Smithe street’s Supreme Court of BC was graced with 182 lawyers on Thursday, September 17, all but one dressed in the traditional barrister’s black gown, white wing collared shirt, tabs and waistcoat. These lawyers were formally being called to the BC Bar.
Estella Charleson, a Hesquiaht First Nation, choose to wear a beautifully intricate traditional yellow cedar shawl adorned with fur, featuring abalone shell buttons, eagle feathers and a native cedar hat. The ornate outfit was made by her very own hands, on and from the land where she came from.
Charleson is a leader. She chooses to not only celebrate her culture and family’s history, but also to educate others on it. Her family is one of two still living in the traditional Hesquiaht territory, just northwest of Tofino on Vancouver Island. Charleson ventured to her childhood home; a place which now hosts only 40 residents and was previously accessible only by boat and lacked power. She gathered the cedar required to make her outfit from the land surrounding the place in which her parents still reside. She made the garments traditionally as her ancestors once did.
At the age of 21 Charleson decided to go to law school, venturing away from her native land after many years at Shawnigan Lake’s boarding school and is now practicing law at Vancouver’s JFK Law Corporation representing Aboriginal people. Her parents feel great pride in her accomplishments and in her recognition of her roots. Charleson is defined by her hometown and by her rich culture.
According to the B.C. Law Society, “there are 11,153 practising lawyers in British Columbia, of which 2.3 per cent are aboriginal, First Nations or Metis.”
Congratulations go out to Charleson and to all 181 BC lawyers for being called to the Bar.