Category Archives: colonialism

Special decolonization issue of Geez magazine

Issue 39The Decolonization Issue
Issue 39, Fall 2015

“There are good and bad things in our society, successes and failures. But there is only one fundamental reality that remains unaddressed. That is the situation of indigenous peoples. This is the single most important issue before us, whether we are recently arrived in Canada or have been here for centuries.” – John Ralston Saul

In the midst of production for this issue of Geez, editor Aiden Enns sat down with guest editors Leah Gazan and Steve Heinrichs to get a sense of what readers could expect from an issue on decolonization. What follows is a brief excerpt based on their conversation.

Aiden Enns: What does decolonization mean to you?

Leah Gazan: For me, decolonization is about reconnecting back to land and place and an identity that was defined prior to colonization. We very often talk about building communities through economic development but there’s no greater poverty than poverty of the spirit. So I think decolonization means rejuvenating the spirit that’s rooted in land and ceremony and identity and relationships and an understanding of everybody’s role in that.

Steve Heinrichs: A simple metaphor many folks bring up is the guest-host relationship. It’s a bit simplistic but it rings true. You have people coming into another family’s home and occupying the space, with the original owners in the attic while the guests have the run of the house and dictate the rules.

Most of us non-native folks in Canada have not recognized our connection to host peoples and our obligation to honour our relationships with them. Decolonization is not just a fancy umbrella word for undoing sexism, undoing racism – the oppressions list. It is specifically talking about settler colonialism.

Patrick Wolfe says settler colonialism is not an event, it is a structure. It’s not simply a history which we’re trying to become aware of and lament and then move toward respectful relationships. It is a structure, so that means this relationship continues. It means fundamentally reworking our relationship into a place of mutuality and respect.

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A Settler Reflects on Organizing for Palestine on the Oregon Trail

Chehalis First Nations people of so-called

Chehalis First Nations people of so-called “British Columbia”, 1910 (Source: Wikipedia)

By Sara Swetzoff, Muftah.org

After living in Portland, Oregon, I finally came to understand the meaning of “the Western frontier.” Removed from my East Coast hometown and associated mythologies of belonging, I learned to see myself as a settler for the first time. A white settler heading west, as so many have before me. From metropolis to frontier, like an Israeli moving from Tel Aviv to the West Bank settlements.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the settler projects called the United States and Canada are especially young. With a low settler population density, Native pride and sovereignty is more visible in this region, especially amongst the First Nations of British Columbia (Canada). In fact, Portland has one of the biggest populations of Native Americans of any American city.

Here, on the frontier, the settler state is stretched thin, and all around me I see its criminal logic with startling clarity.

A new economic era brings new branding: instead of promising parcels of land for orchards and cattle ranches, the frontier now lures predominantly urban pioneers with trendy restaurants and mountain holidays. Buzzwords like “sustainable” and “local” adorn every amenity. This is the neoliberal version of Manifest Destiny, camouflaged with a hip veneer of clean living and conscientious consumerism.

In Portland, this newest wave of settlement is pushing the Native population to the fringes, once again. In recent years, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) relocated from the city’s central Mississippi Avenue district to the industrial outskirts of North Portland; elders remember the area as the Chinook fishing village of Neerchokikoo. Next-door is a giant parking lot of Caterpillar bulldozers – the same ones that knock down Palestinian homes thousands of miles away.

Despite its branding, the underlying logic of the settler project in Portland and beyond is clearly anything but local. It is deeply embedded within the matrix of global capital and extraction economics. Nike, Intel, Microsoft, and a plethora of Internet start-ups intentionally employ the most successful, mostly white newcomers to Portland and Seattle. The rest of the population works in the low-wage service industries that keep the affluent fed and entertained.

To the north of us in British Columbia, this same insatiable pattern of development and growth drives the metal mining that swallows First Nations land and poisons their salmon runs. Midwestern extraction industries plot to lace the Northwest with coal, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and tar sands transport corridors. China has already built the refineries – they need the fuel to make our phones.

