Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Telling It to the Judge: Taking Native History to Court

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Telling It to the Judge: Taking Native History to Court

Article excerpt

Arthur J. Ray, Telling It to the Judge: Taking Native History to Court (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011), 304 pp. Cased. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-3952-5. Paper. $27.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-4080-4.

Arthur Ray draws upon many years of experience as an expert witness in this autobiographical account of his participation in court cases concerned with Aboriginal rights. The court cases covered include judgements about traditional fisheries, harvesting and hunting rights, conflicting interpretations of treaties, and Métis community and culture. The principal academic background to Arthur Ray's expert role in courts is research in historical economic geography. Information drawn from the Hudson's Bay Company Archive 'which contains a wealth of detailed historical information about all aspects of the lives of Aboriginal Peoples from across Canada' (p. 6) provides particularly significant evidence for the court cases discussed. Chapter 1 tells of the defence of a Cree man who was prosecuted for trading in bear skins in Northern Alberta. Chapter 2 is focused on the rights of the Gitxsan-Wet-suet-en in British Columbia (the Delgamuukw case). Defence of traditional fisheries and harvesting rights in Ontario are the focus of chapter 3. Chapter 4 covers a case which examined how treaty rights were communicated, interpreted and understood in Alberta in 1876 (Treaty 6). The subsequent three chapters concern cases relating to the economy, customs, culture and hunting rights of Métis communities across a wide territorial range, including the Prairie Provinces and the Upper Great Lakes areas.

Parallel narratives can be followed within the chapters of this book, for it reveals variations in the role of an expert witness, elucidates historical developments in the interactions between Aboriginal peoples and colonisers, and details aspects of the lives of diverse Aboriginal communities. …

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