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Emma Taylor was happy to leave behind the cold North for the chance to learn about the Pueblo of Isleta Appellate Court this winter.
Through the Southwest Indian Law Clinic and under the supervision of Professor Christine Zuni Cruz (`82), a judge on the court, Taylor has been researching a variety of issues for the judges. She will prepare two papers based on her experience with the court that she will present back home at the conclusion of her externship in mid-March.
"I have always worked on aboriginal issues, whether in my community or at the regional and national level in Canada. For my last semester of law school I wanted something new and different and wanted to learn about indigenous law in the U.S.," she says. Taylor is a member of the Curve Lake First Nation, an Anishinaabe community in central Ontario.
In addition to working with the Isleta court, she is auditing a Federal Indian Law course, where for a class project she is comparing Canadian aboriginal law and U.S. Federal Indian law.
"In Canada we don't have tribal courts," says Taylor. "I'm interested in how indigenous law can affect change in our communities and with the interaction, relationships and conflicts between indigenous laws and other legal systems. These other legal systems could be as broad as Canadian and American federal law, state law and even international legal norms."
Taylor is the third student to study at the UNM School of Law through an externship program at the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. The intensive program, titled, "Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments," attracts law students from across Canada and includes a two week in-class training in Toronto, followed by a two-month placement. This year, many of the 16 placements are in aboriginal organizations and government departments across Canada, but some of the students have been placed in the United States, Australia, Peru and even Fiji.
While she has enjoyed the friendliness of the UNM law school, soaking up the sun and warmth has been her biggest treat. She knows that when she returns home, she will face many more weeks of winter.