Grand Opening of the Wahkohtowin Lodge

Learn more about the The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, which held its grand opening on April 27.

Tamara Pearl - 27 April 2022

The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge [“Lodge”] was founded in 2018 in answer to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action #50 for the realization of centres for the “development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws”. Dr. Hadley Friedland, co-founder and now Academic Director, envisioned a culturally safe, warm and welcoming space in the heart of the academy. The idea was to reflect Métis scholar, Dr. Kim Anderson’s “kokum’s kitchens” and honour the exchange of knowledge through visiting.

Due to the pandemic, celebration of the opening of the Lodge in the Decore Centre at the Faculty of Law, University of Alberta was postponed until April 27th, 2022. However, the work of the last three years has produced a multitude of sustainable research and reciprocal community engagement projects in partnership with many communities. The Lodge is a dynamic research unit that promotes ongoing, rigorous learning about Indigenous laws. The Lodge is dedicated to supporting and upholding Indigenous communities’ goals to “identify, articulate, and implement their own laws”, which includes the “gathering, amplifying, and transferring wise practices, promising methods and research tools” in order to produce useful and accessible public legal education resources.

The Grand Opening celebrated the creation of a physical space where Indigenous students, staff, faculty and community can feel at home. Many events have already invigorated the space over the last year, including hosting three chiefs from Treaty 6 and 8 First Nations during the Indigenous Law Students Association’s [“ILSA”] Speaker Series. The Lodge also had its first articling student, Sarah Kriekle, who learned under the mentorship of the Lodge’s Legal Director, Koren Lightning-Earle. Hero Laird will be this year’s articling student to work with Director Lightning-Earle. The Honourable Justice Leonard (Tony) Mandamin will be continuing on from the previous year as this year’s Scholar in Residence. The Lodge’s website also features Justice Mandamin’s important talk on the Sacred Seven Teachings. In this coming year, the Lodge will feature an Elder in Residence, where each month a different Elder or Traditional Knowledge Keeper will share their wisdom.

To open the Lodge space, Elder Bruce Lee from Ermineskin Cree Nation began with a smudge and prayer to start the Grand Opening in a good way. The celebration was joined by Justice Arcand-Kootenay on behalf of the Court of Queen’s Bench, and featured a number of guest speakers, including Vice Dean Eric Adams of the Faculty of Law, Kristen Seipp from the Alberta Law Foundation and Gavin Wilkes, the incoming President of ILSA. The Grand Opening for the Wahkohtowin Lodge space was reconciliation in action, and a testament to the renewal of treaty relationships. Ekosi.