Imagination takes legal models back in time and allows them to look at the indigenous people’s experiences of land tenure.
As they walk on a blanket-covered floor at the old Maskêkosihk (Enoch Cree Nation) powwow ground — as activists discuss the Canadian government’s aggressive seizure of Indigenous lands in over the centuries — the blankets are removed at random.
Some examples are pulled aside as evidence of population decline, after mention of historical events such as smallpox outbreaks or death in residential schools.
Tyler Ermineskin, a first-year Native law student of Nehiyaw/Cree descent, said the activity was “really beneficial,” and said it “helped me realize why there are so few Native law students in these day.
“It showed us that we have a responsibility to create space for the problems that arise in Canadian history, and we thank them for informing our work as lawyers in the future.”
First-year student Rodrigo Vela Figueroa said that the internship made him realize “the human impact that is lost when learning about indigenous history through books, exhibits and other other similar methods.”
The KAIROS blanket project – originally created by the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives – is a powerful and unwavering way to implement the citizenship experience in Canada, however short-lived. Mental health professionals are on hand to help those who need support.
“It’s easy to sit in a classroom and listen to Indigenous history and walk away from the story, but this needs to be included,” said Koren Lightning-Earle, legal director of the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge and lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law.
“Not only are they actively participating and actively listening, but their bodies are moving.”
Adapted to focus on the history of citizenship law by U of A law professor Hadley Friedland — academic director of the faculty’s Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge — this work was held last Monday as part of the Foundations of Law course for 180 students and members of Alberta’s judicial and legal community.
This is only the second year the Foundations of Law class has been held in a First Nations community. Launched by Lightning-Earle five years ago, this is one of the ways teachers are responding to Call to Action #28 of the Justice and Reform Commission’s final report, addressed to Canadian law schools require all law students to take a course on indigenous peoples and the law.
“This allows students to see indigenous people in their own community in a positive way that they may not have had the opportunity to,” Lightning-Earle said. them to think about these calls to action and their meaning.”
One modification that Friedland made to the KAIROS model was to begin the pre-colonial narrative, “so that a rich, dynamic, citizen-based constitution would be clear before contact with the people.” continues today,” he said.
“It’s a great way to talk about three or four centuries of land use in an hour or two,” he said. “Every year I update it to reflect changes in the law and other things that have happened (like the discovery of unmarked graves at Kamloops Indian Residential School).
The Foundations of Law course also reflects the commitment to reconciliation in the U of A’s new Law Foundation Strategic Plan, Friedland said. The plan encourages partnerships between the university and indigenous communities.
“This course was made possible by community involvement. We partnered with the Enoch Cree through the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, working on Enoch indigenous law restoration work. This led Enoch to offer to receive it.”
The lodge was established in 2018 in response to TRC Call to Action #50, which calls for the creation of Indigenous legislatures across Canada for the “development, application and understanding of Aboriginal law. “
In addition to the blanket exercise, students had the opportunity to meet with members of the Enoch Cree community — from ranch workers to aid workers to guest speakers and Elder Bruce Lee, who opened the day to pipe assembly.
“It’s not about non-native students getting into their own bubble,” Lightning-Earle said.