Changing Narratives: Indigenous Knowledges as a Critique of Criminal Justice

Indigenous systems of knowledge, law and governance were attacked and devalued by colonial institutions on the basis of their racially-defined inferiority. In contemporary legal, criminological and social work theory, research and practice, Indigenous knowledge continues to be considered as secondary to dominant Eurocentric traditions of law and science. To date, there has been limited engagement in these disciplines with either postcolonial theory or Indigenous knowledges.  

All research paradigms consist of an ontology, an epistemology, a methodology and an axiology.  In the context of criminal justice theory and practice, this schema provides a useful tool to shift the epistemological priority given to certain forms of knowledge, to question the centrality of western understandings of crime and control, and to treat seriously the importance of Indigenous ways of seeing and knowing. This paper explores these issues, particularly through an examination of two areas of criminal justice intervention: risk analysis and rehabilitation.