As settlers moving west, we are modern-day seekers of the American Promised Land. But there are many more frontiers of colonization across the country, in both urban and rural locations, and not all stakeholders are white. Assimilationist multiculturalism opens up more and more opportunities for people of color to reap the benefits of settlement, even as the state continues to enslave and exploit others from the same communities.

The mechanisms of settler colonialism are complex and insidious: just as the white Ashkenazi elite in Israel pits Mizrahi laborer against African refugee against Palestinian farmer, so does American white supremacy sow divisions amongst its most oppressed in order to prevent them from recognizing they share more with each other and local Indigenous Peoples than with the white settler establishment.

Each of us must examine our complicity together with our community and strategize accordingly. As students, we have to recognize that our universities are by default bound up in the economic dynamics of the colonizer state. We cannot undermine Israel – a client state settler project bankrolled by the United States – without also working for decolonization here in the heart of the empire.

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Hawaii: Building an indigenous coalition for radical resistance to colonialism

We talk with Kanaka Maoli David Maile about indigenous coalition The Red Nation’s efforts to unite different native people in radical resistance to colonialism, and how Native Hawaiians can stand in solidarity with other native peoples.

By Will Caron, The Hawaii Independent

Yesterday, indigenous rights and decolonization coalition The Red Nation issued a statement of solidarity with the Native Hawaiians currently protesting the development of the massive Thirty-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. This statement of solidarity is in line with The Red Nation’s goal of building unity between indigenous peoples around the world and teaching these people effective methods of radical resistance to colonial-capitalist systems of oppression.

The Red Nation was envisioned by two Ph.D. students at the University of New Mexico, Nick Estes and Melanie Yazzie, and is comprised of both indigenous and non-indigenous activists, scholars, educators and community organizers—all working toward the liberation of indigenous peoples from colonialism. The coalition seeks to center native peoples’ agendas and struggles through advocacy, mobilization and education about ways of working outside the these subversive systems (hence, radical).

To learn more about The Red Nation, native coalition building, and these radical methods of native resistance to colonialism, we talked with David Maile, a Kanaka Maoli and 2006 graduate of Kamehameha Schools , and a member of The Red Nation who is currently a Ph.D. student in American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

Click here to read the full article…

Why Racial Justice Work Needs to Address Settler Colonialism and Native Rights

By , Everyday Feminism

“To recognize one’s own role in the oppression of others is not about blame but about opening our eyes to see how power works and how we can redirect it so it doesn’t diminish us all.” —Shona Jackson

I am Taiwanese American, and I still struggle to make sense of what that really means. My relationship to nationhood and to space has been about trying to seek belonging and acceptance.

I am not seen as fully American, yet when I visit Taiwan, it is clear that I am not Taiwanese.

One thing I am clear on: I am not white – though some white folks don’t immediately read me as a person of color.

Most often, I am invisible. I am always from somewhere else.

While I typically self-identify as a second-generation Taiwanese American, there are already a few issues with that identity marker. For example, even though my generational status marks my family’s recent immigration history – which is a critical part of my Taiwanese American ethnic experience – it erases histories prior to contact with the United States. 

By I prioritizing my US citizenship, I am demanding to be a part of an imperialist system that literally needs my membership to toot its horn as a “multicultural melting pot.” Yet, my membership as an American citizen is still contested.

Consequently, I am racially categorized as a “perpetual foreigner” – as an Asian American, my belonging on this land, to this nation, and in this space, is constantly in question.

White supremacy has never completely accepted the presence of Asians in the United States and history demonstrates this through institutionalized exclusion, internment, objectification, and hate crimes.

Yet despite knowing that I am unwanted, I still find myself thinking – hoping – that if I can change the “non-American” parts of myself, I can finally experience the benefits of belonging.

And so, I attempt to remove my “Asian-ness.”

In the classroom, I over-perform my version of “American-ness” because I am frustrated when professors confuse me with Asian international students – who get stereotyped as not being able to speak English and, as a result, have to deal with learning from impatient and xenophobic professors.

In order to avoid this, I have found myself betraying members of my community by trying to prove I’m not just “one of them”.

When I am asked the question, “Where are you really from?” I purposefully erase my roots and reply that I am from the United States.

