Saturday, June 2, 2018

Indigenous Research: Procedure and Method

I have been taking an Indigenous Law Research course at the University of Victoria.

The case study as been the Gitkxan Legal Order.

I purchased the two text books: Neil Sterritt’s Mapping My Way Home and Hadley Friedland’s, The Wetiko Legal Principles: Cree and Anishinabek Responses to Violence and Victimization which as been published.

I thought I would just use Rebecca’s text books, but after a couple of classes I could see that I wanted to have everyone in the class sign my book – so using Rebecca’s copy just wasn’t going to work for me that way.

Once I got to the bookstore, I purchased Hadley’s book as well. Although I am trying to divest myself of objects, at the same time, I am thinking that it is OK to have objects that are well loved and that represent new kinds of thinking for me.

The class has been populated by law students who have come from across Canada: New Brunswick, Ottawa, the Yukon, the North West Territories, Halifax – the length and breadth of Canada. We have worked our way through 20 stories, finding the Legal Orders in the story and presenting them to the class. The last assignment has been for the students to write a legal memo using the indigenous law that is contained in the story.

Rebecca and I just had to present in class: what questions are we taking forward? what stories do I still have in my mind?, and how do we intend to practise what we have learned?

I only took five minutes of the time, but told the students at the end of my presentation, I would answer any question.

Just one question though. When it came time to ask the question there was a long silence. Every reader probably knows how long silence can seem at this point. I began to count the old referee way, by imagining my arm going back and forth, one rhinoceros, two rhinoceros, three rhinoceros ….

Finally one hand went up, and then a few more.

One question was what is the next course I am taking?

That question stumped me. I don’t know. I told them that I am going to finish up the Business Associations Course that I am taking with Rebecca, and that student said, “I know you are taking it. I am in that class too, and I wish I were in your group.” I had to tell her that my group is not as much fun as it looks. The PHD student in that group is already doing push back, and telling that others not to listen to me, that he is setting himself up as the moral compass of the group and warning them that I am to be watched.


I might have gone a little too far in the group work last week. I was trying to get the corporation that our group owns to issue more shares to everyone, and he was resisting.

Rebecca and I are an unusual pairing in class in a presentation: she, the post modern feminist and me, the life-long learner. I was reminded of the teacher’s surprise when Catherine and I took a class many years ago together – that class was on the History of Women in Quebec. Then, the professor said she had never had a mother-daughter duo in a class before.

In this instance of us both being in the class before, Rebecca has taught this material twice before. This time she was sitting in on the class since it was originally Val’s material. I was gifted with the opportunity to attend.

... white and fuschia peonies ...
When we had the closing circle, someone hidden in behind the lectern said, “I want to be the first one to start.:”

Then she appeared with 3 bouquets of flowers: one for Val, one for Rebecca and one for me.

I have no idea which one of the three of us was the most surprised.

Val said she had never been given flowers before at the end of the class. Rebecca and I felt we had double scored for both of our sets of flowers were going to the same home.

Val as gone to Vancouver this evening, to present tomorrow at a conference of Ontario and BC lawyers.

She asked the students to tell her what she should say to that group about how the legal associations can help incorporate indigenous practise in their work. Val took careful notes of what these graduating students offered for suggestions. Some of them are working on their masters, and some on into their phd work. Stunning for me to hear how articulate they can be and indigenous legal orders.

I have a binder full of photocopied work, two text books and a notebook with my scribbling from the course.

All, gifts.


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