This is a new beginning for us. As the first issue of a new publication on Indigenous law at McGill, Rooted is a conscious attempt to create space for Indigenous legalities, knowledge, and perspectives. Our contributors – academics, activists, artists, and leaders – offer insight into Indigenous ways of being and knowing beyond the dominant liberal paradigm. Their perspectives generously offer us a way to begin to understand Indigenous legal orders.
It is fitting that our first issue begins with a contribution from Anishinaabe legal scholar Aaron Mills, whose work inspired the project. To Mills, all constitutionalisms are situated within their respective lifeworlds – the sum of the stories that we tell to explain and situate ourselves within what surrounds us and within our own experience. As Mills explains, Indigenous laws are not only different to Canadian (liberal) constitutional orders, but are “different in kind,” at the level of lifeworlds. As such, efforts to articulate Indigenous law within dominant liberal paradigms risk distorting and erasing the lifeworlds in which these legal orders are based. In this issue, Mills writes:
In distinguishing between constitutional kinds, I prefer to speak of rooted constitutionalism and not indigenous constitutionalism. Thus I’d say that Anishinaabe constitutionalism is a species of the rooted constitutional kind. I make this discursive choice precisely to place the emphasis where it ought to be: on the kind of constitutionalism at issue, and not on the identity of the subjects who bear it… [A]s a kind of constitutionalism, rootedness is available to anyone willing to sustain it. My hope is that enough of the world’s peoples will adopt it within a timeline that, respecting the urgency of anthropocentric global warming, allows for the continued viability of humans and of creation as we know it.SEE AARON MILLS, “A PRELIMINARY SKETCH OF ANISHINAABE (A SPECIES OF ROOTED) CONSTITUTIONALISM” IN THIS ISSUE.
As settlers ourselves, we take this call as open to us to share in a responsibility for rooted law revitalization.
With this in mind, Rooted – and particularly, this special issue on rooted constitutionalism – offer readers an invitation to engage with Indigenous constitutional orders. In this issue, you will find explorations of Anishinaabe (Aaron Mills), Nêhiyaw (Darcy Lindberg), Métis (Karen Sloan), and Mi’kmaw (Sákéj Henderson and Jane McMillan) constitutionalisms.
Only by engaging with Indigenous constitutions and lifeworlds can we move forward, collectively, towards revitalizing Indigenous systems of law within their own constitutional frameworks. We hope that Rooted will play a role not only in making space for Indigenous law and perspectives in law schools and universities, but also beyond these spaces, out in the wider world.
It has been a real privilege to bring this vision to life. We thank our Advisory Council (Sákéj Henderson, Kirsten Anker, Hadley Friedland, and Sayre Potter) for their sage advice and the ongoing support and talent of our Associate and Managing Editors without whom this publication would not have been possible. We are also thankful to the Indigenous Law Association at McGill, the McGill Law Students Association, and the Students’ Society of McGill University Equity Fund for their generous support in funding needs-based honorariums and gifts for our contributors.
Larissa Parker & Sarah Nixon
Executive Editors (2020-2021)