Anthropologists in the Canadian Courts

Elizabeth Cassell

in Law and Anthropology

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199580910
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723025 | DOI:

Series: Current Legal Issues

 Anthropologists in the Canadian Courts

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European settlers in the mid-19th century laid claim to the majority of the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en land, although the land was never conquered, ceded, or signed away under the treaty process that prevailed in the other provinces of the Canadian Confederation. In order to establish a claim to the lands to which they have been entitled since time immemorial, all indigenous peoples of British Columbia must enter a tortuous land claims process. In 1984, frustrated by the long delays in the negotiation process, which only permitted two land claims to be heard at a time, 51 Hereditary Chiefs of Houses of the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en peoples decided to bring their case to court in order to establish their claim through litigation rather than through negotiation. This chapter first evaluates the evidence submitted on behalf of the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en, and then considers the effect of the proceedings on the Aboriginal people affected by the decisions handed down as the case proceeded through the trial and appeal processes. It then considers whether it is appropriate for anthropologists to appear as expert witnesses, and what, if anything, can be done to ensure that Aboriginal evidence is treated with the respect it deserves in the Canadian Courts.

Keywords: law; anthropology; Gitksan; Wet'suwet'en; Aboriginal rights; Canadian courts; land claims

Chapter.  14789 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Law

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