New Trudeau Scholar seeks change for Indigenous peoples


University of Victoria law student Aaron Mills is being lauded as one of Canada’s best young minds for his doctoral work on the modern-day colonialism reflected in the relationship between Indigenous legal traditions and Canadian constitutional law.

As an acknowledgement of the national importance of his research and to further his work, Mills has been awarded a 2014 Trudeau Scholarship, one of Canada’s most prestigious doctoral awards in the social sciences and humanities.

Mills, a Bear Clan Anishinaabe from Couchiching First Nation in northwestern Ontario, is currently working toward a PhD in Law and Society at UVic with his dissertation, Riding Mishibizhiw’s Waves: A Theory of Anishinaabe Constitutionalism.

As a Fulbright scholar at Yale, then as a Vanier Scholar, his work has focused on exploring Anishinaabe legal traditions and addressing the ways in which Canadian constitutional law is used to reinforce colonial dynamics in society. Mills proposes empowering Indigenous peoples to revitalize their own systems of law in order to be equal with, and not subject to, Canadian law. His goal is for his research to reach beyond Anishinaabe communities and inform the opinions of non-Indigenous people, as well as Canadian public policy.

“If, as I hope, my project serves as an impetus for collective citizen action, it could be transformative for all of us living in Canada,” says Mills. “It could help lead non-Indigenous Canadians away from a relation of power-over toward a relation of power-with Indigenous peoples. This would benefit all of us."

At its core, he says, the purpose of his work is about promoting trust, deep listening, redirecting conflict, and building and blending the political energies of all Canadians.

“It’s fabulous that Aaron has received this honour. He’s an amazing individual: intelligent, engaged, equally knowledgeable about his Anishinaabe legal tradition and non-Indigenous law, with the skills to manoeuvre between them,” says UVic Law Dean Jeremy Webber.

Mills is the fourth student from UVic Law to be named a Trudeau Scholar since the faculty’s graduate program was established in 2004. Past winners are: Dawnis Kennedy (2006), Andrée Boisselle (2008) and Johnny Mack (2011). As a Trudeau Scholar, Mills receives an annual grant of up to $60,000 over three years. Mills’ award is one of 14 given out this year.

NOTE: Photo available on request.

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Media contacts

Margaret Suderman (Faculty of Law) at 250-721-8166 or

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Keywords: Indigenous, law, doctoral research

People: Aaron Mills, Aaron Mills

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