First Nations Sacred Sites in Canada's CourtsBook - 2005
The sacred sites of indigenous peoples are under increasing threat worldwide. The threat’s origin is traceable to state appropriation of control over their ancestral territories; its increase is fueled by insatiable demands on lands, waters, and natural resources. Because their sacred sites spiritually anchor their relationship with their lands, and because their relationship with their lands is at the core of their identities, threats to their sacred sites are effectively threats to indigenous peoples themselves.
In recent decades, First Nations peoples of Canada, like other indigenous peoples, have faced hard choices. Sometimes, they have foregone public defence of their threatened sacred sites in order to avoid compounding disrespect and to grieve in private over the desecration and even destruction. Other times, they have mounted public protests – ranging from public information campaigns to on-the-ground resistance, the latter having occurred famously at Oka, Ipperwash, and Gustafsen Lake. Of late, they have also taken their fight to the courts.
First Nations Sacred Sites in Canada’s Courts is the first work to examine how Canada’s courts have responded. Informed by elements of a general theory of sacred sites and supported by a thorough analysis of nearly a dozen cases, the book demonstrates not merely that the courts have failed but also why they have failed to treat First Nations sacred sites fairly. The book does not, however, end on a wholly critical note. It goes on to suggest practical ways in which courts can improve on their treatment of First Nations sacred sites and, finally, to reflect that Canada too has something profound at stake in the struggle of First Nations peoples for their sacred sites.
Although intended for anthropologists, lawyers, judges, politicians, and scholars (particularly those in anthropology, law, native studies, politics, and religious studies), First Nations Sacred Sites in Canada’s Courts may be read with profit by anyone interested in the evolving relationship between indigenous peoples and the modern state.