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The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge: More Than Just Research


Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


This week on the blog we are recognizing various individuals and organizations who are putting in the work to revitalize Indigenous legal traditions and are bringing public attention to the fact that Indigenous laws not only exist, but that the large-scale recognition of Indigenous law is long overdue. Today, I am introducing the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge.

Photo Credit: https://www.ualberta.ca/wahkohtowin/index.html


The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge (“The Lodge”) “is a dedicated research unit based out of the University of Alberta. The Wahkohtowin Lodge’s objective is “to uphold Indigenous laws and governance.”[1] They work toward this objective through “supporting Indigenous communities’ goals to identify, articulate, and implement their own laws; by developing, gathering, amplifying, and transferring wise practices, promising methods and research tools; and by producing useful and accessible public legal education resources.”[2]


The Lodge was created in response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action 50, which calls upon the federal government “to fund 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.”[3]


Photo Credit: https://www.ualberta.ca/law/about/news/2022/4/wlgl-opening.html


As a current law student, I believe that the Lodge’s work goes beyond their stated mandates and objectives. The Lodge is located in the University of Alberta Faculty of Law Building and provides a safe space for all students. The doors to the Lodge are always open, where students are welcome to indulge in a plentiful supply of snacks, to smudge, to gather with other students or Faculty, or to take some alone time in the spirituality room. Recently, the Lodge opened up one of its rooms to the Muslim Law Students Association to be used as a prayer space. This is just one more reason why I think the Lodge contributes even more to this Faculty than one would think.


The Lodge provides not only a physical space for students, but also creates a community for all those who stop by, and I am eternally grateful for everything that the Lodge has offered me during my time here in the Faculty. I know that I am not alone in my praise of the Lodge. I had the opportunity to speak with Hero Laird, who is currently completing their article at the Lodge. I asked Hero a couple of questions about their experience at the Lodge so far.


ReconciliACTION YEG: Why did you choose to article at WLGL?


Hero: I decided to article with the WLGL team because they are, amazing! I get to work with people who inspire and teach me ways -- not just to be a good lawyer, but to be a good person, someone I *want* to be when I grow up ;) we have tons of fun at the same time as we get to do our best to contribute to creating legal systems that work for all of us involved, not just a few. I do not wish to dominate others, just as I do not wish to be dominated. Raising up and honouring Indigenous law is vital to creating legal systems here that work for all of us - including Indigenous Peoples. As long as I am invited to be a small part of such important work with such wonderful people, I will say "yes" with my whole heart.


ReconciliACTION YEG: What have you learned so far while articling at WLGL?


Hero: I am learning about the importance of appreciating and drawing on the strengths of everyone in community - "everyone's wisdom for the wisest result" (which is one of WLGL's core principles) in doing 'the hard work of law that is never done' - to quote Val Napoleon. We all have agency in legal systems, and especially as legal professionals in Canada, we have a duty to understand and use that agency ethically. We have choices to make, and taking responsibility for those - trying to act wisely and bravely, everyday, to create a world (and a legal system) that I will be proud to pass on to future generations - is so vital.


Click here to more about The Lodge and access important public resources related to a variety of topics, including Indigenous governance, Bill C-92 and child welfare, and story-based research methods.


Please join us this week as we profile other great organizations and individuals who are making strides in pushing for Indigenous law recognition and revitalization.


Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG



[1] “Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge” (accessed 17 February 2023), online: University of Alberta Faculty of Law <www.ualberta.ca/wahkohtowin/index.html>. [2] Ibid. [3] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action” (2015) at 5-6, online(pdf): National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation <www.nctr.ca> [https://perma.cc/K38W-UGKZ].

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