Łingít Kusteeyí (Tlingit Way of Life): Revitalizing Tlingit Law for Land and Wildlife

Łingít Kusteeyí (Tlingit Way of Life): Revitalizing
Tlingit Law for Land and Wildlife

Principal Investigator: Aimee Schmidt (Takhu Atlen Conservancy)

Opportunity: This research arises as direct response to existing colonial wildlife management structures that do not adequately consider Tlingit laws and values. Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) believe that wildlife management needs to be strongly grounded in Tlingit laws and values and that these need to be consistent and well-articulated for outside parties to understand. The TRTFN Wildlife Protocol and Policy is an important step in the decolonization for wildlife management and to ensuring that wildlife can once again exist in abundance within the TRTFN Traditional Territory.

Objectives: The main objective of this project is to engage constructively with Tlingit law, articulate these laws, and apply them as a guiding force to rebuilding the relationship between wildlife and humans in the territory (wildlife management). The following research questions will be addressed as part of this project: (1) What are the traditional Tlingit laws related to the land and wildlife? (2) How did/do Tlingit people build sustainable relationships with wildlife? (3) How can Tlingit law reshape how we engage in wildlife management across all levels of governance? (4) What are the unique cultural relationships Tlingit people have with specific wildlife species and how should these relationships guide Tlingit stewardship of these animals?

Research Plan: Scholars including John Borrows, Matthew Fletcher, Val Napoleon and Hadley Friedland have studied how to articulate Indigenous law. Friedland and Napoleon (2016) outline a way of analyzing indigenous stories in order to draw out legal principles. In this methodology, the community starts by creating a research question, followed by analyzing the stories using a process called case briefing that outlines the problems, facts, decisions and resolutions that exist within the stories. Once the stories have been analyzed, the principles are put into a synthesis, which is a written articulation of the laws. Finally, the law is applied to the modern context.

Key Outcomes & Impact: TRTFN will develop governance structures that are conceptually grounded in Taku River Tlingit traditional practices, perspectives, and law. This project will create a TRTFN Wildlife Protocol and Policy that will revive Tlingit law and management systems so that wildlife can once again exist in abundance within the Traditional Territory. The wildlife protocol and policy is intended to guide the TRTFN internally by articulating what TRTFN’s expectations are of its own citizens in terms of how they interact with wildlife. In addition, the policy is also intended to guide TRTFN externally as it engages with Provincial and Federal wildlife management agencies.

February 2020 Presentation: Łingít Kusteeyí

Other Team Members:
Shawna Smith (Taku River Tlingit First Nation), K’èdukà Jack (Taku River Tlingit First Nation)