Law is not a solid statute or something you can always grasp into words (especially English ones). It is deliberation, protocol, warnings, teachings, and a way of life that is lived not only by humans but also by all living things of the land. Being able to close your eyes to recite and at times, mourn the shape, smells, texture and rigid lines of mountains, waters and landscapes that your ancestors navigated the terrains of, is law. Yet, Indigenous law is not a romantic landscape of perky, annoyingly shiny roses and rainbows; it can at times be violent, misogynistic and trans*/queer-exclusionary. When I say I have reflected on Indigenous law(s) in particular as a deliberative platform, I mean that they are far too old, and far too strong for anyone to shatter (as Tara Williamson and Val Napoleon would say). Law gets reduced to power if not deliberated, so engage! Many migrants or settlers often think of themselves as creating space, embodying humility and engaging in respect when they fall silent or refuse to partake in critical conversations around Indigenous law. If we truly see our liberation as tied to Indigenous legal revitalization, then we need to check our pseudo acts of humility at the door; recognizing these are actually selfish acts of fear, rooted in terror of tripping and falling. Humility is grounded in a willingness to make mistakes and having eye sockets, teeth and nostrils stuffed with mud on the way down after tripping; knowing you will make mistakes and be checked to the point of embarrassment. Yet, it is the commitment to reflection and discomfort that makes up an engraved sense of solidarity in liberation for all of our peoples.
The practice of Indigenous law is also rooted in deep respect. While thinking through water law on some of the projects, it brought me back to some of my own Iranian- Yazdi teachings around water being a powerful entity that should be approached with respect. My people, similar to many elders in the Nlaka’pamux and syilx region, believe that when the land and water takes you there is grounded suspicion that you might have done wrong by them and lacked respect. Things get messy and violent, and lived-lives are not always aligned with tradition as is the case in all of our legal traditions and lives, but I am of the belief that if you do not respect the environment you are in, it will disrespect you back. So, ground yourself in respect and pay attention to how you carry yourself, especially on terrains unfamiliar to your blood.
Overall, working for ILRU has solidified why I am franticly attempting to swim with the work of laws. Although it’s hard work that might grind you to your bones and even make you question what you are doing in law school when so much you hold dear is erased and refused to be upheld or respected, you think of community. These next words are inspired by John Borrows when he once chatted with us during the Law 388A course about why he’s doing the work of Indigenous law and how it’s intertwined with his conceptions of love…. I do the work of intertwined and sometimes, at conflict, laws, because communities have loved me, so this is my attempt at loving them back. I am trying to love, and (un)/(re)learn the work of love. ILRU is now a part of my community. I hold gratitude for the powerfully fragile gift of sharing stories of lands close and far across cultures. I dream of when we can all sit on soil and break some bread together over jokes and long stories once again