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Oral History on Trial: Recognizing Aboriginal Narratives in the Courts


Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 17:30
Bruce Miller
Public Lecture by Bruce Miller (University of British Columbia)
In partnership with Concordia’s First Peoples’ Studies Program.
Dr. Bruce Granville Miller (UBC) is a professor whose research interests concern Indigenous peoples and their relations with the state, in locations such as courtrooms, international borders, and in fishing grounds. Much of Dr. Miller’s work has been with the Coast Salish of BC and Washington State. He has served as an expert witness in Indigenous litigation in the United States and Canada, including United States v Washington (a precedent setting treaty case) and the Radek case before the BC Human Rights Tribunal (a precedent-setting case regarding Aboriginal presence in public spaces and racial profiling). In 1999 he was awarded the UBC Killam Teaching Prize and the Anthropology-Sociology teaching prize in 2006. He is the author of three important books: Oral History on Trial (2011) which won the K.D. Srivastiva Prize; The Problem of Justice: Tradition and Law in the Coast Salish World (2001); and Invisible Indigenes: The Politics of Non-recognition (2003). He has also edited Anthropology and History in the Courts, BC Studies, 95, 1992; Be of Good Mind: Essays on the Coast Salish (2007); and co-edited a 2007 volume, with Jean-Guy Goulet, titled Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field.
Oral History on Trial
"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."
2149 MacKay, room S-CI-104

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