Reconciliation Necklaces

During the summer of 2015, I spent my time thinking about the Report of the TRC (The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools).  I was particularly obsessed with its 94 Calls to Action.  I found myself thinking a lot about Recommendation #50, which argued for the creation and funding of Indigenous Law Institutes:

  1. 50. In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on
    the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Some may not think this call speaks directly to ordinary citizens, but it really did speak to me.  I work at a law school (University of Victoria) that has already established just such an institute (the Indigenous Law Research Unit).  The ILRU has been doing exceptional work over the past years, working with and alongside Indigenous communities, focused on the issues, processes and traditions important to those communities.  The work of the ILRU, including the work on the graphic novel Mikomosis and the Wetiko, (click here to link to the teaching guide) has been a central part of my own intellectual and political life over the past years.

And of course, there is always more work to do than time or money to do it with.  And so I had been thinking of a way to make the TRC call #50 ‘my own’.  Were there ways that, though perhaps not called to direct action, individuals could support Indigenous Law Institutes?  Could contribute to fund-raising?  Or to symbolic support?  Or could find ways to make visible all 94 calls, and particularly the need to fund structures for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous Laws?  To think with and using Indigenous Laws?

Shuswap Lake – view from the wheel

So… this summer, I decided to take my usual summer vacation (making stoneware necklaces to give away for my September birthday), and spend my time making pendants invested with my own hopes for energy and resources for the work of the ILRU.  Thus, during the summer, I spent my vacation in OCD mode, making necklaces.

PLACE:  I  made the necklaces in Secwepemc Territory (Shuswap).  My family lives there, and I have spent nearly every summer of my life there, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins.  My heart lives there.    My aunt bought a kiln and wheel several years back, and they invite us to play with clay under the deck (sheltered from the sun).  So I made these necklaces while sitting under the deck, watching beauty of the land around.

MATERIALITY: Depending on the batch, the clay was one of these:  CKK6, Klamath Red, Midnight Black, Dove, Polar Ice.  It is stoneware, or porcelain and was fired to Cone 6.

clay drying in sun

I played with a number of oxides and stains this summer, and mixed them into the clay.  I then wedged the plain and coloured clays together.  I then shaped the individual pieces (rib tools, modelling tools, carving tools, etc), played around with them at the leather hard stage, then got them dried to greenware.Depending on the batch, the clay was one of these:  CKK6, Klamath Red, Midnight Black, Dove, Polar Ice.  It is stoneware, or porcelain and was fired to Cone 6.  I played with a number of oxides and stains this summer, and mixed them into the clay.  I then wedged the plain and coloured clays together.  I then shaped the individual pieces (rib tools, modelling tools, carving tools, etc), played around with them at the leather hard stage, then got them dried to greenware.

 

unloading the kiln

At that point, I loaded them into the kiln for a first bisque firing (cone 04, aka 1060 celsius) [basically, a day to get the kiln loaded, fired, cooled and unloaded again).] 

At the next stage, I played around.  Here is where i glazed, used wax resist, glass and rocks!  Then, it was back into the kiln for a second firing (up to cone 6, aka 1222 celsius).

eb802-img_20150815_140533
tying slip knots on cords

And last but not least, I took the kids to the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, where we sat listening to music and tying chords for the necklaces.

 

And… just for more background, here are some comments/thoughts on the different kinds of necklaces that were produced, and how (in my own mind) they linked to the work of the TRC.
“HISTORY RETHOUGHT – Contact of Laws”

I began with two balls of clay.  To one of them i added an oxide or a s
tain (a dry powder), and then wedged it in until the second ball was a different colour.  I then sliced each clay, and layered them together.  I then wedged the clay and cut and relayered it, so that they were mixed, but not blended (ie. the goal was not to fully ‘assimilate’ so that the entire ball was a new mixed shade, but to let the two colours move with and against each other.)

After letting the clay firm up a bit, I tried cutting pieces apart.  It was a challenge to do so in a way that didn’t blur the distinctions between the two colours.  I was struck during the process by the ways the patterns changed even from one side of the slice to the other (let alone the differences between slices separated by several pieces).  I know it is perhaps mundane, but I spent a lot of time while doing this thinking also about how the experiences of people [in the context of our shared history of colonialism] can be so vastly different, and yet still  ‘true’.

From a ‘technical’ point of view, it was also the first time i have really used stains or oxides in this way.  I could see how much learning there is in simply figuring  out how much of which colour to use in each ball, and then what happens if have more of one colour or the other as I am mixing them together? (ie. how much ‘white’ is just ‘too much white’) [my first attempt with white and pink really did overwhelm the pink…you can see it, but you have to look really hard to do so]

MULTIJURIDICAL MIXINGS

After I had tried working with two colours of clay, I decided I might as well up the ante.

