By Rebecca Johnson
TRC Recommendation #28 says:
We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
I have been thinking about how to develop curriculum that addresses this recommendation, and in doing so, have been thinking about how to make this recommendation more ‘personal’. That is, I have been thinking about ways the recommendation could be rooted in my own sense of “home”. What would it mean to find resources that speak to my own embedding, as a Settler-Canadian, in these histories? What would it mean to see MYSELF in this history? And so, I started to think about resources that are linked to my ‘heart-home’: the Shuswap Lake.
Here are some pieces I have been thinking might work together as a pod of resources, one which is located in BC (given my location here), and which is located in the Shuswap (Secwepmc territory) where I spend my summers.
I thought it a good place to start because I have spent so much of my life there, I deeply love the land there, and grew up (like many Settler Canadians) knowing NOTHING of the real history of the place, or of the law of the Secwepmc, or of this history of Setter/Secwepmc interactions.
Partly, I wonder if one way for many of us in law schools to start doing this work is to start it from the place that we are AT. That is, to try to gather together the resources that might enable us to really teach our students in the spaces that they learn… so they begin to see how the various stories of law are all around them in a very concrete way.
I do not, of course, think that is the ONLY way to approach the work, but I do wonder about the ways the work might feel if we take seriously the ways in which we too (i am presuming a settler ‘we’ here, but am open to conversation on that point) are living on particular places, and might benefit from taking seriously the histories and resources of those places.
And so, here is a first intervention, and I REALLY welcome ideas and feedback about resources, stories, documents that might work together to think about law school curricula linked to Secwepmc territory.
so… a starting place might be basic information about the territory, told from the perspective of current indigenous political communities. As a starting place, it might involve some attention to using the names indigneous communities use for themselves. So… if not ‘drop’ the Shuswap, then at least think about also usins Secwepmc (or at least beginning the discussions of naming). And so, maybe begin with some links to how the communities describe themselves and their lands. Maybe a link like this? http://tkemlups.ca/our-land/
Might be useful to start with questions about land and governance.
- Memorial, to Sir Wilfred Laurier, From the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau Tribes of British Columbia. Presented at Kamloops, B.C. August 25, 1910
Then, what about histories of residential schools? In this case, we have a wonderful memorie written by a student who attended the Williams Lake residential school.
This book came highly recommended by friends. I just finished it last weekend. So much in there to talk about and discuss. Here is a link to a short review of it:
The book is full of material that could link in easily to any number of courses and topics. It deals with language, parenting, land, education, torts, crime, politics, policing, governance, religion, hope, despair, etc.
There are some very obvious links to mainstream curriculum. For example, the Principal at the Williams Lake Residential School was Archbishop O’Connor (familiar in the criminal law curriculum with respect to the right of an accused to have access to the private counselling records of a ‘complainant’ in a sexual assault case). I found it interesting to re-think/teach the story of O’Connor against the context of the work done in Bev Sellar’s memoire.
- R v. O’Connor
Another recourse to link in could be this:
- Report on the Caribou-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry 1993
Here, there is a chance to look at the Report of an Inquiry, and in this case, a fairly short report. Nicely, Bev Sellars was involved in the Inquiry, so her memoire provides an occasion to ask questions about what does or does not end up in the Report of the Inquiry itself.
- Links to the present might include exploration of the 2010 BCLA intervention in on-going conflict between RCMP and the Williams Lake Community (which gives an opportunity to explore how contemporary moments of conflict find roots in the deeper histories)
Well… this is just a start. Would love to hear ideas from others about how these pieces might be pulled together (or substituted with others) in the interests of moving towards TRC2015 Recommendation #28