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Law Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Justice

True Cases by Judges, Lawyers, and Law Enforcement Officers

edited by Lorene Shyba & Raymond Yakeleya

by (author) Hon Nancy Morrison, Hon John Reilly, John L. Hill, Doug Heckbert, Hon Kim Pate, Hon John Z. Vertes, Ernie Louttit, Sharon Bourque, Jennifer Briscoe, Hon Thomas Berger, Eleanore Sunchild KC, Brian Beresh KC, Joseph Saulnier, Catherine Dunn & Val Hoglund

Durvile Publications
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
Indigenous Peoples, Criminology
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
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Indigenous Justice is Book 10 in the Durvile True Cases series. In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officers write about working with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples through their trials and tribulations with the criminal justice system. The stories are a mix of previously published essays from the True Cases anthologies with an equal number of new chapters by legal and law enforcement professionals including Justice Thomas Berger (posthumous), Justice Nancy Morrison, Justice John Reilly, Senator Kim Pate, lawyers Eleanore Sunchild, Brian Beresh, and John L. Hill, and parole and police officers Doug Heckbert, Ernie Louttit, Val Hoglund, and Sharon Bourque.

About the authors

Lorene Shyba's profile page

Raymond Yakeleya's profile page

Hon Nancy Morrison's profile page

Hon John Reilly's profile page

John L. Hill's profile page

Doug Heckbert's profile page

Hon Kim Pate's profile page

Hon John Z. Vertes' profile page

Ernie Louttit is a retired soldier and police officer, and has written three books, Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Leadership and Policing , More Indian Ernie, Insights from the Streets, and The Unexpected Cop: Indian Ernie on a Life of Leadership. Winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award in 2014 and the Reveal Indigenous Arts Award in 2017. Pine Bugs and 303's is his debut novel. He lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Ernie Louttit's profile page

Sharon Bourque's profile page

Jennifer Briscoe's profile page

Hon Thomas Berger's profile page

Eleanore Sunchild KC's profile page

Brian Beresh KC's profile page

Joseph Saulnier's profile page

Catherine Dunn's profile page

Val Hoglund's profile page

Excerpt: Indigenous Justice: True Cases by Judges, Lawyers, and Law Enforcement Officers (edited by Lorene Shyba & Raymond Yakeleya; by (author) Hon Nancy Morrison, Hon John Reilly, John L. Hill, Doug Heckbert, Hon Kim Pate, Hon John Z. Vertes, Ernie Louttit, Sharon Bourque, Jennifer Briscoe, Hon Thomas Berger, Eleanore Sunchild KC, Brian Beresh KC, Joseph Saulnier, Catherine Dunn & Val Hoglund)

