First aboriginal dean appointed at Canadian law school


Lakehead University has appointed the first indigenous dean of a Canadian law school. The Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, which sees engagement with aboriginal communities as a key priority, says Angelique EagleWoman will begin as dean this May.

EagleWoman has built her reputation as a law professor and legal scholar at the University of Idaho College of Law. She has taught courses in Native American law, tribal nation economics and law, Native American natural resources law, and civil procedure. As a practising lawyer, EagleWoman served as general counsel for her own tribe, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in Dakota.

EagleWoman said the position at Lakehead is "a dream come true." As someone who grew up in a small community, she says she relates to the law school's commitment to rural and small town practice and admires its particular focus on natural resources and environmental law.

"And of course there's the required curriculum in aboriginal and indigenous law," EagleWoman says. "This is the first law school in the world that has that requirement. To have a law school that has integrated this into its curriculum and has mandated that every law student who graduates knows the legal history is phenomenal and that really excited me."

All law students at Lakehead are required to take a course in indigenous legal traditions in their first year and an aboriginal law course in second year.

EagleWoman replaces founding dean Lee Stuesser, who resigned in June.

The legal community is applauding EagleWoman’s appointment. Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, says EagleWoman’s appointment is a sign of promise.

“I hope this is the trend in law schools across the country, both in advancing new voices and new perspectives, and in clearly taking to heart the mandate all law schools should have,” Sossin says, adding it’s important to “look for people who can bring that first-person perspective from the areas we care about most, including the engagement of the indigenous community.”

Other members of the legal community took to Twitter yesterday to celebrate EagleWoman’s appointment. Lawyer and academic Kyle Kirkup said was “an exciting day for legal education” and Janet Minor, treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, tweeted EagleWoman is “an exceptional choice.”

“Angelique was at the top of our list and we are thrilled she’s coming to Lakehead,” said Moira McPherson, Lakehead’s provost and academic vice-president. “Her diverse experience and knowledge will be of great benefit to our students in the faculty of law and to Ontario when those students begin practicing law.”

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