In May, the University of Alberta officially launched a major project to produce research on Indigenous law and governance that is led by Indigenous communities. The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge (WLGL) is a collaboration of the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Native Studies.
It was created in the spirit of Call to Action #50 from the “Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” published in 2015, and in response to community demands
for an academic centre to support building Indigenous law and governance. Call to Action #50 reads:
In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
The activities the WLGL will undertake include the development of working relationships with partner Indigenous communities; development of accessible law and governance resources; holding methodology workshops for analyzing Indigenous stories for their legal fundamentals; and facilitating co-taught land-based learning opportunities between Indigenous and legal communities.
The initiative was developed and is co-led by Hadley Friedland, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, and Shalene Jobin, Associate Professor, Faculty of Native Studies.
Friedland was the first research director of the Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law and co-developed the ILRU’s method for analyzing Indigneous stories. Jobin developed and runs the Indigenous Governance and Partnership Program at UAlberta’s Faculty of Native Studies and created the IGP Method, which she has used to support Indigenous governments’ roles for a decade.
The WLGL is supported by an initial two-year grant from the Alberta Law Foundation and an additional grant of $135,000 from the Canadian government’s $10 million, five-year effort to encourage Indigenous law initiatives.
Its first methodology workshop, held in late May, attracted 40 participants, including members from 10 Alberta Indigenous communities and organizations, lawyers, prominent Indigenous legal scholars, a Federal Court justice, law professors and students.
Referring to “a hunger for information” by Indigenous people in countries worldwide, about how to learn and apply Indigenous laws in their Indigenous communities and beyond, workshop participant Prof. Val Napoleon, Law Foundation Chair of Aboriginal Justice and Governance, and director of the ILRU at UVic said, “This is the most exciting work taking place on the planet.”
For more information, please visit the University of Alberta website.