Since my own politics suggests that things are rarely lived in a binary fashion (black and white; yes and no; left or right), it might be interesting to explore a more ‘multi’ approach to the clay.

GLASS WORK

In this series, i decided to work not just with two colours of clay, but with two different formulations: clay and glass.

They are, I suppose, similar in some ways:  both contain silica, and the higher the temperature travelled by the clay, the more ‘glass-like’ it becomes.  Of course, i am aware of the limits of my science knowledge.  That has been one of the pleasures of playing with sand and heat.

In any event, for these pieces, i began with a clay base, and carved out some holes/trenches in the clay at the leather hard phase (if you wait too long, you break the piece as it is drying).

My wonderful aunt Janet had taken a stained glass class as some point, and had bought a big box of coloured glass.  And so I broke off pieces (started by trying to use a glass cutter, ended by using a hammer [and safety glasses]) and then arranged them inside the grooves, hoping to figure out how much was not enough or too much.  In a previous year, I went overboard, and ended up fusing the pieces to the kiln shelf.  At the end of the day, I ended up with a number of piece that worked.

  • Made 49 in polar ice white, using largely blue and green glass
  • made 14 in Buff stone clay, assorted glass
  • Made 20 “NDP” necklaces (‘orange’ glass)
  • Made 40 in Klamath Red clay with assorted colours
  • Made 2 with Midnight Black clay

Well… i did try to make a batch of 40 with Midnight Black Clay.  But only 2 survived.  Here is where i learned that the black clay and glass do not interact well with each other.  Too much of something similar in each of them, and the glass, instead of melting beautifully, turned into dangerous shards.

Well… those 50 necklaces returned to the earth, but I learned some stuff along the way about the ways that two beautiful things may not be beautiful if they are made to work together without some real skill!  (I am sure there is a Dene story that carries knowledge about the challenges of two powerful brothers [Yamoria and Yamozah] who at one point were in too close of proximity to each other, and the care that needed to be taken to minimize risks of damage to everyone around them).

SHUSWAP ROCKS!

For these, I carved out the pieces (like a mini sarcophagus) of clay (the same way i did for the ‘glass’ series.

After the pieces were bisque fired, I put a small amount of glaze in the carved out space, and then set in small stones collected while sitting on the edge of the water at the end of the day (watching the sunset, while letting the water wash of the day’s pottery dust).

I fired these flat, so that the glaze would simply hold the rocks in place (and so i would not have to put wax resist on the bottoms)

CEDAR PRESS

After rolling some clay flat, I took part of a cedar branch from one of the trees to the side of the house.  I then pressed them into the clay, and left it to dry.  During the bisque firing, the branch burned away, leaving the imprint of its having been there.  For the second firing, I painted wax resist into the shape of the cedar, and then covered the rest of the piece in glaze.  These pieces had to be hung on a bead wire for the second firing.

BRUSH WORK – set of 7

After wax resist in the hole, I used an oxide and water, and then a paint brush to put the image down on the bisqued pieces.  Then simply a white glaze over top.  They were hung on a bead wire for the second firing (cone 6).  I wished I had done more.

The Non-Series Series
This would be ending with where I usually begin: the project of playing with clay, making necklaces to give away for my birthday.  Here are the things that I do when i am in my ‘summer mode’:  that is, thinking about life, teaching, theory/practice, play, and transformation.  So these necklaces are all ones that emerge as I enjoy spending time with my hands, thinking about heat and time (that is, about the capacity of ‘heat’ and ‘time’ to change things)
Some are smooth, some are rough, some symmetrical, some not, some are opportunities to see what happens with different glazes on similar shapes, or different clays interesting with different glazes.  They are occasions for interpretation.  I am often struck (in the process of giving them away) by the things that different people ‘see’ in them.
Meaning exists so much more in the moment of investing the pieces with meaning than it does in the piece itself (which is in many ways little more than the combination of mud, heat, and time… but maybe that is also true for all of us?)
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#ReconciliationSyllabus – Finding Resources close to my Shuswap (Secwepmc) home…

TRC Recommendation #28 says:

We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

I have been thinking about how to develop curriculum that addresThe view from my mom's Shuswap homeses this recommendation, and in doing so, have been thinking about how to make this recommendation more ‘personal’.  That is, I have been thinking about ways the recommendation could be rooted in my own sense of “home”.  What would it mean to find resources that speak to my own embedding, as a Settler-Canadian, in these histories?  What would it mean to see MYSELF in this history?  And so, I started to think about resources that are linked to my ‘heart-home’:  the Shuswap Lake.

