teepee pitched outside law buildingStudents entering Windsor Law this fall will be required to take the course Indigenous Legal Traditions.

Course to introduce students to Indigenous legal traditions

A new course required for first-year Windsor Law students will help them to understand and engage with traditions of First Nations, in particular Anishinaabe, Cree, and Haudenosaunee.

Starting this fall, an intensive Indigenous Legal Traditions course is necessary to complete the Juris Doctor degree. The curriculum change is a response to recommendations put forth in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, specifically Call to Action #28 that called upon Canadian law schools to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, says dean Christopher Waters.

“A big part of that commitment is bringing nation-nation relationships into our curriculum,” he says. “That starts with learning Indigenous legal traditions on their own terms.”

The Faculty of Law is home to 37 legal scholars, including Indigenous scholars Valarie Waboose, former general counsel to Walpole Island First Nation and an expert on the residential schools’ legacy; Jeffery Hewitt, a past president of the Indigenous Bar Association and general counsel for the Rama First Nation; and Beverly Jacobs, formerly president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, lead consultant and researcher of Amnesty International’s “Stolen Sisters” report and member of the Order of Canada.

Gloria Thomas and Bryan Loucks will join the faculty as sessional instructors to assist in teaching Indigenous Legal Traditions. Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam will take up a one-year appointment as a Law Foundation of Ontario Scholar.

McAdam, a lawyer, professor, and advocate for First Nations and Environmental Rights, helped to found the Idle No More movement in an effort to protect land and water from looming parliamentary bills that would complicate Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections.

She believes the Indigenous Legal Traditions course will provide insight into diverse laws — still extant — that predate Canada.

“In an era of truth and reconciliation as well as nation-to-nation dialogue, Indigenous peoples are rebuilding their nationhood and dismantling colonialism,” McAdam says. “Nêhiyaw (Cree) laws and other Indigenous laws are the foundation to rebuilding and it’s an exciting time to rebuild and revitalize inherent original instructions.”

The University of Windsor sits on the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy, composed of the Ojibway, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi. Its law school has a strong commitment to enhance Indigenous voices and scholarship in the Windsor community and within the legal profession.

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