Introduction to Indigenous Justice Mindful of Culture and Tradition Indigenous Justice, Book 10 in the Durvile True Cases series, is comprised of chapters written by the very legal and law enforcement professionals to whom we dedicated this book: judges, lawyers, police, and parole officers, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have supported and continue to support First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples through their trials and tribulations with the criminal justice system. We have chosen an image of Cree leader and peacemaker Pîhtokahanapiwiyin for the cover of this book because of the strong connection that many of the stories have to the province of Saskatchewan, and notably the Battleford area, Also known as Chief Poundmaker, Pîhtokahanapiwiyin was born around 1842 in Rupert’s Land near the present day Battleford. He played a significant role in the events leading up to the North-West Resistance of 1885, an event mentioned by both Eleanore Sunchild KC and Brian Beresh KC in this book as a battle formerly known as “the Rebellion.” The resisters were eventually defeated by federal troops, the result being the permanent enforcement of Canadian law in the West, the subjugation of Plains Indigenous Peoples, and the conviction and execution of Louis Riel. After the resistance was suppressed by the fledgling Canadian government, Chief Poundmaker was arrested and charged with treason. He was later released, but died just months later, on July 4, 1886. He is remembered as a skilled diplomat and peacemaker who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his People. In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally exonerated Chief Poundmaker of the treason charges, the exoneration being part of a broader effort to recognize and reconcile the historical injustices that Indigenous Peoples have suffered. Poundmaker’s story serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing the injustices of the past and working to build a more just and equitable future. In recent years there has been a growing movement to return artifacts taken without permission from Indigenous communities. In 2023, artifacts dating from 1886 belonging to Poundmaker were returned to his descendants in a repatriation ceremony at the Royal Ontario Museum. The museum transferred his ceremonial pipe and a saddle bag back to his family members. Other museums are also repatriating stolen artifacts. The Royal Alberta Museum recently returned artifacts from its collection to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and internationally, the UK-based Buxton Museum returned their entire collection of First Nations artifacts to the Haida and Blackfoot communities. Returning sacred objects from museums to First Nations aligns with early steps of support from the Vatican to reflect on the dignity and rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Vatican’s recent rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal concept that justified Europeans claiming Indigenous lands, shows that dispossession of land was not legal and calls into question the manner of colonization. (Says Raymond), The Doctrine of Discovery was like the thieves’ bible. Sensible minds have moved in and called it for what it was, thievery and crimes against humanity. The land was ours and at first contact with whiteman, it was as if we were nothing. It was all about the resources and it’s hard to sell the bones of your people. • • • Indigenous Justice is written by legal and law enforcement professionals who share stories that provide perspective into their belief in the principles of reconciliation. How might these same principles extend into other important professions such as education, urban planning, and cultural industries such as fashion and art? From the perspective of librarians and information professionals, Métis Nation citizen Colette Poitras says that the priority is to make sure that all community members can access the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report and findings. In addition, she recommends that librarians purchase and provide books written by Indigenous authors and provide an inclusive space and programming opportunities that support Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Poitras facilitates Indigenous culture and history training and often hears that Canadians have missed out on learning the true history of Canada. Poitras says, Learning about the First Peoples of this country make all people richer by knowing more about the land on which we live and the Indigenous ways of knowing and being. It creates dialog and an ongoing relationship which includes respect and reciprocity. It makes individuals and society more tolerant, inclusive and empathetic. The sacred values of love, respect, honesty, humility, truth, wisdom, and courage are values that make society strong. These are values that everyone benefits from and that can lead to true reconciliation. Dr. Frank Deer, Kanienkeha’ka from Kahnawake and professor of Indigenous Education at the University of Manitoba, believes that to be supportive, university faculty leaders should consider how Indigenous knowledge might be used in their own academic areas of endeavour and commit to change for the benefit of students and communities. For instance, what do they believe they are actually doing when making a land acknowledgement? What does reconciliation mean to them? When asked how people might benefit from understanding Indigenous ways, he comes to the conclusion by saying, “Indigenous Peoples are an important part of Canada’s demographic, so coming to understand our experiences and identities will lend to the harmony within our social fabric.” Dr. Deer believes that there is an important journey in formulating a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and it must include a sense of our shared history. Bob Montgomery, citizen of the Métis Nation, is the Indigenous Engagement Coordinator at the Beaver Hills Biosphere, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve east of Edmonton. Montgomery says, “Only now in the ten-year wake of Idle No More and eight years after the TRC is western science starting to publish papers that acknowledge the brilliance of Indigenous environmental consciousness that exists in our worldviews and languages.” When asked how the general public might benefit from his environmental work, he says, “It’s quite simple really, Indigenous Peoples have lived on this land for millennia and it is in everyone’s best interest to listen to them and follow their guidance on how to live harmoniously here.” As an analogy we might all be able to relate to, he adds, You wouldn’t spend an evening at a friend’s house and immediately redesign the plumbing and the garden; there is knowledge already there of how things work in situ. Sometimes our communities are reluctant to share sacred or treasured information because of legacies of having their knowledge