Convocation hood design honours Coast Salish culture, symbolises legal transformation

By Ivan Watson

When the first graduates from UVic Law’s trailblazing joint degree program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID) receive their degrees at convocation ceremonies on June 14, they will wear graduation regalia featuring a striking—and deeply meaningful—new hood design.

The hood was designed by Dylan Thomas (Qwul’thilum) at the request of Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam. Thomas is a Coast Salish artist from the Lyackson First Nation.

“I’ve been looking into the history of the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations and some of the pre-history of the local area to inform my work,” explains Thomas. “The hood I designed for UVic depicts Qeyux, a supernatural being, often described as a mink or an otter or fisher. Qeyux is often associated with stories about Ka:als – the transformer, the key figure in Coast Salish mythology.”

Ka:als was an important being that had the ability to transform the world around him, and often punished a person’s indiscretions by transforming them into either stone or an animal. These two beings, for example, are central to Chief Jimmy Fraser’s recount of the local legend of Camossung to anthropologist Wilson Duff in 1950.

 “Ka:als, the Transformer, turned the girl Camossung into stone, and told her she had to be forever the protector of the waterways at the Tillicum Narrows on the Gorge waterway,” says Thomas. “The reason why herring are there today is because Camossung was offered herring, which she liked and which she watches over to ensure that they thrive.”

Tillicum Narrows is the site of the only reversing rapids in Western Canada, where a large quantity of water is thrust forward through a narrow, rocky passage, literally and symbolically becoming a place of dynamic movement and transformation.

Since its inception in 2018, UVic’s JD/JID program has been restoring Indigenous laws and transforming the legal landscape throughout Canada and beyond, and as such, Ka:als is a fitting representation of the program. Legends involving Qeyux and Ka:als almost always involve themes of cultural rules, morality and retribution—all of which correspond well with the practice of law.

“Law is so much more than words on a page, it is an essential part of a society’s governance, culture, identity and way of expressing responsibility to each other,” says Interim Law Dean Val Napoleon. “We’re pleased that our JD/JID graduates will wear a beautiful new convocation hood that visually and symbolically expresses the essential role of Indigenous laws in Canada’s multi-juridical system.”

Four years ago, UVic launched the world’s first law degree to combine the study of Indigenous and non-Indigenous laws. The innovative joint degree program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID) is breaking new ground for legal education in Canada and has earned UVic’s Faculty of Law a well-deserved national and international reputation for leadership in Indigenous legal education and research. This June, 23 graduates from the inaugural cohort will cross the stage to receive their degrees.

Thomas has worked as an artist for over 15 years, doing contemporary art based in traditional Coast Salish design. His range is very versatile, from painting, prints and graphics to jewelry, wood carving and more recently stone carving, which has become his passion. He is currently the City of Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence. His portfolio is online at

For more information about the Indigenous law program, please visit the JD/JID website.

Media contact:

Ivan Watson
UVic Law Communications