King clearly prefers the Aboriginal history of creation. It is not merely because she relishes the presentation of these stories in contrast to the Western version of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. In her mind, once dissected, these stories illustrate the vast gulf between the Western concepts of sovereignty and individual rights and the Aboriginal notions of these very same ideas. King feels the very fabric of and the parables espoused in these stories illustrate how the Western ideal of is of a much stronger, centralized body of governance where people are punished accordingly if they do not adhere to the status quo. In Western culture, citizens are supposed to ‘toe the line so to speak’ while Aboriginal thought on sovereignty and natural rights is simply a natural balance with all elements in the environment. Every plant person, animal and god has natural rights that should be protected by working together (King, p 25).
It takes some time for King to start discussing her main point. Her style, however, of telling stories about her mother and father was aimed at establishing what a story is, how it can be told and how vital they are in everyday lives. She goes as far to explain people are stories and language, the tool that relays them, are essential components of societal interaction as well as behavior. Once she sets the stage with her examples and discussion of a story’s merit in general, King progresses by introducing us to Charm. She tells the reader how and why this is one of her favorite stories, before she reveals her version of Adam and Eve from Genesis. She then begins the comparison of the two stories and her point swiftly hits home.
After ending the Genesis note, she writes in the Adam and Eve story of Creation, everything started with one powerful being that when crossed, relegated the sinners to a world of hunger, pain and punishment. What commenced as a world with no true discord becomes one of turmoil and disarray. On the other hand, she discusses how what she refers to as the Native story, opens with pandemonium. Nothing was in conjunction, but how all members of the earth, including the deities worked together to establish a world that hummed along smoothly. The Western version seems to promote competition, while the Native story’s main point is collaboration. (King, p 26-27).
King continues to support her assertion that the Western version of creation depicts a society that is not free and in fact, impedes some of its citizens by its structure by providing examples of the Christian doctrine of good overcoming evil. She then provides the reader with questions pertaining to how things could have been historically different if God had been more merciful to Adam and Eve, if the animals were able to select the names they wanted to go by and if God had just explained to Adam and Eve they made a large error in judgment. King’s point is Western civilization does not necessarily promote respect for sovereignty and individual rights like it claims to. It is more about people pursuing financial status and climbing above others to fulfill this craving for material comforts. The goal is satisfy individual needs and not respect the nature of their fellows. Native creation stories are much more communal. They have a great reverence for rights of all mankind and for the behavior that allows all creatures to retain these rights. The Native version is King’s example of what the world can still be if truly examines how its stories are told and remembered (King, p 28-31).
According to Borrows, many people do not understand the true nature of Indigenous law. This is because they simply to take the necessary time or effort to examine the structure, process and functioning of Indigenous law. They would rather quickly assign or attribute characteristics to it without proper recognition of the any component of it. When reviewed, however, Indigenous law can be quite complex and is comprised of many unique elements that work in conjunction with each other to form the whole. In Borrows’ opinion, Indigenous law is derived from every corner of society over the course of time and this even includes a religious element as well. The law itself has evolved from traditions handed down over generations, the law of nature or of examining interaction with the outside world, the cultural morals of the relevant society, legal agreements or treaties, through meetings and associations and by the leaders of the society itself (Borrows, p 24).
The first type of Indigenous law Borrows discusses is sacred law and the examples he uses to denote it include creation stories as well as treaties. He contends these laws are often highly respected and are considered to be sacrosanct as they are handed down from a higher power and have often existed for years. He explains how this is not limited to only Aboriginal cultures but is generally a tenet of all societies. He also presents different viewpoints on sacred laws that are developed by each individual group to show how sacred law is developed based on history, custom and circumstances (Borrows, p 28).
The next source of law Borrows incorporates in his article is natural law. This is where people examine the world around them, how they interact with that world and how they can act to alter the balance between all living things in the future. His first example of natural law is his description of his mother’s teachings about the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plants. For instance, she tells her children they should cultivate more milkweed plants by their home because the less frequently the milkweeds are seen, the less likely it is to see monarch butterflies as they seem to have a relationship. Therefore, natural law is created from how the planet responds to man’s treatment of it and how man reads the world (Borrows, p 29).
The next source of law Borrows extrapolates upon is deliberative law. This type of law is produced from directives, missives, meetings, council, persuasion and discussion. Essentially deliberative law is formed through people communicating with one another and it is very flexible as it adapts to changing society. Borrows’ example of deliberative law is circle discussions such as the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. This organization operates through community groups that solve problems through offering an open forum for discussion and advisement. Borrows also describes how feasts and gatherings are another important element in promulgating deliberative law in many societies. It does not matter exactly what the structure is, just that people are discussing and detailing what could become policy or what can be done to improve a policy (Borrows, p 40-41).
Borrows also discusses positivistic law and customary law. Positivistic law is what most people would generally identify with as what law consists of. This is because it is the written regulations, codes, proclamations, orders and the like that present law to the world. Customary law, on the other hand, is how people react through interaction with others over a course of time which becomes accepted behavior. Its power lies in each individual trusting other people in the community will act a specific way to uphold their obligations to others. Borrows feels this what many feel all Indigenous law is comprised of and frequently rush to judgment the other four areas of law are not present in Indigenous societies (Borrows, p 47-57).
Borrows, J. Canada’s Indigenous Constitution. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2010.
Burrows. Recovering Canada: The resurgence of Indigent law. 2004. pp 13-28, pp 47-55.
King, T. Chapter 1: The Truth About Stories, A Narrative of Narrative. Toronto: House of
Amansi Press. 2003. pp 1-31.
RCAP. Stage One: Separate Worlds. 1996. pp 43-90.
Thrasher, M. As Human Beings We Have Life Decisions to Make. 1998.