Oral History on Trial
Recognizing Aboriginal Narratives in the Courts
In most English-speaking countries, including Canada, “black letter law” – text-based, firmly entrenched law – is the legal standard upon which judicial decisions are made. Within this tradition, courts are forbidden from considering hearsay – testimony based on what witnesses have heard from others. Such an interdiction presents significant difficulties for Aboriginal plaintiffs who rely on oral rather than written accounts for knowledge transmission.
In this important book, anthropologist Bruce Granville Miller breaks new ground by asking how oral histories might be incorporated into the existing court system. Through compelling analysis of Aboriginal, legal, and anthropological concepts of fact and evidence, Miller traces the long trajectory of oral history from community to court, and offers a sophisticated critique of the Crown’s use of Aboriginal materials in key cases, including the watershed Delgamuukw trial.
A bold intervention in legal and anthropological scholarship, Oral History on Trial presents a powerful argument for a reconsideration of the Crown’s approach to oral history. Students and scholars of Aboriginal affairs, anthropology, oral history, and law, as well as lawyers, judges, policymakers, and Aboriginal peoples will appreciate its careful consideration of an urgent issue facing Indigenous communities worldwide and the courts hearing their cases.
- 2012, Joint winner - K.D. Srivastava Prize
Oral History on Trial is a long overdue and important book with huge potential to shift the debates concerning the role of Indigenous oral histories and their narrators in the Canadian courts and beyond.
Thoroughly documented and clearly written, Oral History on Trial is sure to become a leading work in the field. It discusses the standards considered authoritative when undertaking research about Aboriginal peoples and it scrutinizes the way in which law and the courts deal with Aboriginal oral narratives. Raising and resolving key issues about the admissibility and weight of evidence in courtrooms, it is an invaluable resource for judges, lawyers, and legal scholars, as well as anthropologists, historians, and Indigenous rights researchers.
1 Issues in Law and Social Science
2 The Social Life of Oral Narratives
3 Aboriginal and Other Perspectives
4 Court and Crown
5 The Way Forward? An Anthropological View
Aboriginal Title and Indigenous Peoples
Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
First Person Plural
Aboriginal Storytelling and the Ethics of Collaborative Authorship
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