taken and sold for profit, never receiving any recognition or compensation. That is the legacy of colonialism. So if you are lucky enough to learn from Indigenous Peoples, follow their lead, make sure they are always included and compensate them and their communities fairly for the immense efforts they have made to keep that knowledge alive through all the violence they’ve endured. Urban environments can also benefit by following the guidance of Indigenous Peoples. Crystal Many Fingers, Blackfoot academic and Indigenous landscape strategist for the City of Calgary, says, “When it comes to Indigenizing urban community space, there are levels of respect that must be addressed.” Many Fingers describes the first level as, Engagement with all leadership of the Treaty Nations whose territorial land is under proposal. This engagement with leadership, Chief and Councils, may take time, but it is essential to work cooperatively with them to validate their support and respect their values. This must not be rushed, as is often the case under a colonial approach. Secondly, she insists upon familiarity with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Principles of OCAP (ownership, control, access, and possession). This means that First Nations control data collection processes in their communities and own, protect, and control how their information is used. Access to First Nations data is important and First Nations determine, under appropriate mandates and protocols, how access to external researchers is facilitated and respected. When it comes to how the public can benefit from the implementation of Indigenous ways in city planning, Many Fingers expresses that, “The public needs to be given opportunities to learn about the rich history and ways of being of the land that they live and work on.” In the significant field of arts and culture, beading artist Trudy Wesley from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation says this regarding non-Indigenous people wearing Indigenous fashion: If people wear Indigenous beading or other fashion elements without understanding, it could be considered cultural appropriation. On the other hand, many Indigenous artists create clothing and other cultural items that are meant to be shared and enjoyed by all people. Non-Indigenous people should strive to be respectful and mindful of Indigenous cultures and traditions, and should try to learn about the cultural significance of any items they wish to wear. Dene artist and author Antoine Mountain summarizes with this recommendation: Strive to be a cultural ally, become familiar with Indigenous rights and ways of being. Be enchanted with and spiritually uplifted by Indigenous cultural content in the Arts. • • • As an editorial team, we have a dedicated interest in the North. It has been a privilege to work with Chief Justice Shannon Smallwood of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories on the foreword for this book, and the lead chapter in this book, by the late Hon. Mr. Justice Thomas Berger, is about the sanctity of the lands of the North. Entitled “The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry,” this important speech from history reflects back on Justice Berger’s decisions in the 1970s that prioritized the hunting, fishing, and trapping economy of the First Nations Peoples over pipeline construction, with its negative environmental implications. We are grateful to Beverley Berger, Erin Berger, and Drew Ann Wake for giving us permission to print the transcripts of this significant speech. It was presented by Justice Berger to the “World Conference of Faith, Science and the Future” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1979. The Honourable Nancy Morrison writes in the introduction to her three stories in this book, It was not until 1966 when I first read the The Indian Act that I began to realize the inequities and often-horrific abuses suffered by Indigenous Peoples and the need for society and our laws to make the necessary changes. Our society, laws, and justice system have shown they can and do evolve. The need and work must continue. I remain optimistic. It is in the light of this optimism and the hope of rectification of wrongs that we gathered the stories of injustice and suffering for this book. Impacts of the Treaties and residential schools form a deep backstory to many of the heartbreaking chapters: Catherine Dunn’s chapter about a family shattered by domestic violence; Judge John Reilly’s chapter about adjudicating crimes committed as a result of traditional lands taken away; and Joseph Saulnier’s defence of a boy who was born suffering from the effects of his mother’s heavy drinking. Also seen in the book, though, are vibrant stories of recovery and rehabilitation through the discovery and implementation of Indigenous Ways of Knowledge. Constable Val Hoglund’s story “The Unwitting Criminal: Alone but Full of Hope” for example, about the recovery of a drug-addicted homeless teen, offers hope within the title itself, and Hon. John Z. Vertes’ story, “The Case of Henry Innuksuk” is about a community in Nunavut that became an active participant in the justice system through Inuit healing techniques. Some of the stories in this book, previously published in the Durvile True Cases anthologies, have been thoughtfully brought up to date by authors Hon. Kim Pate (The Story of S), Doug Heckbert (Getting FPS# Off Our Backs), and Hon. Nancy Morrison (Three Stories). The copyright page lists the stories that have appeared in previous books. Our approach to decolonial scholarship with this book has been to follow the editorial principles and best practices of what has become known as “The Younging Style Guide.” Notwithstanding, we allowed the inclusion of colonial terminology when authors reflect on memories from years gone by, or when chapter text, or quotes from other texts, were written in earlier times. If people were to ask us what we hope readers will come away with from Indigenous Justice, we might say: The belief that the legal professionals and law enforcement officers in this book truly give a care about reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and that they’ll spread this good work among their peers. Taking action on Colette Poitras’ advocacy earlier in this introduction, we as publishers and editors commit to the sacred values that make society strong: love, respect, honesty, humility, truth, wisdom, and courage. We truly give a care about reconciliation too. — Dr. Lorene Shyba, co-editor & Raymond Yakeleya, co-editor, Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, 2023

Editorial Reviews

I’m struck by how the True Cases series has a multiplicity of authentic perspectives that are able to be our proxy or conduit into amazing worlds... Stories that are happening in our community and to our neighbours that we should know about but don’t.” —Grant Stovers, CKUA Radio

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