The ways I’ve learned to survive and belong in a country that marginalizes and labels me as a foreigner is rooted in the legacy of oppressing others.

But it’s taken me a while to even understand this phenomenon.

I do racial justice work to address identity-based oppression, and through this work, I’ve started to learn more deeply about colonialism.

I’ve realized that the way I’ve been taught to construct my identity and prioritize my “American-ness is dependent on the impact of United States’ colonial history and current oppressive practices towards Indigenous and Native communities.

And that is just one of the ways anti-racism work often colludes with colonialism. To truly do racial justice work, we, non-Native people of color, can’t solely focus on just the ways we’ve been marginalized or oppressed.

As people of color living in the United States, while we experience many forms of oppression, we are also still complicit in ongoing projects of colonization.

Colonization involves the extension of domination of one group over another, targeting Native groups from US “states and territories,” from places impacted by global capitalism, and groups Indigenous to lands they were stolen and/or displaced from.

While most people of color have experienced forms of colonial control, being a person of color does not automatically carry a direct colonial history.

We – especially those of us doing racial justice work – need to start looking at all the different forms of oppression and how they’re related to one another.

Settler colonialism and racism are connected and co-dependent, but they are not the same thing. Their impacts are experienced differently across communities.

We erase each other’s unique struggles and legacies when we appropriate each other’s oppressions and that’s not accountable racial justice work.

Here are some of the places I’ve started to think through racism and settler colonialism

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Seize The Tide: Decolonizing the Watersheds of the East Bay

From Fireworks:

“Say infrastructure and you’re saying that life has been detached from its conditions. That conditions have been placed on life. That life now depends on factors out of its control, that it has lost its footing. Infrastructures organize a life without a world, suspended, expendable, at the mercy of whoever is managing them.” -The Invisible Committee, 2014

Black Spring, Dirty Water

Without assuming too much, it is fair to say that you are currently at the mercy of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). If you refuse to pay them for water, they will eventually put a lock on your water meter. If you clip the lock and turn the water back on, they will remove the meter and disconnect your house from the pipe network. The money you must pay to EBMUD is supposedly meant to maintain the infrastructure and pay the workers, although it is hardly that simple.

The biggest customer in the East Bay is the Chevron refinery in Richmond. Every day, the refinery uses up roughly 10 million gallons of water. In a single week, it consumes enough water to supply 500 houses for a year. Throughout the year, the refinery uses over 3 billion gallons of water. Up until 2010, the refinery drew from the same water supply as every other EBMUD customer. But since 2010, around 7.5 million gallons of waste water are being recycled from the municipal network. Today, the refinery only uses around 2.5 million gallons of fresh water a day, or 15 million gallons a week.

dirty1According to the UN, humans need just over two gallons of water a day to survive. As it stands, every day that the Richmond Chevron refinery is operational, it consumes enough fresh water to satisfy the needs of 4,500people for an entire year. The annual water use of the refinery is equivalent to the amount needed to supply the combined populations of San Jose and Oakland for an entire year. EBMUD services 1.3 million people, yet its biggest customer consumes more in a year than the entire population of the East Bay. Even with its recycled water, the refinery is a glaring example of the fundamental contra diction of capitalism.

10 million gallon of water goes into the refinery each day and out comes 250,000 barrels of refined petroleum, or 4,750,000 gallons of gasoline. In other words, for every two gallons of water put into the refinery, less than one gallon of gasoline comes out. This gasoline isthen burned up by millions of vehicles at varying rates. A hybrid Prius can travel 50 miles on each gallon, whereas a Suburban SUV can travel only 20. Either way, both vehicles release climate changing carbon molecules into the atmosphere at consistent rates, thus contributing to the long drought in California. But despite all of the available data, the Chevron refinery is still using up 2.5 million gallons of drinking water per day, all so that millions of other people can poison the atmosphere and warm the planet.

