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Can Law be Fair to Delgamuukw? On Legal Violence and Temporal Resistance, Interruptive Practices as Technologies of Justice

Jill Stauffer, Associate Professor and Director, Peace, Justice and Human Rights, Haverford College

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

On January 26, 2018, at a Technologies of Justice Conference session on law process and indigenous rights, Jill Stauffer presented a talk entitled Can Law Be Fair to Delgamuukw? A Panel on Legal Violence and Temporal Resistance in Law Process.



“We do not seek a decision as to whether our system might continue or not; it will continue”
Stauffer framed the idea of viewing Indigenous land claims as being about justice and also about time. Her preposition was to use time, definitions and shifting worldviews as technologies of justice, used to create interruptions in thought patterns. She discussed what can and can’t be heard in a courtroom and how can we interrupt our views on process in order to better advance rights, especially those of First Nations peoples. She explained how common sense can be seen as law process in terms of time and temporal justice, and how “what we think of as a given is not always a given, but instead stipulated and adhered to in largely unthought ways over time." Sometimes choices we make are not apparent as 'choices' and we forget this. She illustrated how the view of settlement is seen as inevitable and how this 'given' is not being acknowledged as a choice and a cause of time and constant abuse, which has had the effect of causing an injustice to the Indigenous peoples over long periods of time.

She explained the view of our current system as one of training as opposed to product of nature, and how there are large lapses in views of how our society needs to work to live together. She emphasized the idea of learning to see these lapses, and how this can help us learn to live together. One of the main case studies she highlighted was the Delgamuukw case, which she sees as an interruptive moment that has been looked over instead of used as a learning tool to help improve future cases. She also highlighted the original Indigenous reasons for moving, and reasons for change in land ownership, citing 'land ownership' as a predominantly Western legalist term.
She spoke about the need to learn to hear other views and standpoints, and the need learn to hear Indigenous stories and oral history as a valid account to title-to-land debate. She pointed out how claimants assume to have colonial claim to land despite lack of treaties or battles fought in many places. The view she expressed in the discussion of treaties is that the fault can lie in both the speaker and the listener in the misinterpretation, and that sovereignty and totality were often not assumed by the First Nations when treaties were signed, but were expected by the colonial settlers in history. She expressed her thoughts on the possible solution of studying philosophy and law in logics, and the value of truth and lies versus that of misinterpretation—and instead using interruption as a form of justice.
Stauffer stood by the idea that time does not only progress in one way; we can change the narrative and disrupt the thought to help create a better story. Quoting Rifkin, “For things to be simultaneous, they must exist within a single frame of reference."