Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Elders Dan and Mary Lou Smoke with U of T Law staff and students

Amanda Carling, Elders Dan Smoke and Mary Lou Smoke, U of T Law students and members of the Indigenous Law Students’ Association (ILSA) Conlin Delbaere-Sawchuk and Leslie Anne St. Amour.

Elders, teachers, radio hosts and writers, Dan and Mary Lou Smoke, visited the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law on November 21, as part of the Indigenous Law and Ethics Teaching Series.

"While Nations and laws are diverse, all Indigenous legal orders have, at their core, ethical codes of conduct that could be used in Canadian law schools as a framework to teach legal ethics," says Amanda Carling, manager of U of T Law’s Indigenous Initiatives Office (IIO).

"We welcome Elders, Knowledge Keepers and other Traditional Teachers to share stories and lead discussions on how we can use Indigenous law to create more ethical lawyers in the Canadian justice system."

"As Canadians, we have a responsibility to learn about the history of Indigenous people, their traditions, and the land," said Morgan Watkins, Students' Law Society (SLS) president.

"As [future] lawyers, we can improve our service to all clients and the public by pressing pause on our own opinions and desires, and listening to other's experiences."

The Smokes shared their personal stories of learning and practicing traditional protocols and how this led to further exploration and engagement with Nations across multiple provinces. Elder Mary Lou Smoke is in the process of compiling her articles on traditional stories and protocols into a book.

The Smokes brought Indigenous viewpoints to mainstream reporting, to what was incorrectly dubbed the ‘Oka Crisis,’ – the reclamation of the ‘The Pines’ Mohawk Land in Kanehsatake, Quebec, near Oka, Quebec.

The Smokes, who are currently adjunct faculty with Western University’s First Nations Studies program, have subsequently taught a course on the representation of Indigenous issues in the media.

They have been hosting their specialty radio program, “Smoke Signals”, for three decades, sharing with listeners Indigenous music, art, teachings, and perspectives. They’ve received the Silver Arrow Award from the Native American Music Awards and SPIRIT Wind Productions (U.S.) three times, in addition to awards for Outstanding Specialty Program from the Radio and TV Awards in London, Ontario.

A member of the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy, Elder Dan Smoke continues to work with traditional knowledge carriers from many Nations including, Cree, Lakota, Ojibway, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida and Mohawk.

He shared with students the importance of the Seven Grandfather Teachings.

“[Consider it a] road map to being the best possible human,” he said.

The Teachings include:

  • Courage
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Wisdom
  • Humility
  • Love
  • Truth

"Respect. That’s where it begins," said Elder Dan Smoke.

He asked students to imagine what life would be like today had colonizers respected and listened to the Indigenous peoples’ traditions and ways of life, which often put women first as community leaders.

"We try to live the life of respect in everything we do," he added.

Tune in to Smoke Signals on Radio Western, Sundays at 6:30 p.m.

With files from the Faculty of Law's Indigenous Initiatives Office (IIO)