Something is clearly wrong with this situation and it is no exaggeration to say that it needed to be stopped years ago. With a bleak future ahead of us, it is important to begin formulating an exit strategy. Making matters worse locally, EBMUD announced that is will be raising a surcharge to water rates by 24% on all customers. The reason for the raise: people are using less water. Because people are cutting back their use, EBMUD is getting less revenue coming in. But raising the cost under the guise of “drought conditions,” the agency can bring in more cash. The ‘drought surcharge’ is coupled with a permanent hike of 8%, which was supposedly implemented to replace crumbling infrastructure and pay off debts for construction projects. The current raises by EBMUD is a classic austerity move, pushed through the auspices of water conservation and raging drought.

Furthermore, while poor and working-class people are cutting back on water use, many wealthy Californians baulk at the idea of cut ting water consumption. As one upper-crust put it in the SF Gate, “People should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful. We pay significant property taxes based on where we live, [and], no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.” Like everything else, to the rich and corporations go the spoils and water. For everyone else, we pay out the nose. Continue reading

Decolonizing the Colonizer

“Dispelling the illusions and resulting relationships around passive labels of Canadians such as ‘guests’, ‘newcomers’, ‘brothers’, or ‘settlers’. Incorrect labels lead to incorrect relationships. I pursed the point that all of these labels mask the true nature of Canadians; they are occupiers upon our homelands. The labels guests, partners, brothers and newcomers are all pacifist revisionist ways of incorrectly re-constructing the relationship. It starts by ignoring 500 years of genocidal atrocities and refuses to hold Canadians to account for their injustices. The label settler is too historically and politically sterile. Canadians are truly occupiers on our homelands. They need to acknowledge and take responsibility for the colonial crimes that they inherited, they benefit from and continue to impose today.”

Toward Decolonizing Conservation

Humpback whale breaching, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, Haida Gwaii.

By Phil Levin, SNAP.is

Six hundred miles northwest of my Seattle home lies British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii archipelago, nearly 100 miles off the mainland. It’s a seemingly pristine and timeless  place — old-growth forests and breaching humpback whales, endless rocky shores enveloped in pea-soup fog and the penetrating smell of decaying seaweed, and a silence broken only by the drumming of ocean waves and the occasional cry of a bald eagle.

After a visit here in 2010, as I flew back to Seattle, I snapped a picture from my airplane window and posted it on Facebook with the caption: “Haida Gwaii is a magical land devoid of people.”

I couldn’t have been more ignorant.

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Unceded Voices – Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence 2015

UNCEDED VOICES : Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence fosters the idea of bringing together street artists of indigenous and settler origins and build an artistic community of shared anticolonial values. The convergence will promote a type of street art that advocates the decolonization of Turtle Island and will remind Montrealers of the city’s colonial past and present. The artists, living across the Canadian and American states, already focus part of their work on issues related to indigenous resistance, anti-oppressive and anti-capitalist street art.

This second convergence is starting on August 14 and runs until August 23 in so-called Montreal, unceded Kanien’kéhá:ka and Algonquin territories.

UNCEDED VOICES : Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence will organize its activities around two different axes. The first artistic axe will bring together the street artists to create art pieces on the streets of Tiohtià:ke, so-called Montreal. The works will differ in medium, subject and relationship to the public sphere. The second community axe will foster the idea of creating spaces to discuss political issues related to colonialism between the participants and organisms devoted to the urban native community of Tiohtià:ke. There should also be activities specifically designed to involve Indigenous youth.

The  Convergence is a completely grassroots effort, with absolutely no state or corporate funding. We need money to finance the project this year again. We rely on donations to meet our expenses, which is predominantly travel and art materials (paint, paste, scaffoldings, printing costs,etc.). To finance a part of our spending with the project, we ask for $5000.

If you want to support us, we offer perks (patches, prints, posters, sticker packs, mixtape) made by the artists participating in the project.

Throughout the Anti-Colonial Street Artists Convergence, visiting and local artists will be creating art pieces on the streets of Tiohtià:ke between August 14 until August 23. Some of these collaborations will be open to the public: visit the facebook and website of the Convergence frequently for updates. There will also be several events open to the public (workshops, panels, screenings, etc.)

