Indigenous Studies (INST) 377

Topics in Aboriginal Governments (Revision 1)

INST 377 course cover

INST 377 has been temporarily closed, effective October 24, 2018

Delivery Mode: Individualized study

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: None

Centre: Nukskahtowin

INST 377 is not available for challenge.


This is a three-credit senior-level course that explores topics that relate to Aboriginal governments in Canada. This course is divided into three sections. Part 1 looks at traditional Aboriginal governance systems before the arrival of Europeans. Part 2 looks at the impact of colonialism on Aboriginal governments, and Part 3 describes some of the contemporary Aboriginal government structures that are emerging today.

Most of the topics in this course are explained through a general survey format, supplemented by specific examples, and explored in greater depth through detailed case studies. Like most Indigenous Studies courses, the sources for INST 377 are interdisciplinary. They include academic articles and books by Indigenous and non Indigenous authors, Aboriginal oral histories, legal decisions, policy papers, and other sources. The approach of this course is to assume that emerging Aboriginal governments will be most successful where they are based on the traditional governments of the past, and incorporate traditional philosophies and laws in a modern context.


Unit 1: Traditional Aboriginal Governments

  • Part 1: Traditional Laws and the Natural Environment
  • Part 2: Political Traditions and Philosophies of Aboriginal Governance
  • Part 3: Treaty Making Traditions

Unit 2: Impact of Colonialism on Aboriginal Governments

  • Part 1: Colonialism and the Canadian Judiciary
  • Part 2: Conflicts Between Indigenous and Canadian Law
  • Part 3: Colonialism, Power and Leadership

Unit 3: Emerging Indigenous Government Structures

  • Part 1: The Constitution Question
  • Part 2: Indigenous Governance and Modern Treaties
  • Part 3: Towards Implementing Aboriginal Governance


To receive credit for INST 377, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent) and a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 20%
Assignment 2 20%
Assignment 3 20%
Final Exam 40%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


The readings for this course consist of the following four textbooks:

Alfred, Taiaiake. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indian Manifesto. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Borrows, John. Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

Macklem, Patrick. Indigenous Difference and the Constitution of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.

Ryan, Joan. Doing Things the Right Way: Dene Traditional Justice in Lac La Martre, N.W.T. Calgary, University of Calgary Press, 1995.

Other Materials

The course materials include a study guide and a student manual.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, Sept 12, 2005.