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The power and relevance of Ojibway sacred stories

November 22, 2006

Source: University of Toronto

What do origin sacred stories say about people’s understanding of their place in the universe and their relationship to other living things? How can we answer the multi-layered and complex question: "Who was where when?"

In response to growing public awareness about religion and its influence on modern society, the U of T Faculty of Law has launched an innovative discussion series entitled Law, Religion and Society. The third session, Adisokanak (Ojibway Sacred Stories) and Canadian Law will take place Tuesday, Nov. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Faculty of Law. The earlier sessions addressed gay rights and recent controversial Islamic law issues.

Aboriginal law professor Darlene Johnston, a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, will demonstrate how aboriginal history and self-understanding are conveyed across generations by stories and teachings that are grounded in particular landscapes. "All Creation stories are true. There is not one story that can be true for all peoples of the world," Johnston said. "Origin stories require the utmost respect."

Johnston was the first female aboriginal law student and first aboriginal law professor at the Faculty of Law. She is featured in a special Women Trailblazers photo exhibition in the lobby of Flavelle House. She is passionately committed to the protection of the fishing and land rights and preserving the cultural heritage of her ancestors. Between 1991 and 2001, she co-ordinated land claims research and litigation for the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. Her advocacy contributed to the judicial recognition of her people’s treaty right to the commercial fishery and to the recovery and protection of burial grounds and other culturally significant sites within their traditional territory. Her current research focuses on the relationship between totemic identity, territoriality and governance.

To read Johnston's paper, Connecting People to Place: The Power and Relevance of Origin Stories go to This discussion will be broadcast live on the web at in order to increase accessibility to a wider audience.



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