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The Beauty in the Law, and a Warm Welcome Back


Dr. Darcy Lindberg, photo source: ualberta.ca

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


Today, as we close out the 20th Indigenous Law Students Association Speaker Series, we have the great pleasure of welcoming back to the University of Alberta Dr. Darcy Lindberg.


Darcy is âpihtawkosisân nêhiyaw (mixed-rooted Plains Cree) and is one of six children of the late Beverly Fraser and the late Brian Lindberg. He grew up in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, or as translated from Cree to English, ‘the place where we live on the land together.’ Darcy was an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta and taught most of your ReconciliACTION writers. His teaching and mentorship has meant a lot to us and we miss him greatly.


This afternoon, Darcy will be speaking about law and beauty, a topic he wrote about in “Miyo Nêhiyâwiwin (Beautiful Creeness): Ceremonial Aesthetics and Nêhiyaw Legal Pedagogy.”[1]


Reading this article to write this piece for you, dear readers, felt like a homecoming, despite the fact that I’m a settler on Nêhiyaw territory.


Indigenous laws are embodied, expressed, protected, preserved and taught to future generations in ceremony, art, dress, music, dance and stories. In that way, the form that law takes imparts important parts of its substance. This is antithetical to so much of the Western view of law. Even when Western systems incorporate elements like this (Darcy gives the example of gowning in Court), we reduce and understand them as mere “formality.” [2] In turn, this devaluing of other ways of knowing and embodying law, has the effect of devaluing legal systems that do value it, of delegitimizing them. [3] This is one of the first and fundamental hurdles that we’re trying to overcome in recognizing Canada as a multi-juridical place, where many systems of law operate and interact.


While it’s always good to see these ideas re-expressed and reinforced, it was this paragraph that took my breath away:


“The word for law within Nêhiyawêwin (the Cree language) is wiyasiwêwin, which translates to ‘the act of weaving’. In one manner then, walking in a “lawful” manner within Nêhiyaw pimatisiwin is to live one’s life in a manner that braids together the legal teachings one continues to observe and attain in one’s life, both for personal and collective strength.” [4]

Speaking of beautiful.


Law is relationship, connection, obligation. This got me thinking about the question that every law student has to answer: why did you choose law school?


I’m weeks from graduating, and I couldn’t articulate a meaningful answer to the question until now. Law serves to protect what connects us, to maintain our relationships in a good way, to hold each of us responsible and accountable for the obligations we have to each other. When things go wrong, the law is meant to set things right, restore equilibrium and justice, and create harmony. Or at least, it should (and when it doesn’t, that’s painful on many levels). Why am I drawn to this work? Because of its capacity to create the beauty of harmony, equilibrium and justice. To the Western ear, that’s a pretty sappy answer, and not the one folks are looking for in interviews. That’s too bad.


Darcy describes this beauty as being the product of “persuasive aesthetics” and explains that “Nêhiyaw law is often meant to be practiced beautifully in order to convey its persuasive authority.” [5] The beauty of Nêhiyaw law comes from this sensual persuasion, an aesthetic that engages all of our senses in experiencing, learning, knowing, and understanding the law. By contrast, the common and civil law are “merely written and codified,” and accessing them, therefore, requires less from the learner. [6] Learners of the common law have no “responsibility to go through an embodiment process.” [7]


This Western notion that law must be distilled to written codes and statutes and judicial decisions cuts us off from ways of knowing and understanding the law that is supposed to preserve our relationships. We’ve written off the persuasive aesthetics, the pieces of the whole that give us faith, confidence, trust and belief in our systems of law. In turn, this undermines, undervalues and delegitimizes the law we’re seeking to know. Should it come as a surprise then that alarmingly large portions of our population question the legitimacy of our elected governments? [8]


Beauty has kept Nêhiyaw law alive throughout Canada’s colonial project, through the most overt parts of it, when ceremony was illegal, and still today, through the most pernicious parts of it, when the hegemony of the colonial system tries it’s best to poison the soil where Creeness grows and thrives. We have so much to learn from our Nêhiyaw cousins. And it is going to be an absolute joy to welcome Darcy back to the Faculty, even just for an afternoon.


You won’t regret tuning in.


Darcy speaks at 1:00pm. At 12:00pm, there is a panel discussion between Chief


See you on Zoom!


Until next time,


Amy and Team ReconciliACTION YEG


 


[1] Darcy Lindberg, “Miyo Nêhiyâwiwin (Beautiful Creeness): Ceremonial Aesthetics and Nêhiyaw Legal Pedagogy” (2018) 16/17:1 Indigenous LJ 51.

[2] Ibid at 53.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid at 55.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid at 61.

[7] Ibid. [8] Innovative Research Group, "Opposition and Attention Increase as More Canadians are Paying Attention to the 'Trucker' Protest" (16 February 2022), online: <innovativeresearch.ca/opposition-and-attention-increase-as-more-canadians-are-paying-attention-to-the-trucker-protest/>.


Screenshot below reports the findings of one of the questions in the above cited poll:

https://twitter.com/CanadianPolling/status/1494197967175229440




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