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Social Science Native American Studies

Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism

by (author) John Borrows

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
May 2016
Native American Studies, General, General, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2016
    List Price

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Indigenous traditions can be uplifting, positive, and liberating forces when they are connected to living systems of thought and practice. Problems arise when they are treated as timeless models of unchanging truth that require unwavering deference and unquestioning obedience. Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism celebrates the emancipatory potential of Indigenous traditions, considers their value as the basis for good laws and good lives, and critiques the failure of Canadian constitutional traditions to recognize their significance.

Demonstrating how Canada’s constitutional structures marginalize Indigenous peoples’ ability to exercise power in the real world, John Borrows uses Ojibwe law, stories, and principles to suggest alternative ways in which Indigenous peoples can work to enhance freedom. Among the stimulating issues he approaches are the democratic potential of civil disobedience, the hazards of applying originalism rather than living tree jurisprudence in the interpretation of Aboriginal and treaty rights, American legislative actions that could also animate Indigenous self-determination in Canada, and the opportunity for Indigenous governmental action to address violence against women.

About the author

John Borrows is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria and is the winner of both the Canadian Political Science Association’s Donald Smiley Prize (for Recovering Canada) and the Canadian Law and Society Association Book Prize (for Canada’s Indigenous Constitution)..

John Borrows' profile page


  • Joint winner, Donald Smiley Prize awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association

Editorial Reviews

"This remarkable work is at once challenging and accessible, philosophical and practical, and wide-ranging while firmly rooted in Anishinaabe tradition. Borrows takes a realistic, creative, and intellectually rigorous approach to some of the most difficult and pressing issues in Indigenous law, constitutional law, and political philosophy, as well as all readers who wish to better understand the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada."

Saskatchewan Law Review

"Borrows does not ask the reader to comply with his own philosophies. Instead, he asks that we be rigorous within our own thinking and that we resist imprisoning ourselves within established conventions."

University of Toronto Quarterly, vol 87 3, Summer 2018

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