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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Koqqwaja'ltimk : Mi'kmaq legal consciousness McMillan, Leslie Jane


This thesis examines the principles and concepts of Mi'kmaq folk law, and Mi'kmaq legal consciousness, chronicling the concepts, symbols, and methods, of Mi'kmaq justice over time, from early contact, through colonization, to the present. The main thrust of this research examines legal consciousness as a site of struggle and as articulations of Mi'kmaq identity, through an investigation of the local lived law of the Mi'kmaq. Social constructions of legal consciousness, referring to how people come to think about, understand, create, and act upon, formal and informal laws that define social relations in everyday life, were examined using field based ethnographic methodologies. Research indicates the Mi'kmaq have competing discourses ranging from, the utility of pre-contact social order traditions, to sophisticated power struggles over identity and treaty rights, to the validity of distinct and separate justice systems in fulfilling the goals of self governance. These discourses are framed in concepts such as authenticity, continuity, tradition, cultural appropriateness, distinctiveness, community empowerment, harmony, forgiveness, and healing. Additionally, the concepts and the discourses framing and articulated as Mi'kmaq legal consciousness, provide insight to the impact of colonization on Mi'kmaq culture. The stories told by the Mi'kmaq participants in this research illuminate all manners of conformity, contest, and resistance, as they combat the alienation and marginalization of their culture within and between their communities and the larger Canadian society. The constitutions of legal consciousness are historically situated, fluid and dynamic processes, often contested, within and between societies, as individuals and collectivities give meanings to their juridical experiences and beliefs, and thus provide information for analysis of the sources of solidarity, crisis, conflict and contradiction within the production of Mi'kmaq culture.

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