I sat here for days thinking of a topic that might ignite the flame of that fire in the belly of our Nation’s people and two things came to mind: education and language.
I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the latter in that it has various meanings and lately the one I have acquired is one that many, even the average man has difficulty understanding, which is the language of the law. However, the former is not exclusive in that it does not stand on its own; rather education and language form a bond like that of Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots analogy of Jenny, in which one supports the other.
Acquiring this language was difficult because of its complexity and density, it was dry, foreign and I would be the first to admit, extremely boring at times. However, attaining the skills to apply this language was necessary and is the focus of this article today. Can Anishinabe people of the Treaty 9 territory acquire the legal skills and apply them in a fashion that helps and assists those in need of it, specifically people in the North? Essentially, is law school for you?
When I think of the law I think of legislation such as the Indian Act, which was and still is used as a shield or sword, depending on who is using it and how they are using it. This legislation was used to institute residential schools, the development of Indian land and the creation of reserve settlements and today it sits on Parliament like an archaic old statue that has over stayed its welcome. An act in dire need of amendments or elimination, neither of which is imminent as it will continue to be an 18th century document attempting to dictate the lives of an 8th fire generation; the two are bound to clash.
So I pose this question to you again: is law school for you? I would strongly agree that it is for most and that most if not all are capable. My readers may disagree for several reasons, such as I don’t want to do eight years of school, I don’t know how to read or write well, I have children who need me to work, I am shy, I don’t like talking in front of people, I have never been a good student, I might have to move to the city to deal with homesickness or racism, well you get the point and I have listed many reasons and those were just mine before I started the dream of going to law school.
But let me say why law school is for our people, because first and foremost, it is an education that will empower them with the principles of discipline, time-management, analytical and critical thinking, writing and drafting, finally, a sense of accomplishment to provide for oneself, using skills that are unique and in demand. However, law school will also serve to provide the North with more lawyers, who can criticize and negotiate the legislation and laws used to dictate the lives of their people. It will provide the North with young men and women who come to the negotiating tables with the experience of not just having walked in two worlds but in hindsight danced in them, having floated like a butterfly as Mohammad Ali would say and a bee sting that has yet to come.
Furthermore, There is no better lawyer for the North than a lawyer from the North, one who has swam the muddy banks of our rivers, trapped martens with their Mishoom, hunted moose, caribou and fished the lakes for walleye, whitefish and sturgeon to take home to the family, but also lived in a hardship of broken families living in broken homes, attaining an education lost somewhere along its journey to the North, an education that missed its flight. A lawyer with the kindness of her ancestors, whom welcomed the masses to their lands, cared for them, nurtured them and taught them to survive in a hostile environment, only to be forgotten and abandoned in a world moving forward. A lawyer with the power to forgive but the determination to learn and formulate a practice to which no precedent exists, a practice of Anishinabe lawyers that carry the natural traditions of their ancestors.
So is Law School for you? I would argue that it is for most and that education is for all. The legal issues across our Nation carry an uncertain future with respect to our education, land, water and language, which are just some of the many elements that form Anishinabe values.
Anishinabe people study the lakes, the land and rivers when they hunt, they analyze the weather before they travel.
Logically, it would make sense to study the law that can either enhance or jeopardize the future of these practices. If logic has taught me anything, it is that prosperous Nations are masters of their destiny, not servants.
So if law school will create more Northern lawyers, Anishiaabe lawyers, then yes I would state with confidence that law school is for you.
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