Here are some pieces I have been thinking might work together as a pod of resources, one which is located in BC (given my location here), and which is located in the Shuswap (Secwepmc territory)  where I spend my summers.

I thought it a good place to start because I have spent so much of my life there, I deeply love the land there, and grew up (like many Settler Canadians) knowing NOTHING of the real history of the place, or of the law of the Secwepmc, or of this history of Setter/Secwepmc interactions.

Partly, I wonder if one way for many of us in law schools to start doing this work is to start it from the place that we are AT.  That is, to try to gather together the resources that might enable us to really teach our students in the spaces that they learn… so they begin to see how the various stories of law are all around them in a very concrete way.

I do not, of course, think that is the ONLY way to approach the work, but I do wonder about the ways the work might feel if we take seriously the ways in which we too (i am presuming a settler ‘we’ here, but am open to conversation on that point) are living on particular places, and might benefit from taking seriously the histories and resources of those places.

And so, here is a first intervention, and I REALLY welcome ideas and feedback about resources, stories, documents that might work together to think about law school curricula linked to Secwepmc territory.

so… a starting place might be basic information about the territory, told from the perspective of current indigenous political communities.  As a starting place, it might involve some attention to using the names indigneous communities use for themselves.  So… if not ‘drop’ the Shuswap, then at least think about also usins Secwepmc (or at least beginning the discussions of naming).  And so, maybe begin with some links to how the communities describe themselves and their lands.  Maybe a link like this?  http://tkemlups.ca/our-land/

Might be useful to start with questions about land and governance.

  • Memorial, to Sir Wilfred Laurier, From the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau Tribes of British Columbia. Presented at Kamloops, B.C. August 25, 1910 

http://shuswapnation.org/to-sir-wilfrid-laurier/

Then, what about histories of residential schools?  In this case, we have a wonderful memorie written by a student who attended the Williams Lake residential school.

  • They-called-me-number-one-250x386 Bev Sellars, They Called Me Number One.

This book came highly recommended by friends.  I just finished it last weekend.  So much in there to talk about and discuss.  Here is a link to a short review of it:

https://www.alumni.ubc.ca/2014/events/book-club/they-called-me-number-one-by-bev-sellars/

The book is full of material that could link in easily to any number of courses and topics.  It deals with language, parenting, land, education, torts, crime, politics, policing, governance, religion, hope, despair, etc.

There are some very obvious links to mainstream curriculum.  For example, the Principal at the Williams Lake Residential School was Archbishop O’Connor (familiar in the criminal law curriculum with respect to the right of an accused to have access to the private counselling records of a ‘complainant’ in a sexual assault case).   I found it interesting to re-think/teach the story of O’Connor against the context of the work done in Bev Sellar’s memoire.

  •  R v. O’Connor

          http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1323/index.do

Another recourse to link in could be this:

  • Report on the Caribou-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry 1993

http://www.llbc.leg.bc.ca/public/pubdocs/bcdocs/149599/cariboochilcotinjustice.pdf

Here, there is a chance to look at the Report of an Inquiry, and in this case, a fairly short report.  Nicely, Bev Sellars was involved in the Inquiry, so her memoire provides an occasion to ask questions about what does or does not end up in the Report of the Inquiry itself.

  • Links to the present might include exploration of the 2010 BCLA intervention in on-going conflict between RCMP and the Williams Lake Community (which gives an opportunity to explore how contemporary moments of conflict find roots in the deeper histories)

https://bccla.org/news/2010/09/conflict-between-rcmp-and-aboriginal-community-in-williams-lake-must-be-investigated-and-resolved-says-bccla/

Well… this is just a start.  Would love to hear ideas from others about how these pieces might be pulled together (or substituted with others) in the interests of moving towards TRC2015 Recommendation #28

#ReconciliationSyllabus – Resources for addressing TRC Recommendation #28

It has been a few weeks since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the executive summary of its report, following on years of gathering information about Canada’s legacy from Indian Residential Schools.  The process of implementing the various calls to action will take many years, and will involve participation from most segments of Canadian society.

