The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) has awarded the Indigenous Peoples' Counsel (I.P.C.) to the Native Law Centre research director Dr. James (Sakej) Henderson in recognition of his outstanding career achievements.
The I.P.C. awards are peer-based awards given to honor significant and outstanding achievements in serving the Indigenous community and the Creator with honour and dignity. Recognizing talented individuals achieving excellence in law, the Indigenous Peoples' Counsel designation was presented to Dr. Henderson at the IBA's annual conference held Oct. 20 to 22 at Rama, Ont. The I.P.C is the Aboriginal equivalent to the Queen's Counsel (Q.C.) awards.
Sakej is a noted international human rights lawyer and an authority on protecting Indigenous heritage, knowledge and culture.
James (Sakej) Henderson was one of the drafters and expert advisors of the principles and guidelines for the protection of Indigenous Heritage in the United Nations Human Rights fora. He is a past advisory board member to the minister of Foreign Affairs and is currently a member of the Sectoral Commission on Culture, Communication and Information of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and Experts Advisory Group on International Cultural Diversity.
Born to the Bear Clan of the Chickasaw Nation and Cheyenne Tribe in Oklahoma, Sakej is married to Marie Battiste, a Mikmaw educator. They have three children. He was awarded a Juris Doctorate in Law from Harvard Law School and became a law professor creating litigation strategies to restore Aboriginal culture, institutions and rights.
During the constitutional process (1978-1993) in Canada, he served as a constitutional advisor for the Mikmaw nation and the National Indian Brotherhood-Assembly of First Nations (AFN). He has continued to develop Aboriginal and treaty rights and treaty federalism in constitutional law. His published books include Aboriginal Tenure in the Constitution of Canada (2000), Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage (2000), Mikmaw Society v. Canada in UN Human Rights Committee (ebook 2005).
He has worked on the AFN-Canada Political Accord on the Recognition and Implementation of First Nations Government.
Sakej is currently undertaking two new books: First Nations Jurisprudence and Aboriginal rights and Treaty rights in the Constitution of Canada.
Past recipients of the Indigenous Peoples' Counsel award are Cree lawyer and renowned international law expert, J. Wilton Littlechild; Mohawk and former Ontario Ombudsperson, Roberta Jamieson; Metis law professor and author Paul Chartrand; Anishinabe lawyer, David Nahwegabow; and Cree lawyer, Delia Opekokew.