Dr. Val Napoleon, an indigenous attorney, academic, and researcher who co-founded the world’s first indigenous law program at the University of Victoria, is due to receive an honorary doctorate in law in 2021 during the virtual convocation of the University of Northern British Columbia on June 25 at 9:30 am
Dr. Napoleon is Cree of Saulteau First Nation and an adopted member of the Gitanyow (Gitxsan) Nation. She is a proud grandmother of four grandchildren.
She was co-developer and co-founder of the world’s first degree in indigenous law (JID / JD) at UVic in 2018. Over four years, students acquire two legal degrees, one in indigenous law and one in common law. The third cohort started in September 2020 and the fourth cohort will join UVic in September 2021.
“I’m from northern British Columbia, where I’ve spent so much of my professional life,” said Napoleon. “This honorary title is a recognition from the north and the people of the north and it really touches my heart. I hope that children, young adults, grandmothers and everyone – from all over northern BC – will be inspired to continue their education, and that the rest of us and our institutions make it possible! “
In 2012, Dr. Napoleon established the Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU), a specialized academic research center at UVic’s Law Faculty. ILRU works with indigenous communities across Canada to articulate and rebuild indigenous laws and legal processes (e.g. human rights, harm and injuries, dispute settlement, land and resources, water and marine management, gender and justice).
Dr. Napoleon is also an accomplished researcher and professor. She publishes and teaches in areas of indigenous legal traditions and methodology, indigenous legal theories, indigenous feminisms and genders, intellectual property and oral traditions, restorative justice, legal pluralism, Aboriginal legal issues, citizenship and governance. She teaches trans systemic property law (Gitxsan and Common Law).
Dr. Napoleon received her Bachelor of Laws from UVic in 2001 (as a grandmother) and also received her PhD from UVic in 2009.