Val Napoleon

Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance

Val Napoleon

Val Napoleon

Tel: 250-721-8172
Faculty of Law
University of Victoria
PO Box 1700, STN CSC
Victoria, BC  V8W 2Y2

The title of my research chair is Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance. I am from northeast British Columbia (Treaty 8) and a member of Saulteau First Nation. I am also an adopted member of the Gitanyow (Gitksan) House of Luuxhon, Ganada (Frog) Clan. Prior to joining the Faculty of Law at UVic in 2012, I was cross-appointed with the faculties of Native Studies and Law at the University of Alberta.

My current research focuses on Indigenous legal traditions (Indigenous legal theories, pedagogies, law and precedent, legal institutions, and legal research methodologies), Indigenous feminism, citizenship, self-determination, and governance. Some of my major initiatives include the JD/JID (joint JD and Indigenous law degree) program, establishing the Indigenous Law Research Unit with a number of research partnerships with Indigenous communities and groups in BC, across Canada, and with international connections. Some of our projects are a two-year Indigenous/non-Indigenous water law research project, gender and Indigenous law, dispute resolution, Indigenous lands and resources, and human rights in Indigenous law. We are currently looking to hire graduate students for our water project.

I have taught and published on aboriginal legal issues, Indigenous law and legal theories, Indigenous feminisms, governance, critical restorative justice, oral traditions, and Indigenous legal research methodologies. I also teach property law.

  • LLB – UVic (2001)
  • PhD – UVic (2009)


  • With Hadley Friedland, “An Inside Job: Engaging with Indigenous Legal Traditions through Stories” in McGill Law Journal [forthcoming 2016].
  • Indigenous Legal Perspectives and Drafting Impact Benefit Agreements, in Arielle Dylan and Bartholemew Smallboy, eds., Impact Benefit Agreements [working title, forthcoming 2016].
  • “Demanding More From Ourselves: Indigenous Civility and Incivility”, in Dimitrios Karmis, et al, eds. Civic Freedom in an Age of Diversity [working title, forthcoming 2016].
  • “Tsilhqot’in Law of Consent”, in Joshua Nichols, ed., 2015 48:3 UBC Law Review Special Issue on Tsilhqot’in Nation 871.
  • “Cree Lawfulness and Unlawfulness, 2015Jotwell, Equality online journal.
  • With Hadley Friedland, 2015 1:1 “Gathering the Threads: Indigenous Legal Methodology” Lakehead Law Journal 33.
  • With John Borrows & Emily Snyder, 2015 48:1 “Gendered Violence: Resources from Indigenous Legal Orders” UBC Law Review 593.
  • With Hadley Friedland, “Accessing Tully”, in Robert Nichols & Jakeet Singh, Freedom and Democracy in an Imperial Context: Dialogues with James Tully (London, England: Routledge, 2014).
  • With Hadley Friedland, “From Roots to Renaissance”, in Markus Dubber, ed., Oxford Handbook of Criminal Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • With Emily Snyder, “Indigenous Law as Resource for Managing Property On-Reserve”, in Sari Graben, Angela Cameron and Val Napoleon, eds. Indigenous Peoples and Real Property: Beyond Privatisation (The Role of Customary Law in Addressing Private Property Issues) [working title, forthcoming 2016].
  • “Thinking About Indigenous Legal Orders” (revised) in Colleen Shepard & Kirsten Anker, eds., Dialogues on Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, 2012 Springer Press’ Seriesm, lus Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice. Translated and published in Spanish by Antonio Pena Jumpa as “Pensando en los Ordenamientos Jurídicos Indígenas de Canadá” in Peru, 2013.
  • “One Engagement: A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation” in Jotwell Reviews [September 4, 2012].
  • “Birthdaughter” in Tracey Lindberg, ed., Letters to Our Daughters (Athabasca Press, forthcoming 2012).
  • Guest Editor, Alberta Law Review, Special Issue on Restorative Justice [2011] 48:4 807-1008.
  • “Behind the Blockades” 9:1 Indigenous Law Journal, 2010.
  • “My Grandmothers’ Skin” in Shari Graydon, ed., The Joys of Aging (Douglas and McIntyre, 2011).
  • “In the Name of Elders: What Are We Constructing?” 28:2 Canadian Journal of Native Studies.
  • “Living Together: Gitksan Legal Reasoning as a Foundation for Consent” in Jeremy Webber & Colin McLeod, eds., Challenges of Consent: Consent as the Foundation of Political Community in Indigenous/Non-Indigenous Contexts (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009).
  • “Indigenous Discourse: Gender, Identity, and Community” in Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Ben Richardson, Shin Imai, & Kent McNeil, (UK: Hart, 2009) 233‒255.
  • “Looking Beyond the Law: Questions About Indigenous Peoples’ Tangible and Intangible Property” in Cathy Bell & Robert Paterson, eds., First Nations Cultural Heritage and Law: Reconciliation and Reform, Companion Volume (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009) 370-393.
  • With Cathy Bell, eds., First Nations Cultural Heritage and Law: Case Studies, Voices and Perspectives, Companion Volume (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008) 521 pages.
  • With Angela Cameron, Colette Arcand, and Dahti Scott, “Where is the Law in Restorative Justice?” in Yale Belanger, ed., Aboriginal Self-Government, 3rd ed. (Saskatoon: Purich Press, 2008) 348‒72.
  • “Thinking about Indigenous Legal Orders and Law”, the National Centre for First Nations Governance (2007) online peer-reviewed publication.
  • “Making Space for Aboriginal Feminism” 2007 36:2 Book Review of Making Space for Aboriginal Feminism by Joyce Green, ed., Briarpatch 29–30.
  • “Aboriginal Feminism”, 2007 41:3 Book Review of Making Space for Aboriginal Feminism by Joyce Green, ed. Canadian Dimension 44.
  • With Richard Overstall, “Indigenous Laws: Some Issues, Considerations and Experiences”, opinion paper for Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, Winnipeg, online: (2007),, 18 pages.
  • “Delgamuukw: A Legal Straightjacket for Oral Histories?” 2005 20:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Society 123-55.
  • “Aboriginal Self Determination: Individual Self and Collective Selves” 2005 29:2 Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal, 31-46.
  • Book Review of Our Box Was Full: And Ethnography for the Gitksan Plaintiffs by Richard Daly, (2005) 96:3 Pacific Northwest Quarterly 159-160.
  • With Albert Peeling, “Aboriginal Governance: An Annotated Bibliography”, online: (2007) National Centre for First Nations Governance, 35 pages.
  • “Justice as Healing: Adding to the Discourse” Justice as Healing: A Newsletter on Aboriginal Concepts of Justice (2005) 10:3 Native Law Centre, University of Saskatoon, 1-3.
  • “Making Native Space”, Review Essay of Making Native Space by Cole Harris 2004 141 B.C. Studies, 114-18.
  • “By Whom, and By What Processes, Is Restorative Justice Defined, and What Bias Might this Introduce?” in Howard Zehr & Barb Toews, eds., Critical Issues in Restorative Justice, (New York: Criminal Justice Press, 2004) 33-45.
  • “Who Gets to Say What Happened? Reconciliation Issues for the Gitksan” in Catherine Bell & Robert Paterson, eds., Intercultural Dispute Resolution in Aboriginal Contexts (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004) 176-195.
  • With Richard Daly, “A Dialogue on the Effects of Aboriginal Rights Litigation and Activism on Aboriginal Communities in Northwestern British Columbia.” 2003 47:3 Social Analysis 108-29.
  • “Raven’s Garden: A Discussion about Aboriginal Sexual Orientation and Transgender Issues" 2002 17:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Society 149-71.
  • “Extinction by Number: Colonialism Made Easy” 2001 16:1 Canadian Journal of Law and Society 111-45.
  • “Reintegration: An Aboriginal Model” in Restorative Justice Coalition Symposium (Victoria: Pithy Penal Press, 2000) 59-66.
  • “Being Frank’s Sister” in Sheila Peters & Lynn Shervill, eds., Creekstones, (Smithers, BC: Creekstones Press, 2000; and in Out of Bounds. (Victoria: William Head Institution, 1999).
  • With Elizabeth Wilson, “Building Understanding Between First Nations Communities and Schools: A Discussion of the Significance of Culture in Defining Education” in Shauna McLarnon & Douglas Nord, eds., Northern Parallels: Fourth Circumpolar Universities Cooperation Conference (Prince George: University of Northern British Columbia, 1995) 42-72.


