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Arguing using Indigenous law? The Kawaskimhon Moot





Tansi Ninôtemik,


Both Megan and myself were honoured to attend the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot this year on the traditional territory of the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN).[1] 


The Kawaskimhon Moot is an annual consensus-based, non-adversarial moot which braids together Indigenous legal orders, Canadian, provincial, and international law using dispute resolution tactics. 


This year, my team represented the Government of British Columbia – Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding the deviation of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project pipeline at Thompson Rivers University (TRU).


Representing the government, my team knew we wanted to highlight the importance of basing our agreement on Secwépemc law principles to best protect the interests of SSN, while balancing our provincial government priorities. 


We were extremely grateful to be placed in a room with facilitator Charlotte Rose, in-house counsel for Qwelmínte Secwépemc.[2] Charlotte shared much wisdom with us from working with Secwépemc law. She helped us to reach consensus in a good way, rooted in the legal teachings of Skú7pecen (Porcupine).[3]


Our table created a “Letter of Understanding” to guide future consent-based decision-making in the Pípsell area, the SSN cultural heritage site affected directly by the pipeline deviation. 


Guided by Charlotte, the parties at my table agreed to respect, uphold, and implement SSN law. Together we utilized the Secwépemc principles of “Walking on Two-Legs,” “Being Like Brothers,” “Helping One Another to be ‘Great and Good’ – Knucwentwécw,” and “Transformative Change” in conjunction with section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982[4], common law precedents like Tsilhqot’in[5], international principles in UNDRIP[6], and the provincial implementation outlined DRIPA[7] to reach a consensus on the letter and its contents.


To implement this multi-juridical approach in our letter, my table included a mix of state-and SSN dispute-resolution processes for situations where decisions fail to reach consensus. For example, once the 30-day time limit for dispute resolution has been passed, senior leadership will meet with SSN to resolve issues, and may:


  1. Engage a mediator to facilitate the discussion of the Dispute:

  2. Call for a C7iskten (pit-house) discussion: 

  3. Parties engage in discussion over four (4) days;

  4. Agree to the scheduling and timing for the discussion;

  5. Discussion to involve SSN elders, advisors, or knowledge keepers to support a resolution; 

  6. Discussion will connect Secwépemc customs, traditions, and practise including appropriate ceremony:

  7. Secwépemc principles and ceremonial practices must be implemented into any dispute resolution processes, and under the guidance of Secwépemc knowledge keepers and/or Elders, which may include the use of prayer, feasts or any other ceremonial practice determined by the SSN; and

  8. Internal dispute resolution processes will include consultation with the Secwépemc community and families to collectively identify solutions and determine feasibility of negotiations made with non-Secwépemc parties.


Discussing Secwépemc law at my table was a beautiful experience. I found myself speaking up more than I initially thought I would, and advocating to entrench SSN legal stories throughout our agreement. My colleagues and their respective coaches were respectful, knowledgeable, and passionate individuals who I really enjoyed working with.


When reflecting on this experience, I am immensely grateful to have participated, to have been placed in a room with Charlotte, and to have been hosted so gratiously by SSN and TRU.



Check back on Friday for Megan’s reflection.


Until next time,


The ReconciliACTION YEG team




[1] Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law, “Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot 2024” (2024) online: Thompson Rivers University  <https://www.tru.ca/law/contact/national-aboriginal-moot.html>.

[2] Qwelmínte Secwépemc, “Our Team” online: Qwelmínte Secwépemc  <https://www.qwelminte.ca/our-team>.

[3] “Story of Porcupine” in James Teit, “The Shuswap” in Franz Boas, ed, The Jesup North Pacific Expedition: Memoir of the American Museum of Natural History, vol 2, (Leiden: New York, 1909) 658, online: <https://www.uvic.ca/law/assets/docs/friedland-et-al-porcupine-and- other-stories.pdf>.

[4] The Constitution Act, 1982, Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

[5] Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44.

[6] United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Res 61/295, UNGAOR, 61st Sess, Sup No 53, UN Doc A/61/295 (2007) 1.

[7] Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act  (DRIPA), SBC 2019, c 44; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, SC 2021, c 14.

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