Tag Archives: Val Napoleon

NIP & Not unrelated to the IFLS book club: Emily Snyder: Indigenous Feminist Legal Theory in the CJWL

Emily Snyder (previous IFLS post mentioning her here) has published “Indigenous Feminist Legal Theory” (2014) 26:2 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 365.  Link is to Project MUSE.

Here is the abstract

This article considers the necessity of critical gender analyses of indigenous laws. “Gender neutral” approaches dominate in the field of indigenous law, ignoring the gendered realities of indigenous laws and also the gendered aspects of theorizing. There is a need to develop theoretical frameworks that explicitly address these problems, and, thus, in this article I articulate Indigenous feminist legal theory. This theory is an analytic tool for examining Indigenous laws as gendered. I build this theory by bringing three bodies of work together, which are presently speaking past one another—feminist legal theory, Indigenous feminist theory, and Indigenous legal theory. Indigenous feminist legal theory generates an intersectional, multi-juridical, anti-colonial, anti-essentialist reading of law that is crucial to a multitude of fields.

Kokum Ravens

I had the pleasure of seeing Emily Snyder (author of this report on Gender & Indigenous Law) and Val Napoleon present their work on the forthcoming teaching guide which goes with the graphic narrative Mikomosis & the Wetiko at CALT, the Canadian Association of Law Teachers.  This multifaceted project is real serious about getting the work out into the community, and it’s fascinating.

[new booklet from the Indigenous Law Research Unit or click here )

Kokum Raven Series: Artist Statement

Indigenous law is in the world

and there are many ways to learn about it, teach it, and to represent it.

The way I have chosen here is with the Raven – a trickster for some Indigenous peoples.

She can teach us by being a trouble maker and by

upsetting the log jams of unquestioned assumptions.

She can also teach us with love, patience, and a wicked sense of humour.

She can create spaces for conversations and questions – that is her job as a trickster and a feminist

so that nothing is taken for granted and all interpretations are laid bare.

Val Napoleon


[the last lines of the artist statement i think, represent what I wish I could do in all of my teaching]

Link to pdf file




"A new trickster born of international indigenous feminist consciousness": a graphic narrative of Cree law

page 1 of Mikomosis & The Wetiko,  Character saying: My name is Headache Cho – Big Headache. I’m a new trickster born of international indigenous feminist consciousness and I’m here to say that we need to create space in the world for indigenous law today. To make this argument, there is no better example than the case of … MIKOMOSIS and WETIKO...



This is page 1 of a recently launched graphic narrative produced as part of a research project (full credits below) .


This graphic narrative is part of a special national
collaborative research project, “Accessing Justice and
Reconciliation” project by the Indigenous Law Research Clinic
(Faculty of Law, University of Victoria), the Indigenous Bar
Association and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
of Canada, and funded by the Ontario Law Foundation. (from the front matter)

Here is a news item from the launch.  The story is compelling, short and educational.  The team presents the grim story in a way that packs volumes in yet seems  spare.  Once the story is told, the action moves to a kind of a court, convened by the trickster you see here, perhaps looking like a law professor you know – who assigns three advocates to argue the case in Cree law.  Critiques of this approach are woven into the story.

The medium offers unique ways to connect with a variety of audiences who would be very difficult to reach with more traditional text only programs.  The goal of this book is to (as Headache Cho says) “THIS COURT… SEEKS TO ASSIST THE ARTICULATION AND PRACTICE OF CREE LAW .”   In this way, Mikimosis and the Wetiko shows possible interpretations of the substance of Cree law, but also a way in which that  law could be put into practice.

There are so many reasons to be excited about this

  • because of the way that it will reach new audiences including various combinations of indigenous people, non lawyers and youth
  • because of the collaboration between artists, scholars, students, and elders that this kind of work represents (see full credit list at the bottom of this post)
  • because of the indigenous feminism that the work centres and celebrates
  • because of the introduction to indigenous legal studies it provides
  • because of the opportunity it gives all of us to learn more about the work of Prof. Val Napoleon-(in the credits, she says: I am the Law Foundation Professor of Aboriginal Justice and Governance at the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria in 2012. I am a member of Saulteau First Nation (north east British Columbia, Treaty 8) and an adopted member of the Gitanyow (Gitksan) House of Luuxhon, Ganada (Frog) Clan. My current research focuses on indigenous legal traditions, indigenous feminism, citizenship, self-determination, and governance. Several of my major initiatives include the proposed JID (joint JD and indigenous law degree) program, indigenous law research clinic, and several national andinternational research projects relating to indigenous law.

You can find a longer bio here (her faculty website from the University of Victoria).  Here are some other published works:

  • “Indigenous Discourse: Gender,Identity, and Community.” In Indigenous Peoples and the Law, edited by Kent McNeil and Ben Richardson. UK: Hart Publishing, forthcoming in2007/08.
  • “Making Space for Aboriginal Feminism.” Review of Making Space for AboriginalFeminism, Joyce Green, ed. Briarpatch 36, no. 2 (2007): 29–30.
  • With Richard Overstall. “Indigenous Laws: Some Issues, Considerations and Experiences.”Paper presented at the Centre for IndigenousEnvironmental Resources, Winnipeg, February2007,http://www.cier.ca
  • “Delgamuukw: A Legal Straightjacket for Oral Histories?”Canadian Journal of Law andSociety20, no. 2 (2005): 123–55.
  • “Aboriginal Self Determination: Individual Self and Collective Selves.”Atlantis: A Women’sStudies Journal29, no. 2 (2005): 31–46.
  • “Raven’s Garden: A Discussion about Aboriginal Sexual Orientation and TransgenderIssues.”Canadian Journal of Law and Society (2002) 17, no. 2: 149–71.
To get a copy of the graphic narrative, write to demcon at uvic dot ca – send them your name and mailing address along with your request.  Tell your librarian!

Original Story: Dr. Val Napoleon
Script: Jim Henshaw
Cover & Layouts: Ken Steacy © 2013
Illustrations, pages 1-13: Janine Johnston © 2013
Assisted by: Jazmyn Mari
Illustrations, pages 14-32: Simon Roy © 2013
Assisted by: Jessica Pollard
Project Management & Art Direction: Ken Steacy
Project Coordinator: Renée McBeth, BA, MA
Research Coordinator: Hadley Friedland, LLB, LLM, PhD
Content © 2013 Indigenous Law Research Unit
With thanks to all the amazing students that were part of
the 2012-2013 research. The participating law students
and graduate students are: Lori Groft, Lindsay Borrows,
Aaron Mills, Kris Statnyk, Estella Charleson, Al Hanna,
Hannah Askew, Kerry Sloan, Johnny Mack, Laura Mayer,
and Emily Snyder.








Many thanks to the team for sending me these pages.