After eight years of intensive, dedicated educational pursuits, Ramona Sutherland had reached her goal of becoming a lawyer.
Not only that, but she opened her own law firm, Niska Law Office, based out of Timmins. Her specialty is providing legal services in the Cree language for her clients. She represents residential school survivors, as well as handling criminal and family law matters. Niska Law Office is open to anyone.
“Cree is my first language,” she said. “I know there is a lot of youth and little guys who speak in the north, and that is inspiring.”
Sutherland, of Constance Lake, mainly focuses on assisting Elders with the residential school survivors process.
“That makes me feel so honoured when they come in because I respect Elders and our traditions.”
She has been able to help Elders with the healing process of their trauma.
“I give them all the time they need to talk about their horrible experiences. I think when they leave here, they feel validated, and I feel very humbled.”
Sutherland enjoys watching an Elder walk out of her office with their spirit lifted. Another joy in her work is the laughter she shares with an Elder.
“I think that is what I give the clients-I provide a measure of comfort and mutual understanding.”
Sutherland became involved in the legal field when she worked as a Native Court Worker for Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. She commends the staff there of being very committed to their jobs of helping Native people. Cliff Somers was the driving force behind the strong team. He encouraged staff to develop strong bonds and good friendships. Other mentors for Sutherland at ALST were Vern Harper, Debbie Plain, and Lester Mianskum.
“Aboriginal Legal Services was a wonderful place to work. We had a great bunch over there.”
In terms of her educational path, Sutherland received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Trent University. The degree was the springboard for getting her into law school. Sutherland attended Osgoode Hall Law School for three years and then worked as an articling student for one year.
“All this experience has helped me in my journey to become a lawyer. There is destiny and there is being the author of your destiny. We make our choices every day.”
Sutherland recalls being taught by her grandfather to pick up gifts to help other people in her path.
“We pick up gifts on how we are going to help people. Life makes sense if you help people. I love helping people.
Sutherland admits she had a rough start in life and from her experience, she hopes to inspire others.
“I just want to tell our youth that they should just pursue what they want to aspire to become in spite of the hardships. If you believe in yourself, then it will work—you can reach your goals.”
Niska Law Office was officially opened just a few weeks ago.
“I love my office; of having the doors open for our Cree speakers. It takes me a while to go home and I just can’t wait to come in. I hope I am like this for a long time.”
I have never really been that political and I don’t think most Indigenous people are. We come from a very natural history in terms of living, communicating...