SJD Candidate
Thesis title:
Relationships with Land: Exploring applications of natural agency and rights of nature theory to facilitate innovations in Indigenous land tenure and governance
Office in Falconer Hall
84 Queen's Park
Toronto, M5S 2C5

Wanekia (Kia) Dunn is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Law. His research focus is on Indigenous and Aboriginal law, and intersections therein with constitutional law, property law, and the law of equity.  Kia wrote his LLM thesis “Cutting the Knot: Founding Canada and Restoring the Honour of the Crown” as an analysis of how to overcome the intractable knot that is the sui generis legal status of Indigenous peoples, and which holds Indigenous peoples precariously in a liminal space of legal exceptionalism.

Kia’s upcoming work seeks to explore pathways forward via innovations in land tenure within the space of declared Aboriginal title, as recognized in the Xeni Gwet’in of the Tsilhqot’in. His last few years of professional work have allowed him to learn from and work with several partner First Nations, including the Tsilhqot’in. This provided the understanding that it will be necessary for Canadians to expand the scope of what it can mean in law to have a relationship with lands and territories to enable substantive reconciliation to move forward.

The conceptual frameworks for recognizing lands and territories with a form of legal personhood akin to corporation are on the rise in Canada and internationally; they present distinct potential for manifesting Indigenous worldviews and lawful relations. The issue of standing is resolved when natural agency is understood to contain an inherent guardian and steward relation as between the lands and their First Peoples: a fundamental trust.  He returns to the Faculty of Law to more fully develop these conceptual tools so that they are available to facilitate self-governance.

LLM, University of Toronto; JD, University of Toronto
MA Philosophy, Carleton University
BA (Hons) Philosophy, Carleton University
Awards and Distinctions
June Callwood Programme in Aboriginal Law (2020-2024)
Bennett Scholar (2018)
Other information
  • Panelist for the event “Dialogues on 175 Years of Canadian Democracy” alongside John Ralston Saul and Omayra Issa held in 2023.
  • Presented the “Indigenous Homelands Initiative – Housing and Governance Toolkit” to dozens of Nation, government, and industry leaders at the Yanonhchia Indigenous Housing Finance Network conference in 2022.
  • Facilitated a workshop for the Tsilhqot’in National Government to bring together leaders in housing and development to find consensus on a housing strategy across all six member communities in 2021.
  • Co-organized a conference entitled “Treaties Talk” held at Massey College which brought together expert panelists to discuss cross-border international agreements pertaining to Indigenous rights, specifically the Jay Treaty, in 2020.
  • Sat as chair of the Aboriginal Sovereignty panel held at Massey College as part of the series “Sovereignty in 2017: It’s Meaning for Canada and the World” held in, as you might suspect, 2017.
Research Interests
Aboriginal Law
Indigenous Legal Traditions
International Law
Legal Theory
Property Law
Committee Members