Book sheds light on unwritten Indigenous laws

Watch above: Sylvia McAdam, one of the co-founders of the Idle No More movement, has written the book ‘Nationhood Interrupted’ which argues for a revitalization of the nêhiyaw legal system.

SASKATOON – A new book seeks to shed light on the unwritten laws used by the Cree and other indigenous peoples. Called Nationhood Interrupted: Revitalizing nêhiyaw Legal Systems, the book is by Sylvia McAdam, one of the co-founders of the Idle No More movement.

“I want people to understand that indigenous people are not a lawless people – we have laws,” she told Global News. “The only difference is that our laws are unwritten.”

McAdam, who has a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan, said she decided to write the book after realizing that many people did not know what she meant when she started talking about indigenous laws.

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“There’s not much difference, there’s laws, remedies, and identifying which laws have been broken,” she said. “The only difference here is our laws are unwritten. Which is not unusual, when you look at globally, different nations have unwritten laws.”

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She said there isn’t much difference between the unwritten Cree laws, and Canada’s legal system.

“We all value our children, we all value freedom, liberation, justice,” she said. “There’s no real difference in those values and those ethics in raising our children to be lawful citizens.”

McAdam hopes readers will gain insight into the thoughts and worldview of indigenous people.  And she said even when the Idle No More movement was beginning, the unwritten laws came into play.

“When Idle No More began I went and seen the elders … everything that indigenous people do is grounded in ceremony, guidance and direction from elders, so I went and seen them. They said ‘if you’re going to do this you have to follow our peoples laws,’ and they said to me ‘you’re going to invoke one of our most peaceful laws’ … it means to defend for children, but not just my children, it means all the children of the world,” she said.

The book is published by Purich Publishing, and includes a glossary of Cree words.

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