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The heart of the traditional legal order of the Lake Babine Nation
of north-central British Columbia is the grand ceremonial feast known
as the balhats, or potlatch. Misunderstood and widely condemned as a
wasteful display of pride, the balhats ceremonies were outlawed by the
Canadian government in the late nineteenth century. Throughout the
years that followed, the Lake Babine Nation struggled to adapt their
laws to a changing society while maintaining their cultural
Although the widespread feasting and exchange practices of the
balhats have attracted continuous academic and political interest since
the nineteenth century, little consideration has been given to
understanding the legal practices embedded within the ceremonies.
Cis dideen kat, the only book ever written about the Lake
Babine Nation, describes the customary legal practices that constitute
Authors Jo-Anne Fiske and Betty Patrick use historical and
contemporary data to create a background against which the changing
relations between the Lake Babine Nation and the Canadian state are
displayed and defined, leading to the current era of treaty
negotiations and Aboriginal self-government.
Through interviews with community chiefs and elders, oral histories,
focus groups, and archival research, Fiske and Patrick have documented
and defined a traditional legal system still very much misunderstood.
Their findings include material not previously published, making this
book essential reading for those involved in treaty negotiations as
well as for those with an interest in Aboriginal and state relations