June 15, 2021
Family values instil strength to drive change for law student
For Amelia Harman, feeling connected to her community is vital. The third-year law/Master of Public Policy student is Chipewyan Dene and North Slave Métis, and growing up in the Northwest Territories allowed her to be very connected with her culture.
“One of the drawbacks of coming down south for school is that I’m away from my family and I’m removed from my own culture in the North, but I find ways to get involved with the Indigenous community which keeps me grounded,” says Harman.
Scholarship helps Harman stay focused
Harman completed her undergrad in law and society at UCalgary and grew to love the city. When it came time to choose a law school, staying in Calgary was an easy choice. Being the first recipient of the Hersh E. Wolch, QC Memorial Award for Indigenous Law Students also helped.
“The award has changed my life in so many ways,” explains Harman with a big smile. “It has allowed me to place all of my efforts and focus into my studies, extracurricular activities, and volunteer involvement, and to worry a bit less about the financial burden of law school. The support, mentorship and encouragement I have received from the Wolch and Rodin families have also been invaluable, inspiring me to continue to work hard and remain guided by the values that brought me to law.”
Those values were instilled in Harman at an early age by her father and by her mother, a longtime advocate for minority groups and especially Indigenous people. A psychiatric and registered nurse who works with vulnerable populations, her mother has always been outspoken and fights for those who aren’t heard.
I definitely get a lot of my strength from my mom and my dad, as well as my passion to help others. I always knew I wanted to be in a position where I could influence positive change.
Harman is using that passion for advocacy in her role with the National Indigenous Law Students Association (NILSA), a student-led organization that represents Indigenous law students from across Canada. She initially got involved with the group to be around like-minded people who experience law school in the same way. The group also works to raise awareness of Indigenous legal issues in Canada. In her role as the external communications officer, Harman has helped the group achieve this goal through its social media channels.
Indigenous History Month opportunity to honour, celebrate Indigenous people
Raising awareness and advocating for change is also what makes events like National Indigenous History Month so important for Harman. Not only does it allow for all Canadians to learn about, and reflect on, the history of Indigenous people, but it is a moment to honour and celebrate the strength and perseverance of Indigenous people, as well as the richness and diversity of Indigenous culture.
“Canada has a unique relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” says Harman. “For centuries, and for multiple generations, Indigenous Peoples have been subject to settler policies that attempted to destroy their culture, languages, families and ways of life. The present, however, is still permeated by colonial ideology. Indigenous Peoples continue to be underrepresented in law schools and in the legal profession generally. We need to acknowledge these realities and remember that reconciliation is not a linear process — it requires meaningful engagement and revisitation by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Indigenous people should be celebrated every day.”
About National Indigenous History Month
In June, Canadians celebrate National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities.
National Indigenous History Month is a time for learning about, appreciating and acknowledging the contributions First Nations, Inuit and Métis people have made in shaping Canada.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance and sacred nature of cultural ceremonies and celebrations that usually occur during this time. While celebrations and events for National Indigenous History Month may be different this year than those in the past, we can still share and learn from stories, traditions and culture in new ways that keep us together and connected.