Estella Charleson isn’t the first aboriginal lawyer to be called to the bar in the Great Hall of the B.C. Supreme Court, but she was the first to do it Hesquiaht style.

 Forsaking the traditional court attire of a barrister’s black gown, white wing collar shirt, tabs and waistcoat, which was worn by 181 other lawyers in the Call and Admission Ceremony on Thursday, the 31-year-old from the Hesquiaht First Nation chose to wear regalia from her own tradition.

“My clan name is Hee Nai Cha Chist, which means glimmering water. I am a member of the Hesquiaht First Nation and I come from the house of kinqualshtacumlth.”

No schooling was available in her community past grade seven, so Charleson had to go to boarding school when she was 12. “My first year at boarding school was the biggest culture shock of my life,” she recalls. Far away from her family and the only life she’d known to that point, she reminded herself that her “education was a choice and an opportunity,” and held close the proud legacy of her ancestors, their precious territories and their relationship to the land. She adds, “We in this generation have a great responsibility to use every opportunity in life that past generations did not have.”

Though Charleson was accepted to go directly into law school, she chose to first go through the eight-week PLSNP because “the opportunity to study with other motivated indigenous students and to be mentored by indigenous lawyers was something I could not pass up. The skills I came away with in legal reading, writing and analysis will carry me into first-year law with confidence. There are many unadvertised benefits of the program as well: not only do you come away from the program with legal skills and law school credits, you leave with a network of mentors and colleagues who provide guidance and alliance within the small group of indigenous people in the field of law in Canada and around the world.”

Aboriginal Sacred Regalia

Sacred Regalia


Responses to "The First Time Ever: Aboriginal Lawyer Wears Regalia In Call To Bar"

  1. Dwan says:

    This is beautiful and fascinating; thank you for sharing it!

  2. sandy says:

    WTG for staying true to self. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this as staying true to our heritage is important.

  4. pilvikki says:


  5. You make many of us PROUD

  6. Congratulations to you, very well done video, wonderful work you are doing, thanks for sharing :)

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