Eagle Down Is Our Law
238 pages, 6 x 9
Paperback
Release Date:01 Jan 1994
ISBN:9780774805131
PDF
Release Date:01 Oct 2007
ISBN:9780774854443
GO TO CART

Eagle Down Is Our Law

Witsuwit'en Law, Feasts, and Land Claims

UBC Press

Eagle Down Is Our Law is about the struggle of the Witsuwit'en peoples to establish the meaning of aboriginal rights. With the neighbouring Gitksan, the Witsuwit'en launched a major land claims court case asking for the ownership and jurisdiction of 55,000 square kilometers of land in north-central British Columbia that they claim to have held since before the arrival of the Europeans. In conjunction with that court case, the Gitksan and Witsuwit'en asked a number of expert witnesses, among them Antonia Mills, an anthropologist, to prepare reports on their behalf. Her report, which instructs the judge in the case on the laws, feasts, and institutions of the Witsuwit'en, is presented here. Her testimony is based on two years of participant observation with the Witsuwit'en peoples and on her reading of the anthropological, historic, archaeological, and linguistic data about the Witsuwit'en.

In 1991, the judge who rendered the decision in the court case, known as Delgamuukw v. the Queen, dismissed the testimony of Mills and other anthropologists and ruled that the Witsuwit'en and Gitksan have no aboriginal title.

This book contains the report that Mills rendered to the court. With its publication, the public can judge the quality of the expert opinion report for themselves. The report is introduced by Chief Gisdaywa (Alfred Joseph) of the Witsuwit'en, Chief Mas Gak (Don Ryan) of the Gitksan, anthropologist Michael Kew, and legal scholar Michael Jackson. A prologue by Mills describes the report in the context of the epic three-year court case, and an epilogue, also by Mills, describes what has happended in the provincial appeal and what the Gitksan and Witsuwit'en have done since the decision to further address the issues of aboriginal rights.

“Eagle down is sacred among the Gitksan and Witsuwit'en peoples and is a symbol of peace. It is used to sanctify the beginning of our peacemaking process ... The Gitskan and Witsuwit'en have yet to use eagle down in their dealings with the Crown in Canada. [We] have been waiting almost two centuries to make peace with the Crown ... Eagle down gives us optimism. We have kept the eagle down for thousands of years because it works. Eagle down is our law.”

- Mas Gak (Don Ryan)

UBC Press is to be commended for putting together a fine book. The numerous prologues and forwards help the reader put Ms. Mills' testimony into legal and cultural context. As for Ms. Mills' testimony itself, I am quite confident that it will ultimately emerge as a far more noble and respectable document than Chief Justice McEachern's judgment. Edward Morawski, The Graduate
In ongoing discussions of the role of expert witnessing, this book will remain a significant contribution. Julie Cruikshank, Western Historical Quarterly
Eagle Down is Our Law ... marks the start of an era in which First Nations will increasingly produce their own representations of their social institutions and histories. Mill’s book provides an opportunity for non-Natives to begin to develop an understanding of the nature and operation of Witsuwit’en society. Kevin Washbrook, BC Studies
Antonia Mills is associate professor in the First Nations Studies program at the University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George.

Foreword / Disdaywa (Alfred Joseph)

Foreword / Mas Gak (Don Ryan)

Preface / Michael Kew

Preface / Michael Jackson

Acknowledgments

Prologue

1 The Nature of Witsuwit'en Society

2 The Nature and Function of the Witsuwit'en Feast

3 Genesis of the Witsuwit'en

4 Witsuwit'en Institutions

5 Witsuwit'en Law

6 The Witsuwit'en Interface with the World 

Epilogue

Notes

References

Index

Find what you’re looking for...
Free Shipping   Blue
Desk and Exam Copy Requests Click Here
Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.


Read past newsletters
Current Catalogue
Fall 2019 Canadian Cover
Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.