Anishinaabe Law Camp 2022


DATES: Thursday September 29 – Sunday October 2, 2022 

This three-day intensive course was taught on the Chippewas of Rama Mnjikaning First Nation, on Lake Couchiching, outside of Orillia Ontario. The program introduced participants to Indigenous law from a land-based perspective; they received teachings from Elders and other members of the community on Anishinaabe law and legal traditions, while immersing themselves in traditional practices. Professor John Borrows, Loveland Chair in Indigenous Law, led the 2-credit course, and joint activities with Osgoode Hall Law school. The class required a willingness to learn in an immersive setting, where weather was variable. Faculty, staff, and representatives from the university also participated.

One of the primary goals for the course was to invite the law school community to engage in thinking about important legal and historical issues in new ways, with an introduction to Anishinaabe legal concepts and principles, pedagogies and modes of reasoning. Participants began to learn how to read the most fundamental text that the Anishinaabe have historically drawn upon to build their intellectual tradition: the land itself. They listened to some of the ancient stories of the community and discussed how to tease out some of the principles they contain for living respectfully and resolving conflicts.

Aspects of current conflicts and dilemmas experienced by the community were also explained and reflected on throughout the course. Participants built awareness of the existence and richness of Indigenous legal traditions, contributing to their understanding of, and orientation to the law and to the territory of First Nations in southern Ontario. Participants increased their ability to see their common law training in critical perspective and they gained a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities not only as members of the Law school community, but in relation to the Indigenous communities whose territories they live and study on in Toronto. The program was a tremendous success.

Student Perspectives:

"Attending the Indigenous law course allowed me to discover how dynamic and vibrant law can be. Learning about Anishnaabe law through stories, canoe trips, lacrosse games, farming lessons, and quillwork with Rama community members will certainly be the highlight of my time at UofT. I now have a foundation in Indigenous knowledge systems and values that will inform me throughout my career and will support me in wielding the law to progress social equity."

- Marisa Benjamin (2L)

"The Indigenous Law in Context intensive course was an informative and fulfilling experience. While typical law classes often focus on abstract principles and rules, studying Indigenous law in its context puts one in direct contact with the very source of the law they are studying: nature. The course is less “education” and more experience; leaving an impression that alters the way you think about Western legal systems. Any student serious about the study of law would be well-served by broadening the scope of their academic experience through participation in a course like this."

- Calvin Schilstra (2L)

"Attending law camp has been one of the most eye-opening experiences in my time as a U of T Law Student. I am still humbled by the extraordinary insight and kindness shared by my fellow students, our teachers, and the host community. Attending law camp has led me to reflect deeply upon what it means to be a lawyer in this country and what duties and responsibilities holding such a privileged position entails. I hope that anyone reading this takes the opportunity to attend and does so with an open mind and an open heart!"

- Jeffrey Ma