Chuma Himonga



Fatima Diallo


Junior researcher

Our Publications



In 2013-2014, The ILRU established three community partnerships for the State and Indigenous Legal Cultures project:

1. Snuneymuxw First Nation (British Columbia)

  • Secured additional funds to research Coast Salish civil procedure, protocols and legal language
  • Hired two student researchers
  • Developed a work plan involving:
  1. Collection of publically available Coast Salish stories
  2. Analysis
  3. Synthesis
  4. Return final report to community
  5. Course development

2. Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (Alberta)

  • Built on a previous project with new application using a legal pluralism lens
  • Secured additional funding for community consultation regarding the establishment of a native court
  • Worked with 20 community members to prepare a workshop about Cree law and Indigenous traditions of reconciliation for Education Day at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Alberta National event.

3. Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (Yukon)

  • Initial establishment of working relationship
  • Completed Vuntut Gwitchin Heritage Department’s access and ethics application
  • Received completed partnership application from Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation



Our projects in details


On a broad level, the research objectives are to further legal, political and academic conversations between substantive Indigenous laws on specific subjects and state laws on the same subjects (1), and identify points of convergence and divergences, as well as fruitful spaces for collaboration and harmonization with in the current system (2). 

 On a particular level, the research objectives were:

  • our partner community, the Aseniwuche Winewak has a goal to develop and implement a credible justice process that is acceptable and sensitive to the needs, norms and aspirations of the Aboriginal communities in the area. Their objective was to develop a proposal for a justice process that is fair, principled and transparent, and where a record of decisions, along with the principled reasons for them, is kept and could be continually build on as precedent. The goals of this justice process would be to promote the personal responsibility of offenders to their communities and support community healing, with an overarching goal of contributing to the maintenance of safe, healthy and peaceful Aboriginal communities.
  • ILRU’s primary objective was to seek broader community engagement related to the potential application and implementation of Cree legal principles in a formal criminal justice process. Over the summer of 2013, Aseniwuche Winewak was our partner community in a national research project aimed at identifying and articulating Indigenous legal principles, the Accessing Justice and Reconciliation Research Project [AJR Project], and we had previously developed a legal summary or ‘restatement’ of Cree legal principles responding to harm and conflict, based on principles identified and articulated in conversation with elders and other knowledgeable people within the community. Rather than ask people impossibly broad and abstract questions about justice, or asking them to identify community problems and the many failures of the mainstream Canadian justice system, this project began community engagement from the positive and empowering place of discussing what Cree legal principles for responding to harm and conflict have to offer today, and whether and how they might be applied in a contemporary, explicit and formalized justice process. ILRU’s secondary objective was to research and identify both practical and jurisprudendial spaces within the current Canadian justice system that could be compatible, or even mandate the use of Indigenous laws.



Child protection and child welfare more generally are serious matters of Indigenous law, both for the integrity of governance and the rebuilding of healthy communities. The main objectives for this sub-project were:

  • To work with partner communities to research, articulate, and rebuild Cree child protection and child welfare law so that it is accessible, understandable, and applicable for the communities.
  • To substantively articulate Cree child welfare law including legal processes and decision-makers, legal responses, obligations, substantive and procedural rights, and legal principles.
  • To generate broad community discussions about the Cree child welfare law research, and including the story analysis and synthesis phases.
  • To produce plain language Cree child welfare law materials for use by the Cree partner communities, and by the Indigenous Law Research Unit as a foundational resource for ongoing scholarship and academic development.



The failure of the criminal justice system in relation to Indigenous peoples is a notoriously well-known and over-studied fact. Many Indigenous communities aspire to develop their own community based justice processes, but struggle with issues of identifying relevant internal principles, adequate resources, and legal spaces for doing so. However, some recent treaties create provisions the creation of a community’s own justice process. 

Our objectives for this sub-project were:

  • To identify and articulate substantive Gwichin legal principles relating to appropriate processes and responses to harms and conflicts (analogous to criminal activity).
  • To identify and summarize the range of current alternative dispute-resolution mechanisms and community-based justice projects to identify a range of possible options for forums and forms.
  • To support the Gwichin community in applying and implementing their own legal principles within a Gwichin justice process.



The objectives of this case study are two-fold. First, broadly, to articulate legal principles relating to Secwepemc natural resource and land laws within a legal framework. The central legal questions explored and articulated through this work were a) How do people within the Secwépemc legal tradition respond to disputes/conflicts concerning lands or resources?; b) Where there aren't clear disputes or conflicts concerning lands or resources, what relationships, responsibilities and rights do people within the Secwépemc legal tradition have to land, water, animals used and plants? Second, to review, analyze and summarize the relevant federal and provincial resource laws that apply to this area, and examine where these differ or are compatible with the substantive Secwépemc laws.

The objectives of the collaborative project on Secwepemc legal principles were:

  • To articulate substantive Secwepemc natural resource and land law within a final report.
  • To highlight important context and debates within community on Secwepemc natural resource and land law.
  • To work with our partner community through interviews to develop an integrated analysis of Secwepemc laws relating to natural resources and land that can be used in the development of laws within the community as well as academic and educational materials.
  • To articulate Secwepemc legal principles relating to legal processes (territorial protocols and practices, harvesting protocols and practices, procedural steps for dispute resolution and decision making).
  • To articulate Secwepemc legal principles relating to relationships, responsibilities and rights (to land, other territorial groups and community).
  • To articulate Secwepemc legal principles relating to consequences, enforcement and teaching.
  • To identify and summarize relevant Canadian state law for these same issues, and analyze where and how there may be space for harmonization or compatibility.





See more videos


Posters highlighting three exemplary quotes for Val Napoleon and Hadley Friedland about working with Indigenous Legal orders. PDF PDF PDF
First Integration Report : Coast Salish Laws Governing Administration of Justice (Civil Procedure) PDF
First Integration Report : Secwepmec Laws Governing Land and Resources PDF
First Integration Report : Cree Law regarding Children Not available for download
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