94 V O L . 7 6 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 8 THE ADVOCATE
VISIT TO PIPSELL LAKE
In the fall semester the second-year class attended an all-day event at Pipsell
(Jacko) Lake as part of our commitment to enhance the Indigenization of
our J.D. program and the intercultural fluency of our students in response
to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #28. This event
builds on the annual day spent with the Tk’emlups First Nation at the former
Indian residential school in early winter by all the first-year students. For
that event we have been very fortunate, since the law school began, to have
the active involvement of members of that First Nation, as well as other
Secwepemc First Nations within our region of Secwepemculew.
The trip to Pipsell Lake this September was markedly different than the
one made there in 2015 during Orientation Week for the then-new law students.
This time the students entered through the gates of the Ajax Mine
site with the active involvement of KHMG Ajax Mining Ltd., which is seeking
federal and provincial government approval to commence a coppergold
mine just outside the Kamloops city limits. The continuing partner for
TRU Law is the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (“SSN”) division of the
Secwepemc Nation. These two First Nations (Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn)
declared their Aboriginal title to the area of the proposed mine on June 21,
2015 and subsequently initiated litigation in support of their assertion.
This time the first-year students were each asked to bring a rock from the
territory in which they primarily live or grew up in, to be placed on a cultural
heritage marker. By placing the rocks, students were participating in
an important cultural protocol, symbolic of building an understanding of
the various places and stories that connect us all. The placement of the
rocks also established the tone for a day of land-based learning.
Assistant professor Nicole Schabus, an Aboriginal law expert and the
driving force behind the initiative, feels that the visit opened up a different
space for learning. A preparatory session was first conducted that included
exercises in anti-racism and learning about cultural protocols, so the students
would understand the space being shared with them. Then, during
the visit, the students were welcomed to Pipsell by Secwepemc people who
generously shared their knowledge, imparting an understanding of the
importance of the place and the land on the students, including through
land-based learning. In this regard, Kukpi7 (Chief) Ron Ignace shared the
“Trout Children” story and how it is connected to Pipsell. The story carries
important Secwepemc law and is very complex, containing teachings from
three worlds: the land, the water and the air.
Professor Schabus noted that the SSN assessment process (the SSN’s
autonomous environmental assessment of the proposed Ajax mine) was