The article explores two views of the relationship between law and power using examples principally derived from the relationship between indigenous peoples and the state in both domestic (national) law and international law. From a critical perspective law simply encodes, entrenches and perpetuates power relationships. From this perspective law is incapable of speaking truth to power. From a liberal perspective law has emancipatory possibilities with the potential to de-stabilize and change the status quo. The presentation argues that the possibilities associated with this second perspective are most likely to be realized as a result of the interaction between different legal systems and especially the interaction between domestic (or national) legal systems and the international legal system.