John Borrows, Professor of Indigenous Law and Baby Boomer of the Chippewas
Today I highlight the contributions of Indigenous Law Professor John Borrows, who is also part of the second wave of Canadian Baby Boomers. Borrows grew up on the Cape Croker reserve on picturesque Georgian Bay. Anishinaabe-Ojibway, he is a member of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation. Descended from several chiefs, he credits his mother with giving him a love of Indigenous stories and for teaching him the laws of their people. The latter led him to major in Law, earning his PhD in Law from Osgoode Hall, Toronto. Later he went on to create and teach some of the earliest courses of study in Indigenous Law in Canada and around the world. He has taught at the University of Toronto, Princeton, New South Wales, Waikato, UBC, and Victoria, where he currently teaches.
Borrows says Indigenous Law means “living well in the world”. It is “not just given or handed down”. Rather it is “decision making in action”. Drawing from the rugged and hauntingly beautiful landscape of his native Georgian shores, Borrows notes that Indigenous Law “flows from the rocks, the waves, the rivers and all creation”. Its sources draw on both the spiritual and natural worlds, as well as the teachings and values of the Ancestors, emphasising the principles of kindness, responsibility, nurturing and caring for others. Unlike English Common Law, which is written and focusses on the individual and retribution for individual wrongs, Indigenous Law is oral in nature, community centred, focussed on restoration and aims to restore balance to the community.
I wonder. Is it possible for two legal systems to co-exist in a single territory? Might each borrow from the other and better respond to changing social dynamics? Where have you seen this happen?