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Justice, Law, and the Lens of Culture

Miller, Bruce G
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) WICAZO SA Review. Fall: 135-149.

Until recently, according to Bruce Miller, contemporary tribal courts and justice initiatives undertaken by indigenous communities in the United States and Canada have only infrequently been examined through an ethnographic and historical lens. Studies by criminologists and legal scholars have predominated. Inadvertently, those studies have generally deflected attention from difficulties facing indigenous people in recovering localized legal practices and determining how they will regulate their reservations. More ethnographic work is now being done with respect to these matters. This is important because indigenous communities in the United States and Canada are increasingly engaged in developing or transforming justice systems xe2x80x93 initiatives that are often undertaken with highly-conscious regard for cultural issues both within their communities and in relation to outside communities (i.e., Western systems in the U.S. and Canada). In this context, Miller argues that innovative, community-driven justice initiatives in indigenous communities must struggle against the impulse to misuse the idea of culture. By xe2x80x9cmisusexe2x80x9d of culture he refers to the tendency to fall into xe2x80x9cus-them,xe2x80x9d oppositional, compartmentalizing, and dichotomizing ways of thinking. He urges instead the development of new justice initiatives through a shared field of xe2x80x9cwe-you,xe2x80x9d inter-ethnic discourse and interaction based on a kind of complementarity.


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