Law is, of course, deeply implicated in this history.  Law schools will have an important role to play in the long-term processes of reconciliation.  That is clear in Recommendation #28:

We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

In a short article reflecting on the implications of this recommendation for Canadian law schools,  Gillian Calder and I said:

And on recommendation 28, we hope law schools across the country will take up the challenge to talk to each other. What educations models have been employed at universities to address the legacies of genocide, and what partnerships have been put in place to engage creatively and rigorously on those questions? What strategies, curricular innovations, and programs have already been put in place to take up the questions of indigenous laws in our multi-juridical country? What have our colleagues tried in their classrooms? What innovative pedagogies have they developed to ensure that the critical questions of colonialism are woven into all courses? http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/5620/TRC-offers-a-window-of-opportunity-for-legal-education.html

And then we got a note from Elin Sigurdson, reflecting on the work being done by the hashtag #CharlestonSyllabus in the US, to help people generate lists of readings or resources for moving forward some US conversations on histories of race and hate.  What about, she asked, TRC Recommendation #28, and the possibility of the hashtag #ReconciliationSyllabus.  Could we imagine that as one avenue for moving us forward with the important conversations about legal education and reconciliation?  Great idea!

We invite our colleagues to start sharing idea, thoughts, texts, comments, etc using the twitter hashtag#ReconciliationSyllabus.  Next step?  To figure out a webplatform to host the results…

Truth & Reconciliation Commission – Calls to Action (…it begins with coloured pens…)

After year of work, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its executive summary of its work.  The summary, which every Canadian should read, is 388 pages.  It is quite a document, and people will need to take time to read it.   The TRC also released a much shorter document listing its 94 recommendations — or as they name them, Calls to Action.

The past two weeks, this has been truly my favourite document.  It is also a dense document.  There is SO MUCH in here, that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the text.  In an attempt to read it in a way that works with my own brain, I started reading with coloured pens and pencils, highlighting and circling.

TRC p1-2

Here is what the first two pages of my annotations currently look like.  For a PDF copy of my ‘in-progress’ annotated copy, click here:  call to action – rj annotations

I highly recommend the method.  It is a good way to get some clarity on who is being asked to do what. 

I think there are lots of different ways and colours, but for me, one option was to start with the VERBS.  What i tried to do was separate out the different kinds of verb/actions that were involved.  ie.

  • FUNDING VERBS (tg allocate money or resources or funds to something)
  • LEGISLATING VERBS (make new legislation; repeal or amend; appoint people)
  • MONITORING VERBS (to investigate something to see what is going on)
  • REPORTING VERBS (to give feedback or follow through on actions)
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT VERBS (to develop programs, to train, to educate)
  • SYMBOLIC/RECOGNITION VERBS (apologies, admissions, acknowledgements, statements)

I also started thinking about the WHO, to see what kinds of people were being spoken to in the different recommendations (ie. ‘government’ and “Aboriginal” are terms that are inclusive but may be too big for some purposes.  The recommendations are often quite a bit more specific)

  • Canada
  • The Prime Minister
  • Federal Government
  • Provincial/Territorial Government
  • Municipal Government
  • Aboriginal Government
  • Aboriginal Organizations
  • Aboriginal Peoples
  • Aboriginal Spiritual Leaders

And then, when you get going, you start to see that there are LOTS of groups and people in here: Parties to the Settlement Agreement; Law Societies and Law Schools; Medical and Nursing Schools, health care workers; religious congregations; faith groups; Journalists, Coaches; archivists, interfaith social justice groups.

Further more, if you go through with a yellow highlighter, you can see all the times that the Calls to Action ask people to work together in collaboration.  And there is often specificity regarding WHICH groups should be working together collaboratively on which kinds of activities.  Some of these things need people to work together, and some of them make space for people working alone.

My own advice?  Pick up some crayons and start reading….

(if you want to read a short piece that my friend Gillian Calder and I wrote for Canadian Lawyer magazine on recommendations #27 (the Federation of Law Societies)  and #28 (to Law Schools) click here)

Reflections on the encounter of Lady Justice and Madam Justice

Lady Justice, blindfolded
Lady Justice, eyes wide open...

I will begin with an observation…. one that I take to be self evident: gender has long been implicated in histories of judging.  While women’s inclusion in the judiciary is a relatively recent phenomenon, this does not mean that our history of Justice has been ungendered.  On the contrary, gender has been deeply implicated in both ‘the real’ and ‘the ideal’.  For in these histories, there has long been an allocating of gender between ‘ideas’ and ‘bodies’.  As far as ideas find representation in visual form, Justice has long been captured in the image of “Justicia” — Lady Justice.  She appears to us, sometimes blindfolded, sometimes not, holding out the sword and scales that enable her to judge.

Of course, if the idea of Justice has been captured in the form of a woman, the bodies of actual judges were, until recent times, captured in bodies that were exclusively male.

