Zhing(aate: it shines, the light of it is seen)sidoun / spread it out in the sun

Zhingaatesidoun

Zhing(aate: it shines, the light of it is seen)sidoun / spread it out in the sun

Totems in Thunderbird Park

Thunderbird Park

April at the University of Victoria can feel like the campus is in a temporary state of dusk. Kids walk around hazy in a fog of exhaustion from exams and emotions. And slowly, slowly, the campus empties out.

It’s that middle world between shifting from academic life into life ‘outside.’ Now that the dust has settled and intensity of the spring exams have begun to recede, I can pop my head up, take some time to take in good breath of air and reflect on my first year of Law.

One year ago at this time, I was beginning to study for the LSAT. Fact: I used the “LSAT for Dummies” study guide. That sentence should really tell you a lot about how things were going in my life.   

365 days later, I have a summer position at UVic’s Indigenous Law Research Unit, I have completed my training to become a Gladue Writer, and they are letting me come back for another kick at the can in September. Oh, and none of these things happened because I aced my LSAT. Thanks for nothing, LSAT for Dummies.

It can all change in a hot minute. Case in point: When my husband and I were newlyweds, my sister and brother in law “gifted” us with a scrappy older than the trees little dog named Frankie. He had been rescued from the mean streets of Cleveland, Ohio. He was rough. And old. So old.

Frankie ended up having another 8 years of life left in him. He lived with us in Toronto, Vancouver, and on a little island on the West Coast. Frankie, whose life had been one of abuse and neglect, become one of love and peace. The last years of his life were spent on an idyllic little island. You just never know. Having a bit of moxie, luck, and a dash of love can be the tonic for transformation. 

Consider David Duchovny. Dear young people, many years ago there was a show called The X Files. One of the main characters was played by the actor David Duchovny. He was a natural, and show was widely successful. However Mr. Duchovny’s talents were not limited to the acting sphere; at one point he was on track towards a PhD from Yale in English Literature.

He began going on auditions (I assume you have lots of free time if you’re contemplating a PhD in English). At age 33 he landed the role of Fox Mulder on the X-Files and his life opened up to a completely different path. He says: “Before I had any success as an actor, when I was receiving rejection after rejection, I thought: what the hell are you doing? You worked your ass off, you were at the best places, you were set up to have an interesting and nice life teaching and writing, and now you’re auditioning for a potato-chip commercial in your bathing suit.” (The Guardian, “The New Review Q&A” Sun 22 Feb 2015). Thanks, David Duchovny, for reminding us that you just never know. For most of us, life is in fact long. There is always room and time to cut new trails.

IdeaFest panel

In the spirit of possibility and new frontiers, I want to share a few highlights from my first year. I had the opportunity to attend UVic’s annual research festival, IdeaFest, and hear my professors speak about “Reimagining Human Rights through the lens of Indigenous Law.” It’s incredible to not only attend a school that has the capacity and willingness to engage in the challenging work of Reconciliation through a multitude of perspectives, but also to learn directly from Indigenous Legal Scholars such as Sarah Morales and Val Napoleon.

Every 1L (first year law student), participates in a “moot.” This is a fancy way of saying a polite argument with your classmates. For the JID/JD class, our “moot” took shape in the form of a negotiation at a Kwakwaka’waka Longhouse at the Wawadit’la (Mungo Martin) Longhouse in Thunderbird Park.

This site is not open to the public and to be able to learn and feel the living expression of Indigenous law with elders, food and a sacred fire was profound. There was a time in our country’s recent history where law was a weapon of colonization. It still can be; however there is counter narrative that speaks to another type of law, one that is loud, clear and true. There is always another path, a different way, another way through.

The humbling newness of my first year is done. I have learned to always pay attention to the counter narrative. It’s where you will often find the wisdom.

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