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Dr Carwyn Jones
Victoria University of Wellington

What is the connection between traditional stories and law-making? Indigenous peoples, like all societies, developed legal systems based on cultural values and social needs. These legal systems existed prior to colonial law being introduced in settler states and continue to operate. In this paper, I will consider the role that Indigenous stories play in the creation and transmission of Indigenous law. In Aotearoa New Zealand, as the state legal system increasingly draws on Māori law, these stories are becoming an important driver of the development of the law, although this is not always obvious, or explicitly acknowledged. Questions of state recognition of customary law have tended to focus attention on common law tests and so obscure processes of the Indigenous legal system, the sources of Indigenous law, and Indigenous forms of legal reasoning and communication. But how might we understand the Indigenous source of this law on its own terms? Can Indigenous stories help us to better see the legal principles and processes at work? Are there ways of working with Indigenous stories as legal texts that might facilitate a more sophisticated engagement with Indigenous law in settler states?

Dr Carwyn Jones is a New Zealand Māori of Ngāti Kahungunu descent and is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington. He completed undergraduate study at Victoria University of Wellington and his graduate study in Canada (at York University and the University of Victoria). Prior to joining the faculty in Wellington, Carwyn worked in various roles at the Māori Land Court and Waitangi Tribunal. His primary research interests relate to the Treaty of Waitangi and Indigenous legal traditions, and he has published numerous articles on these topics.

Carwyn is the author of New Treaty, New Tradition – Reconciling New Zealand and Māori Law (UBC Press, 2016) and co-editor of Indigenous Peoples and the State: International Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi (Routledge, 2018). He is Co-Editor of the Māori Law Review and of AlterNative – an international journal of Indigenous peoples, and is a member of the editorial board of MAI Journal – a New Zealand journal of Indigenous scholarship. He was a United Nations Indigenous Fellow in 2012 and is a member of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism for the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand. Carwyn also served as a negotiator for his community, Ngā Iwi me ngā Hapū o Te Rohe o Te Wairoa, in the settlement of their historical claims against the Crown.

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