Indigenous, Third World and Settler Perspectives (1st ed.). Routledge.


This chapter explores how the Canadian state attempts to displace the wealth of Indigenous legal relations in what is currently known as Canada. It focuses on the domestication of the historical treaties and the use of the Indian Act to consolidate Canadian statehood and its sovereignty at the direct expense of Indigenous laws and self-determination. The covenantal, permanent, and sharing approach outlined in holistic treaties with political, legal, and sacred status stands in stark contrast to an approach predicated on the Crown privileging written texts and grudging developments in Canadian common law. It is impossible to succinctly recount how Canada replaced Indigenous governance and took Indigenous lands in order to cement its own statehood and sovereignty. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy has had a ‘Two Row Wampum’ treaty with imperial and colonial governments for over 400 years. Canada’s approach to the treaties first recognized and then later renounced Indigenous laws about making and maintaining relations.

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