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New video: Taku River Tlingit First Nation’s Journey to Revitalize its Indigenous Laws

May 5, 2022

Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRT) has produced a short video sharing some of the work it has been doing over the past five years through its RELAW project. RELAW – which stands for Revitalizing Indigenous Laws for Land, Air and Water – is a program through which Indigenous nations work to revitalize, live and apply their own Indigenous laws, with legal support and co-learning opportunities offered by West Coast Environmental Law.

The most recent RELAW update described TRT’s work this way:

Taku River Tlingit First Nation’s vision for revitalizing Taku River Tlingit law has continued to grow and deepen since the Nation began its RELAW project in 2017, based in the knowledge that Taku River Tlingit law is living law that can and should be taught, learned and used every day. Recognizing that revitalizing Indigenous law is not just a legal project but also a healing journey, Taku River Tlingit First Nation is conducting this work in a way that puts the needs of the community first and ensures that the teachings of Tlingit people are followed each step of the way.

Reflecting on the release of TRT’s video, Charmaine Thom, TRT’s Spokesperson elected under the TRT Constitution, offered the following thoughts about the ongoing work to live and apply Tlingit laws:

The RELAW program is a key piece of revitalizing Indigenous Law. First Nation Law exists and upholds our Tlingit way of life, in a way that will support our environment. It is the foundation of who we are as Tlingit people. Enacting our own laws serves to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we live on. Our laws are an extra layer of protection that we can provide to our people that the current federal and provincial Government cannot.

Federal and provincial government has enacted their own laws to try to achieve the results that First Nations laws have implemented for generations, but they can't replicate it, because it's not theirs, it's not their way of life. Our Laws have helped our land survive.

Here is a good example of this: Our Tlingit people always gave our land the opportunity to breathe and to revive itself, so we would always move from one village to another to allow that re-growth to happen, and to allow the land to replenish itself. That was our way of taking care of the land. That doesn’t exist in colonial law.

Revitalizing those pieces of traditional law that make up who we are as Tlingit people is a way to help our land breathe.

TRT’s video reflects, in a powerful way, the vision and spirit of the work that TRT people are advancing to revitalize their law and help their land breathe.

Watch the video below:

View the video on Facebook

Author: 
Gavin Smith - Staff Lawyer