Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge

The Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta are pleased to announce funding from the Alberta Law Foundation for the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, an initiative to support Indigenous law and governance through community-led collaborative research and engagement.

“This remarkable and generous grant will assist greatly in helping us respond further to the Calls to Action in the 2015 “Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” said. Paul Paton, dean of the Faculty of Law. “While we have made great strides, we have further yet to go. This support is the culmination of over two years of engagement with the Foundation in this area and provides us both an opportunity and challenge: to demonstrate how research and community engagement can serve the public interest.”

The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge is inspired by the TRC Call to Action #50, which relates to the “establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”

“This grant will support important work by our faculty and students relating to Indigenous governance models and legal practices for many years to come,” said Dean Paton.

Under the direction of Hadley Friedland, a professor of the Faculty of Law, and Shalene Jobin, a professor of the Faculty of Native Studies, the initiative will collaborate with Indigenous communities on the recognition, revitalization and practice of Indigenous laws and governance principles. The project also marks a major new partnership between the Faculties, the Alberta Law Foundation and interested Indigenous communities in Alberta.

“While Hadley and Shalene have already worked hard to build relationships with communities, the Alberta Law Foundation is providing support for them to continue to build on and expand these relationships,” said Chris Andersen, dean of the Faculty of Native Studies.

“It’s important to create spaces for Indigenous laws to be recognized and renewed,” said Koren Lightning-Earle, Indigenous lawyer, Indigenous initiatives liaison with the Law Society of Alberta and former president of the Indigenous Bar Association. “The Faculties of Law and Native Studies and the Alberta Law Foundation are honouring those Indigenous laws by creating such a space and by providing funding for their revitalization. Initiatives like this one introduce Indigenous laws to all students, which will ultimately create better lawyers and a better justice system,” said the law alumna.

“Researching Indigenous law and governance is hard work because it is essentially rebuilding Indigenous lawfulness and citizenries,” said Val Napoleon, director of the Indigenous Law Research Unit, University of Victoria, in heartily welcoming the news of the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge as a sister centre. “Our experience is that there is a deep hunger for Indigenous law and governance research right across this country.” The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge will significantly increase the capacity to do this sort of work at the invitation of and in collaboration with Indigenous groups and communities in Canada.

The two-year grant will support the initial development of Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge using the experiences of its two leads. Jobin developed and runs the Indigenous Governance Program at the Faculty of Native Studies. Friedland helped create and lead the Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. Alongside community engagement officer Jodi Stonehouse, Jobin and Friedland will develop working relationships within interested partner communities, collaboratively determine the scope and need for the work that can be accomplished, work on a pilot project, make accessible law and governance resources, and develop and offer workshops and community-led co-taught, land-based learning opportunities. During the initial phase, in conjunction with James Muir, the Faculty of Law’s associate dean of research, Jobin and Friedland will also focus on building the organizational structure of the project and a robust partnership between the Faculties.

“The Alberta Law Foundation is very pleased to provide funding for this innovative project. The project advances one of the key objects of the Foundation which is to support Indigenous legal programs,” said Darlene Scott, QC, chair of the Alberta Law Foundation.

The Alberta Law Foundation, established under the Legal Profession Act, is the recipient of the interest which banks, credit unions, trust companies and treasury branches pay on clients' funds that are held in lawyers' pooled trust accounts. With those funds, the Foundation makes grants to non-profit organizations to advance legal research, law reform, public legal education, Indigenous legal programs and access to direct legal services by individuals who cannot afford a lawyer.

In addition to the Alberta Law Foundation's generous support, the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge is supported by the Faculty of Native Studies and the Faculty of Law. It will be housed in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.

PHOTO CAPTION: From left, standing: Avery Letendre, James Muir, Dean Paul Paton, Dean Chris Andersen, Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse. Sitting: Hadley Friedland, Shalene Jobin

PHOTO CAPTION: Aseniwuche Winewak community instructors and U of A students proudly display their tanned moose hide, which was the central activity of “The Wahkohtowin Project: Pedagogy and Practice through Community and Academic Indigenous-Based Learning Collaborations,” an on-the-land course that first launched in 2017.