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Aboriginal Law vs. Indigenous Law

Aboriginal Law vs. Indigenous Law

Aboriginal law, created by Canadian courts and legislatures, is about the legal relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown within the Canadian legal system.

Aboriginal law involves the interpretation of Indigenous rights recognized in the Canadian Constitution and other laws created by Canadian governments such as the Indian Act or self-government agreements. Most notably, this body of law includes defining the nature and scope of Aboriginal and Treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the Crown's corresponding obligations to Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous law refers to Indigenous Peoples' own legal systems. This includes the laws and legal processes developed by Indigenous Peoples to govern their relationships, manage their lands and waters, and resolve conflicts within and across legal systems. As with Canadian law, Indigenous law is developed from a variety of sources and institutions which differ across legal traditions.

—Kate Gunn & Cody O'Neil, "Indigenous Law & Canadian Courts" (20 January 2021), online (blog): First People's Law <>.


Special thanks to Karen McGill, UNB Law Class of 2019 and Lands Director at the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, for her assistance with this guide.

Last modified on November 6, 2023 09:48