Published In

Harvard International Law Journal

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



international law; norms; human rights; legal pluralism; indigenous


This Article examines the process of international norm diffusion on the ground - where international law is shaping how local actors construct their laws and legal institutions. Based on ethnographic research on an indigenous community in Canada, I analyze how international norms can become embedded in an indigenous community and influence its law-making in a way that mediates between state and local laws. I argue that local groups like the Pimicikamak Cree Nation are engaging in legal mediation as they negotiate among multiple normative commitments. The Cree have designed a government that integrates Canadian and international law into their local legal institutions while also adapting cultural norms and customary practices. This case study contributes to the international legal scholarship on norm diffusion by examining the local process by which international norms are adopted. It builds on theories of legal pluralism by offering a model of how local communities can accommodate multiple legal systems.

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