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Indigenous law camp imparts valuable lessons

Members of Western’s Faculty of Law had the unique opportunity to learn first-hand about Indigenous law thanks to the Anishinaabe Law Camp held March 23-26. 

The four-day camp took place on the territory of Deshkan Ziibing, at the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, and was organized by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, along with Western’s Faculty of Law and the Western Indigenous Interdisciplinary Development Initiative.

The camp attracted students and scholars from many disciplines and considered the continuing and rich role of Indigenous law and teachings in the life of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

Participants learned how the land, treaties, case stories, values and deliberative practices all play a part in the development, interpretation and practice of Anishinaabe law. They experienced teachings and ceremonies involving fire, tobacco, wood, sage, water and singing (with drum accompaniment), and listened to stories that carried important insights about Anishinaabe law.

First-year law student Leaelle Derynck summarized what the experience meant for her.

“The Canadian legal tradition is only one story and that story is based on a particular set of values and history,” she said. “I think it’s our duty within law, and as treaty partners, to learn more about Indigenous legal traditions, and that cannot be done without community engagement and land-based learning. It’s our responsibility within the legal profession to be conscious of our privilege.”

The Anishinaabe Law Camp was made possible thanks to the warm welcome and active participation of the members of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. Brenda Young, the Community Justice Director at the First Nation and the Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellow at Western’s Faculty of Law, played a particularly important role in helping to organize and facilitate the camp.

This article appeared in the Western Law 2017 Alumni Magazine.
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