The first aboriginal woman appointed to head a Canadian law school says the next generation of lawyers will better understand and help restore the country’s relationship with indigenous peoples.
Angelique EagleWoman was appointed this week as dean of Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, a position she’ll take up in May, a month before the fledgling Thunder Bay, Ont., law school’s first class is set to graduate.
EagleWoman, who currently teaches law at the University of Idaho College of Law, said she was drawn in part by Lakehead’s mandatory first- and second-year courses in aboriginal law.
That requirement aligns with the recommendations laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which call for all law students to take a course in aboriginal people and the law, including the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system.
The recommendations aim to ensure “that this next generation of lawyers would know what the history is and what the legal relationship is between the Canadian federal and provincial governments and indigenous communities,” she said.
“Our law graduates will know that history, will know those legal relationships, and then they can go out and they can help with the new collaboration, the new reconciliation.”
EagleWoman said her new role is just a “natural progression,” one she hopes more people will follow.
“As more and more indigenous people become lawyers, we’re also law professors and law deans. And hopefully by blazing this trail, others will follow.”
A biography posted on the Idaho school’s site says EagleWoman has taught courses on Native American law, tribal nation economics and law, Native American natural resources law, and civil procedure.
The site also says she has written about related topics, including quality of life for indigenous peoples.
One of the highlights of her career was serving as general counsel for her own tribe, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in Dakota, it says.
EagleWoman said the move to northwestern Ontario feels “natural,” and recalled crossing the border to Winnipeg to go shopping with friends when she was younger.
The Bora Laskin Faculty of Law opened in the fall of 2013, making it Canada’s newest law school.