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Friday, January 24, 2014

Dissertation on Legal Pluralism in the Red River Colony, 1811-69

A doctoral dissertation by Nelly Laudicina of the University of Ottawa "Droit et metissages, Evolution et usages de la loi a la colonie de la Riviere Rouge, 1811--1869" from 2013 is available on the ProQuest Theses & Dissertations database (in French).

Here's the abstract in English:

This dissertation examines the evolution of law in Red River (Assiniboia) through the systems, ideas and events that informed the inhabitants' conception of the juridical, from the colony's creation until its entry into the Canadian Confederation as part of the province of Manitoba. Assiniboia was founded in 1811 in the unsettled Indian Territories. Those vast stretches of land were used as hunting grounds by fur-trading companies, who developed the codes and practices of a lex non scripta on-site to regulate social norms, trade and competition. In the 1820s, the District of Assiniboia came under the management of the Hudson's Bay Company and was placed under its jurisdiction, and, until the late 1860s, Red River was the first and only settlement of the western interior to have its own government and institutions. By examining the legislative and judicial records of the district, the narratives, correspondence and journals composed by settlers, missionaries and rulers of Red River, this dissertation studies the uses of the law as a form of symbolic violence and a normative tool in the social context of the colony. This study contends that, half a century after its creation, Assiniboia was a hybrid legal space ruled simultaneously by customary and institutional law. It demonstrates the population's active role in its own governance and the gradual establishment of a legal pluralism that recognized and respected Red River's multicultural society, one composed of French and English speaking settlers, Amerindians, and a majority of semi-nomadic people of mixed descent. Ultimately, this study highlights the fundamental role played by the Métis and their Native background in all of the changes to the territory's legal system.

Nelly Laudicina has also published "The Rules of Red River: The Council of Assiniboia and its Impact on the Colony, 1820-1869" in Past Imperfect, the graduate student journal of the University of Alberta History and Classics Department.

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