Book celebrates an accomplished mohawk legal scholar

Journeying Forward: Dreaming First Nations’ Independence remains a powerful and thoughtful discussion of First Nations and self-government in Canada. Its author, Patricia Monture-Angus (September 24, 1958 – November 17, 2010), was a noted Mohawk legal scholar and activist.

Her 1999 book details her personal argument for First Nations’ independence rather than self-government. The author’s experiences as a law professor combined with personal discovery of her Haudenosaunee culture served to influence her position.

Beginning with a search for a much-needed definition of self-determination, the first chapter examines the meaning and context of First Nations and their search for true governance. Chapter two discusses the theoretical foundations and the challenge of Aboriginal Rights in Canada.

The importance of legal decisions and their precedents is explored in the next three chapters. Cases prior to 1990 demonstrate the way judicial decisions serve to enhance the Crown’s ability to deny responsibility. Legal cases include St. Catherines Milling (1888), Calder (1973), Guerin (1984), Sparrow (1990), and Delgamuukw (1998).

The author also discusses the issues of rights, the Charter, and women’s rights (Lavell and Bedard 1974). In rejecting the colonialism associated with the Indian Act, the author rejects the notion that self-government can be achieved through Indian Act band councils and the Assembly of First Nations. Her arguments offer a challenge as well as stimulating reading for anyone interested in First Nation issues, sovereignty, self-government, and Canadian politics.

Thunder in my Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks is a collection of essays and speeches by Monture-Angus. The writings of this celebrated Mohawk lawyer and academic are personal reflections on her law career, as well as scholarly essays about Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

The writings from 1987 to 1994 are organized into four sections. The first section, Flint Woman Speaks, contains four essays that document the author’s struggle against oppression and racism in her law career as a student and later as a law professor. Through storytelling, she examines her life in often-painful memories. Through all her experiences she remains strong and optimistic.

The remaining three sections examine the politics of oppression in terms of education, women and politics, and justice. These eight scholarly essays cover First Nation education, the experience of First Nation students in Canadian law schools, Aboriginal women and the Canadian Charter, the Constitution, Aboriginal women’s organizations, child welfare, roles and responsibilities of Aboriginal women, and the movement toward self-government.

The collection appeals to a wide audience both inside and outside the university arena. The vocabulary is straightforward and jargon-free. The book is used in university courses in a variety of disciplines including, women’s studies, sociology, political science, education, law and Indigenous studies. Anyone interested in understanding one Mohawk woman’s experience in Canadian society will find challenging and thought-provoking reading.

Monture-Angus graduated from Queen’s University law school in May 1988, and went on to do graduate work at Osgoode Hall. In August 1988, Monture-Angus filed a suit in Ontario’s Supreme Court stating that she should not be required to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen because she is a member of a sovereign nation. The case never went to court. The Law Society agreed to change its rules and make the oath optional. Monture-Angus was called to the Ontario bar in January 1994.

Monture-Angus taught law at Dalhousie University and at the University of Ottawa’s Common Law School before accepting a position in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan in 1994. She was granted tenure in 1998 and promoted to full professor in 1999. She married Denis Angus of the Thunderchild First Nation Cree Nation, of Treaty Six, in 1991. Patricia received an honorary doctorate from not only Athabasca University in June 2008 but also from Queen’s University in June 2009.

Patricia Monture-Angus died on November 17, 2010 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Related Posts