Snuw'uyulh: fostering an understanding of the Hul'qumi'num legal tradition




Morales, Sarah Noel

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One cannot begin to understand the nature of Hul’qmi’num legal tradition without first acknowledging and understanding the relationship between culture and law. The Coast Salish people have a vibrant culture, influenced heavily by the nature of their relationships with their ancestors, their kin and their lands. These relationships permeate their legal tradition. Influencing not only regulatory aspects of law, but also dispute resolution processes. Trying to understand and appreciate this tradition outside of this worldview would be detrimental to the tradition itself, as I believe it would result in a transformation of the laws and practices. In thinking about the relationship between law and culture, this research has identified two fundamental categories of law within the Hul’qumi’num legal tradition: 1) snuw’uyulh and 2) family laws. Snuw’uyulh refers to a condition generated by the application of seven teachings: 1) Sts’lhnuts’amat (“Kinship/Family”); 2) Si’emstuhw (“Respect”); 3) Nu stl’I ch (“Love”); 4) Hw’uywulh (“Sharing/Support”); 5) Sh-tiiwun (“Responsibility”); 6) Thu’it (“Trust”); and 7) Mel’qt (“Forgiveness”). Accordingly, universal teachings seek to foster harmony, peacefulness, solidarity and kinship between all living beings and nature in the world. In a sense, snuw’uyulh is a state or condition and Hul’qumi’num legal tradition encompasses all the animating norms, customs and traditions that produce or maintain that state. As a result, Hul’qumi’num law functions as the device that produces or maintains the state of snuw’uyulh. There is another fundamental category of law present within the Hul’qumi’num world – family laws. Family laws encompass the norms, customs and traditions, or customary laws, which produce or maintain the state of snuw’uyulh. Law is a practice – an activity. Arguably, much of the practice of law takes places in the form of regulation and conflict and dispute resolution. Similar to how law cannot be separate from its surrounding culture, nor can the processes developed to resolve conflicts in the law. Since time immemorial the Hul’qumi’num Mustimuhw have utilized processes and practices to resolve conflicts and disputes both within their communities and with other communities in the Coast Salish world. Although the processes and practices have varied over time, it is possible to identify several inherent standards of conflict resolution which the Hul’qumi’num people continue to utilize in resolving their disputes.



Indigenous, Coast Salish, law, legal pluralism