In March 2023, the Office of the Independent Special Interlocutor to Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools released the Summary Report on National Gathering on Unmarked Burials: Upholding Indigenous Laws in the Search and Recovery of Missing Children. The Summary Report cites Sara Mainville’s work and her important contributions to Anishinaabe law-making.
On March 27-29, 2023, the National Gathering brought together survivors, elders, leaders, Indigenous legal experts, knowledge keepers, youth, and representatives from Nations from across Turtle Island to discuss how Indigenous laws are guiding the work of finding missing children and unmarked burial sites through discussions, ceremonies, presentations, and storytelling. Sara participated in the National Gathering and her presentation on Anishinaabe law-making was cited throughout the Summary Report.
The Summary Report highlights the role of Indigenous laws and their important role in the work of finding missing children and unmarked burial sites. For example, Indigenous laws have specific obligations and practices for the care of children and others who have died. The Summary Report also makes recommendations for how the Canadian legal system could uphold Indigenous laws in the search and recovery of the missing children and unmarked burial sites based on the knowledge and experiences shared at the National Gathering.
Sara’s presentation on Inakonigewin (law) Miinigoziwin (constitutionalism – “what the Creator gave us”), and Izhichigewin (“our way of doing things”) was cited throughout the Summary Report. Sara shared her experiences working with Indigenous communities on drafting their own laws, such as Grand Council Treaty 3’s Health Law, highlighting the importance of having a diversity of voices and building consensus when working with Indigenous legal orders. Sara also shared principles of Inakonigewin (law) highly relevant to the sensitive work related to the search and recovery of the missing children and unmarked burial sites.
As an Anishinaabe lawyer, Sara supports Indigenous communities in drafting their laws: “the law exists in oral tradition and relationships… the role of written law is to provide a guide to act within our teachings”.
The Summary Report can be found here.