Lord Denning
Bewigged Male Judges
Classic study of the US Supreme Court

The paintings and photos that have lined the halls of courts and schools of law,  have captured generations of robed and bewigged me.  It only makes sense that the classic study of the judges at the United States Supreme Court could have been titled “The Brethren”.  It was descriptive accurate.

But of course times have begun to change. The brothers have increasingly been joined by their sisters.  On the current Canadian Supreme Court, there are 5 men, and 4 women, one of whom is the Chief Justice.

Canadian Supreme Court

It is worth reminding ourselves that we didn’t arrive at this place of seeming equality through some ‘natural’ form of evolution.  On the contrary, it is tied to the active struggles of our forebearers.  Over the past 100 years, women and those who supported them fought for women’s inclusion in law, not simply as “subjects” of law, but also as active participants in the making of law… as legislators, litigators, and adjudicators. Women struggled for the vote, for the right to attend law schools, to become practicing lawyers, to be elected to government.  These struggles are not so far off in the distant past, but link us to the present day.  When it come to “Lady Justice” (in both senses of the word… a gendered ideal, and female gendered bodies), one might trace a history of ‘firsts’, as women have gradually come to be present as members of the judiciary.

FIRSTS FOR LADY JUSTICE

•1916, Emily Murphy, 1st woman police magistrate in the British Empire
•1917, Helen Gregory McGill, 1st woman judge, Vancouver Juvenile Court
•1934, Helen Kinnear, 1st woman superior court judge in British Commonwealth
•1971, Mabel Van Camp, 1st woman appointed to ON Supreme Court
•1971, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, 1st woman appointed to QC Court of Appeal
•1973, Jean Folster, 1st native woman appointed magistrate, MN
•1975, Agnes Sempler,1st Aboriginal woman Justice of the Peace in NWT
•1976, Rosalie Abella, 1st Jewish woman judge, ON Provincial Court
•1977, Mary Wong, 1st Chinese Canadian woman Citizenship Court Judge
•1982, Bertha Wilson, 1st woman on Supreme Court of Canada
•1987, Corrine Sparks, 1st black woman judge in family court in NS
•1991, Terry Vyse, 1st Aboriginal person on ON Provincial Court
•1992, Catherine Fraser,1st woman chief justice of AB Court of Appeal
•1993, Maryka Omatsu, 1st East Asian woman judge, ON Prov Ct
•1994, Rose Boyko, 1st Aboriginal woman federally appointed superior court judge, ON
•1998, Margaret Larlee, 1st women judge on the NB Court of Appeal
•1999, Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, 1st black woman judge in QC
•2000, Beverly McLachlin, 1st woman Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Canada

Reading over this list, I found myself remembering a day back in 1982, when my own mother corralled me off to the University of Calgary to listen to a talk by Bertha Wilson, who had just been appointed as the first woman on the Canadian Supreme Court. As a first year music student, I sat in the audience with my mother and sisters, listening to Bertha Wilson speak, trying to re-visualize the image of the male judge so fixed in my own mind.  I don’t remember anything of what Bertha Wilson actually saidthat day, but I do remember sitting there rapt, listening to her lingering Scottish brogue (she was herself an immigrant to Canada), and beginning to imagine that the law might have a place for someone like me… and not just in the ‘juvenile delinquent’ capacity that some of my junior high school teachers feared was likely to be my lot in life!

Justice Bertha Wilson

I found myself reflecting on the very real changes we have had in the judiciary over the course of my own nearly 20 year engagement with the law.  Yes…. the brethren have been joined by some of their sisters.  And it is true that, for women of some communities, we have begun to travel sufficiently far down the path of inclusion that they are not the 1st, but the 5th, 10th, or 20th to arrive in their court.  And this is a leap forward.  It enables us to relieve individual women of the felt obligation to represent ‘all’ — to speak or judge as exemplars of a kind.  With a trail blazed and open, women and men alike are better enabled to do their work in ways that is attentive to the diversity that exists in every community.

But it is worth reminding ourselves that the struggle for representative justice does require that we take seriously the demands of diversity:  it is true that the Canadian Supreme Court now includes women, but it is also a part of our history that all of its judges have been white, and none have been drawn from the many indigenous communities whose roots run so deep in this land.

As always, there is work to be done as we continue with the project of not simply ‘judging’ but also ‘building’ the forms of justice by which we wish to be governed.  The addition of women challenges us to consider the imagery we draw on to imagine “Justice” that reflects the aspirations and desires of men and women alike (with all the diversity offered by race, class, sexual orientation, mother tongue).  It is this that presses back against us as we work at the business of producing a justice attentive to the richness and possibility present in our society.