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Friedland and Lightning-Earle: The Tully Wheel Exercise


Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


The 2023 Indigenous Law Students’ Association Speaker Series is here!


Beginning today, March 6, and continuing each day this week, participants (both online and in person) will be given the opportunity to hear from Indigenous legal scholars and academics on a variety of topics related to this year’s theme: Having the Courage to Face the Storm.[1] The event is open to the public, and more information on the event and details on how to register can be found here.


Join us this week on the Reconili-ACTION YEG blog as we introduce each speaker and provide some background as to what they will be presenting on that particular day.


Today’s presenters are the University of Alberta Faculty of Law’s very own, Professor Hadley Friedland and Koren Lightning-Earle. Together, Friedland and Lightning-Earle founded the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, a research unit whose objective is to uphold Indigenous laws and governance.[2] More information on the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge can be found in one of our recent posts.


Friedland and Lightning-Earle’s presentation will be on “re-envisioning the diverse ways people think and act in response to conditions of injustice and oppression.”[3] They will introduce this idea by guiding participants through the Tully Wheel Exercise. The Tully Wheel Exercise is based on the work of political philosopher, James Tully, and is focused on “the importance of connecting local struggles to global struggles and global movements.”[4] Tully “re-envisions the diverse ways that people think and act in response to conditions of injustice and oppression and thinks of them as practices of citizenship, that he calls practices of and for freedom.”[5] Friedland created the exercise, which is based on a paper she wrote on Tully’s philiosophy, alongside Indigenous legal scholar, Val Napoleon.[6]


Photo: Aaron Russell, “Tully Wheel Exercise - Making Connections - Wahkohtowin Lodge FINAL Full.mp4” (04 August 2022) at 00h:01m:55s, online (video): vimeo <vimeo.com/736667190>.


The first step in the interactive exercise is to consider how global struggles, such as colonization, dispossession, injustice, and racism, connect to our local struggles.[7] Participants are asked to recall situations in their own lives where they have witnessed (or experienced) instances of these larger issues.[8]


The exercise then shifts and considers how, despite these struggles and grim realities, “people all over the world were responding to create positive change for themselves, their families, and their communities.”[9] These practices can be referred to as “actions of and for freedom.”[10] These actions can be sorted into four categories: staying within the rules, confrontation, acting otherwise, and negotiation.[11] Although these categories of actions may seem to be very different and even contradictory, the exercise shows participants that actions from each and every category could be appropriate in certain circumstances, and each has their role to play in pursuing freedom, equality, and, ultimately, reconciliation.


I had the opportunity to participate in the Tully Wheel Exercise last year. The main takeaway that I had personally was that there is a place for everyone and for every action in the journey of reconciliation, and that even small actions, like learning more about other Indigenous cultures that I am not familiar with, or teaching others about my Métis culture, can make a small, but important difference.


My brief explanation of the Tully Wheel Exercise surely does not do it justice. I firmly believe that every person should participate in the exercise to gain a better understanding of how global problems translate into individual experiences, and how we can each play on our own strengths to act in such a way that can bring about change within our communities and beyond.


This event runs from 12:00pm-1:00pm on Monday, March 6th. In-person registration is at capacity, but sign up to participate virtually here.



Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG





[1] “2023 ILSA Speaker Series” (accessed 04 March 2023), online: University of Alberta Faculty of Law <www.ualberta.ca/law/about/ilsa-speaker-series.html>. [2] “Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge” (accessed 04 March 2023): University of Alberta Faculty of Law <www.reconciliactionyeg.ca/post/the-wahkohtowin-law-and-governance-lodge-more-than-just-research>. [3] Supra note 1. [4] Aaron Russell, “Tully Wheel Exercise - Making Connections - Wahkohtowin Lodge FINAL Full.mp4” (04 August 2022) at 00h:00m:22s, online (video): vimeo <vimeo.com/736667190>. [5] Ibid at 00h:00m:36s. [6] Ibid at 00h:00m:48s [7] Ibid at 00h:02m:10s. [8] Ibid at 00h:04m:21s. [9] Ibid at 00h:08m:12s. [10] Ibid. [11] Ibid.

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