Washington Journal of Social & Environmental Justice


United States (“U.S.”) courts have long failed to recognize the value of oral traditional evidence (“OTE”) in the law. Yet, for Indigenous peoples, OTE forms the basis of many of their claims to place, property, and political power. In Canada, courts must examine Indigenous OTE on “equal footing” with other forms of admissible evidence. While legal scholars have suggested applying Canadian precedent to U.S. law regarding OTE, scholarship has generally failed to critically examine the underlying ethos of settler courts as a barrier to OTE admission and usefulness. This essay uses the work of political philosopher, James Tully, to examine OTE not just as evidence, but as an exercise of Indigenous self-determination. By recognizing the inherent political nature of OTE, U.S. courts may expand on Canadian law to build a just relationship with Indigenous peoples.