Summer 2019 - FNST 443W D100

Aboriginal Peoples, History and the Law (4)

Class Number: 4686

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2019: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including FNST 101, 201W and one other FNST course; or permission of the instructor.



Traces the development of legal doctrine pertaining to Aboriginal peoples in Canada and the United States, including its shared roots in British colonial law and policy. Students with credit for HIST 443, or HIST 485 or 486 under this topic may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


Aboriginal peoples in both Canada and the United States have a relationship with their respective governments unlike that of any other political or ethnic group, rooted in their own particular historical experience and the body of legal doctrine that has evolved in response to that history. Over the course of the last two centuries, law was frequently used to restrict the rights of Indigenous peoples in order to facilitate the incorporation of their traditional territories into the American and Canadian states.  Ironically, legal formulations intended primarily to limit the rights of Aboriginal peoples also often had unintended consequences, including that the basic principle that Aboriginal rights are deserving of acknowledgement is now firmly imbedded in both U.S. and Canadian law, although questions remain as to the scope of those rights under the law. We will trace the development of these bodies of law to their common roots in British colonial law and policy, and compare and contrast ways in which core elements have evolved in Canada and the United States. We will also examine the larger historical contexts in which each body of doctrine developed, including historical patterns or contingencies that explain the various contours each assumed over time, as well as some of the many ways in which Indigenous people sought to shape or resist legal agreements or proscriptions imposed on their communities in an effort to mitigate their impact.

This is a history course focused on ways in which law was deployed in the articulation of colonialism and empire. Students will use comparative and transnational methodologies to compare and analyze specific elements of the domestic law of Canada and the United States that pertains to Aboriginal people, and to identify parallels and differences in the way each nation used law to define colonial relationships.


  • Participation 20%
  • Readings Presentation & Outline 20%
  • Readings Response Papers 20%
  • Historical Case Study/Final Paper 40%



Assigned articles and materials, including court cases and other legal texts, available through Canvas or SFU Library databases. 

Department Undergraduate Notes:

  1. Deferred grades will be given only on the basis of authenticated medical disability. 
  2. Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) at 778-782-3112 or
  3. Remember to check the Student Information System (SIS) at the start of the term to reconfirm your classroom location(s).
  4. All students are expected to read and understand SFU policies with regard to academic honesty and student conduct (S10).
    These policies are available at:

Department of First Nations Studies- Contact Info:
Phone: 778-782-4774
General Office: Saywell Hall (SWH) Room 9091. Burnaby Campus. (M-F, 09:00-16:30 Hrs.)
Academic Advisor's Office: SWH 9081.

For general information, program information, academic advising (appointment or program check-up; enrollment assistance*): Please email

* Students: When submitting a request or an inquiry, please email from your SFU Mail ( email and remember to include your SFU Student ID number in your email. Thank you.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.