Mapping Intergenerational Memories (Part I): Proving the Contemporary Truth of the Indigenous Past
54 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 10, 2014
How Indigenous communities choose to represent spaces or spatial information is integral to constructing and archiving cultural memory, articulating current environmental use, and dealing with evidentiary issues for title or land claim cases. For Indigenous communities around the world, the legacy of Western (often, colonial) cartography and spatial theory is disconnected from the many distinct narratives of space (and time) in Native communities.
Specifically in legal situations, this disconnect often reflects a power struggle between a Western, Cartesian division of space and time, and a relational, dynamic capitulation of space and time by an Indigenous group. Indigenous communities attempting to utilize Western legal forums for recognition of their rights face evidentiary hurdles caused by the ethnocentrism inherently built into legal systems. Although exceptions exist to hearsay rules, which allow oral history to be admitted as evidence and are common in multiple jurisdictions, fact finders are not comfortable placing conclusive weight on intergenerational memories. This discomfort is based on Western society’s ideas about what constitutes reality and reliability and results in Indigenous communities being held to strictly Western and often overly lineal principles. Indigenous communities need concrete methods to bring their intergenerational memories into Western courtrooms and have lawyers and judges receive and understand these fully and from an Indigenous standpoint.
Keywords: Indigenous communities, spatial information, cultural memory,evidence, cartography, Cartesian, intergenerational memories
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