Nia:wen/Thank you /Merci for your support !

gofundme.com/uncededvoices
decolonizingstreetart.com
facebook.com/decolonizingstreetart

Towards an anti-colonial anarchism

Eurocentricism, re-colonization, and settler colonialism

By , Intercontinental Cry

Unnamed anarchist from Europe [interviewer]: Particularly in Canada, the term “First Nations” is frequently used to describe Indigenous societies. This tends to confuse radical Europeans who consider all references to “nations” as necessarily conservative. Can you shed some light on the Indigenous usage of the term?

Taiaike Alfred from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawá:ke [interviewee]: Europeans should not transpose their experience with nationhood on others. I myself do not think the term accurately describes our people – only our own languages and words can do that – but it is useful in a sense; it conveys an equality of status in theory between our societies and that of the colonizer. And it reiterates the fact of our prior occupancy of this continent (Alfred, 2010).

The languages that we speak build walls. The English language, for instance, is noun-based, territorial and possessive by nature. Behind this language, however, is a distinct way of relating – one that is exemplified by the interview excerpt above. Sharing a language does not imply consensus or commonality. In this case, although Taiake Alfred does not agree in full with the term ‘First Nations’, he does differentiate First Nation and Indigenous Nationhood from European, Westphalia conceptions of nation-state. He dually describes why, from his perspective as a member of the Mohawk Nation from Kahnawá:ke, this terminology resists Eurocentric impositions of governance but also responds to colonial power-imbalances. Social movements, especially in North America, often fall carelessly into colonial traps of Eurocentric thought and colonial universalism, as exampled above[1]. On the surface, though, it is clear why anarchist movements and anarchic theory may be attracted to anti-colonial struggles.

Opposition to the state and to capitalism, to domination and to oppression, are at the core of anarchist and autonomous movements; they are also at the core of anti-colonial struggles that see the state, and by mutual extension the capitalist system, as de-legitimate institutions of authority that ‘Other’ and colonize by way of white supremacist notions of cultural hegemony (see Fanon, 1967; Smith, 2006). Anarchist movements, however, often fail to account for the multiple layers of power that are at play, both contemporarily and historically. As Barker (2012) critically contends, many of the Occupy sites, for example, recolonized by uncritically occupying already occupied lands. The settler privilege of autonomous organizers within these movements upheld hegemonic/colonial territoriality. Romanticized for stewardship and place-based relations to land, Indigenous peoples have even been idolized as the ‘original’ anarchist societies (Barker & Pickerill, 2012). Indigenous Nationhood Movements actively seek to rebuild nation-to-nation relations with settlers by re-empowering Indigenous self-determination and traditional governments (Indigenous Nationhood Movement, 2015). Nation-to-nation, though, cannot be taken in its settler colonial form; indeed, this assumption concerning a homogenous form of government was, and is, at the core of colonialism: “modern government…the European believed, was based upon principles true in every country. Its strengths lay in its universalism” (Mitchell, 2002: 54). Respecting Indigenous Nationhood as a culturally, politically, and spiritually distinct movement propelled by and for Indigenous peoples is integral. Reasons for and tactics in support of these movements may vary, however they inevitably overlap in many offensives with anarchist anti-authoritarian agendas.

With Eurocentric understandings of an anti-colonial anarchism at the core of many activist oriented renditions of such thinking, activists and scholars alike have heeded words of advice to those amidst struggles against colonial forces in settler colonial contexts. As stated by Harsha Walia in discussing autonomy and cross-cultural, colonial-based struggle:

“Non-natives must recognize our own role in perpetuating colonialism within our solidarity efforts. We can actively counter this by… discussing the nuanced issues of solidarity, leadership, strategy and analysis – not in abstraction, but within our real and informed and sustained relationships with Indigenous peoples.” (2012)

By respecting difference, even spatializing autonomy, settler peoples would do well to not transplant – to settle – their perceptions of autonomy, of solidarity, of leadership, and of strategy onto Indigenous movements. Alternatively in settler colonial contexts, anarchist struggles against colonial authority, and thus capitalistic systems, invariably require respectful engagement with Indigenous movements. This is integral if re-colonizing tendencies of anarchist movements–oftentimes primarily driven by European settlers–are to be prevented. Anarchist actors, especially when operating in settler colonial spaces, must understand the nuances of place specific histories and colonial processes. As Lasky suggests, there is “potential for directly relating to each other and changing our relationships with each other in ways that withdraw consent from ‘the system’ and re-creates alternatives that empower our collective personhoods now” (2011: np). As Alfred mentions however, Eurocentric tendencies have oftentimes perpetuated colonial relations of power. As a result, the very structures of oppression that anarchic thought starkly opposes, but also stemmed from, creep into relational geographies.

