Adoption Constitutionalism: Anishinaabe Citizenship Law at Fort William First Nation


  • Damien Lee PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Ryerson University; Associate Fellow, Yellowhead Institute.



This article explores familial jurisdiction over citizenship, using the study of Anishinaabe citizenship practices in the Fort William First Nation, through the lens of adoption stories. The author highlights how families are able to use adoption to regulate citizenship, bringing new citizens into the nation, while also selecting those who do not belong. The familial system of affirmation is different than a Certificate of Indian Registration and requires collective action, rather than individual self-determination. Belonging at Fort William is further argued to not depend solely on blood quantum, Indian status, or band membership but, rather, depends on active community determination and accountability to the community on an on-going basis. Seen this way, adoption narratives reveal a citizenship order that challenges Canada’s claimed jurisdiction to discern who belongs with First Nations.