  • A graphic narrative, Mikomosis and the Wetiko (2013, 34 pages) on Cree criminal law which is currently being taught in universities and colleges across Canada in law and other faculties. It is also widely used by communities generally and most often with youth. We have received orders from across Canada as well as the United States. Copies may be ordered online from the UVIC bookstore for about nine dollars. We kept the price low so as to maintain broad accessibility.
  • Teaching Guide for Mikomosis and the Wetiko (2014, 100 pages). Under the leadership of Dr. Snyder and law student, Lindsay Borrows, we produced a beautiful 100 page teaching guide with history, resource materials, and lesson plans for post-secondary students, law students, and communities and youth. This teaching guide includes my art and may be purchased at the UVIC bookstore and it is available for free on line at our website.
  • Three large posters (2014) designed to generate critical conversations about Indigenous law and these may be ordered online. Each poster contains a scene from Mikomosis and the Wetiko and quotes from published papers co-written with Hadley Friedland.
  • Indigenous Law Booklet (2014, 30 pages). This is a colourful plain language produce with much of my own art as well as text discussing work with Indigenous law.
  • Indigenous Law Website at With the leadership of Renée McBeth, we have created a website at and we are currently developing another website to be housed at UVIC.
  • Law as Performance Event: One of our partner communities presented the results from the research, key Cree legal principles, at a one-day seminar with 300 youth from across Canada. This was a powerful event as community members and youth articulated Cree legal principles through storytelling, music, art, life narratives, drama and photographs.
  • Community Booklet: Under the leadership of Lindsay Borrows, we created a community booklet was compiled with photographs and plain language texts. This is available online at the above noted website.
  • Video Shorts: With the Indigenous Law Research Unit and under the direction of post-doctorate fellow, Dr. Emily Snyder, we have developed a series of 10 videos and a discussion guide to promote critical conversations about under examined issues of gender dynamics and power in Indigenous law. This initiative was funded by the Canadian Internet Registry Agency, and is widely distributed in Canada and elsewhere. Conversations involving gender and Indigenous feminism are usually difficult and too often end in fruitless polarized debates of tradition versus modernity, authenticity versus change, or idealization rhetoric of Indigenous women historically versus the reality of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls today. This project is an intentional creative, non-academic and non-text way to create spaces for important conversations and questions.

Prof. Napoleon is interested in supervising LLM and PhD students working on Indigenous legal feminisms and human rights, Indigenous legal theories and practice, Indigenous legal questions (e.g., problem solving, norms, dignity, pedagogies, contradictions, complexity), and intersocietal engagements.