References

Alfred, T. (2010). Interview with Gerald Taiaiake Alfred about Anarchism and Indigenism in North America. Retrieved from http://www.alpineanarchist.org/r_i_indigenism_english.html

Barker, A. (2012). Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America. Social Movement Studies, 11(3-4), 327–334. doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.708922

Barker, A. J., & Pickerill, J. (2012). Radicalizing Relationships To and Through Shared Geographies: Why Anarchists Need to Understand Indigenous Connections to Land and Place. Antipode, 44(5), 1705–1725. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2012.01031.x

Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York, NY: Grove Press.

Indigenous Nationhood Movement. (2015). About. Retrieved from http://nationsrising.org/about/

Lewis, A. (2012). Decolonizing anarchism: Expanding Anarcha-Indigenism in theory and practice (Masters thesis). Queen’s University, Kingston, ON. Retrieved from http://qspace.library.queensu.ca/bitstream/1974/7563/1/Lewis_Adam_G_201209_MA.pdf

Mitchell, T. (2002). Rule of experts: Egypt, techno-politics, modernity. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Smith, A. (2006). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy. In Incite! (Ed.), The colour of violence: The INCITE! anthology (pp. 66–73). Cambridge, UK: South End Press.

Walia, H. (2012). Decolonizing together: Moving beyond a politics of solidarity toward a practice of decolonization. Briar Patch, January/February. Retrieved from http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/decolonizing-together

[1] Adam (Lewis, 2012) explores this topic in depth.

Indigenous Groups are Calling for the Decolonization of Australia

 Protesters march on Parliament House in Canberra. Photo courtesy of Elenor Gilbert, Enlightening Productions

Protesters march on Parliament House in Canberra. Photo courtesy of Elenor Gilbert, Enlightening Productions

By Paul Gregoire, Vice News

On February 9, members of the National Freedom Movement gathered on the lawns at Parliament House in Canberra to present the Australian minister for Indigenous affairs, Nigel Scullion, with the Aboriginal Sovereign Manifesto of Demands. This document calls for negotiations between the Commonwealth government and Indigenous nations across the country to set out a framework for what’s known as “decolonization.”

The National Freedom Movement was born out of the Freedom Summit that took place in Alice Springs last November. The summit saw a delegation of Aboriginal leaders from around the nation meeting to declare the independence of Australia’s First Peoples and address the growing disparities they face. These include increasing levels of incarceration and suicide, the continuing forced removals of children from their families, and the Western Australian government’s intentions to close down up to 150 remote Indigenous communities.

On January 26, the delegates along with 500 supporters converged on Old Parliament House in Canberra to stage a sit-in, protesting the occupation of their land for the last 227 years. When they returned on the day federal parliament reopened to present the manifesto, politicians from both sides of government met with the leaders to discuss their grievances.

The National Freedom Movement is not alone in demanding decolonization. Other Indigenous movements, such as the youth group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, are also calling for an end to the colonization of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

So just what would the decolonization of Indigenous Australia entail?

The Aboriginal Sovereign Manifesto is built around the 1992 High Court Mabo decision which recognized that Aboriginal land title survived British settlement, when it agreed with a ruling from a 1888 British Privy Council case.

Based on this, the manifesto calls for the Commonwealth of Australia to undertake a series of treaties with all Indigenous nations—a process that would require Australia to become an independent federated republic. These nations would then become self-governing territories within the republic. And a new constitution would be drafted, which would incorporate Aboriginal law as part of the legal system.

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