The Basics: The Origins of Law

AuthorMark Bourrie
chapter one
he Basics:
he Origins of Law
e law is made in several dierent ways. Interpreting and understand-
ing the law starts with knowing where the law comes from, as each
source of law brings with it a set of rules that is quite dierent from
Each First Nation had its own laws and government. These were
tailored to the needs of the people and the economy of the First Nation.
For example, the Iroquoian nations like the Huron-Wendat, the Neu-
trals, Petun, and Erie of southern Ontario, who lived in densely popu-
lated agricultural areas, were governed by councils of usually male
civil chiefs chosen by a matriarchy of clan mothers, who were heads of
extended family units that could trace their ancestry far back into time.
e peoples of the Pacic Coast lived in nations with strict hierarch-
ies, usually hereditary, and were governed by elites that met in council.
Hunting peoples who lived on the Canadian Shield and the Plains and
spoke Siouan, Algonkian, and Cree languages lived in bands that were
far more autonomous, without formal confederacy councils that met
through the year and made national policies. Still, they were able to build
consensus among bands on maers of war, trade, and other important
policy areas, as did the people who lived in the Arctic and on the Atlantic
coast. All First Nations had some form of government, at least some of

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