The history department at UBC taught me the importance of cultivating relationships with your classmates and professors, as the professors in the history department are among the most approachable and helpful at UBC. I have continued this pattern of familiarizing myself with classmates and professors and I think it has been helpful so far!
It wasn’t long ago that Emily Dishart, a 2019 History graduate, was finding her passion for Indigenous History at UBC. Now she’s working on the next step in her academic career — studying Law at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
Find out how her history education provided crucial background for the courses she is now taking at Law School. Emily discusses her most memorable history course at UBC, the general application of history to Law School, her future plans, and advice for other students considering applying for Law School in the Q&A below.
What was your most memorable history course? What did you learn?
My most memorable history course was HIST 469 with Dr. Paige Raibmon. It covered aboriginal land title cases in BC and began with an in-depth history of settler-indigenous relations in BC and ended with modern treaties.
This course, crucially being held at UBC, illustrates the deep history of legal conflict in BC and highlighted the unique nature of BC in the scope of Canadian-Indigenous relations.
It not only taught me how to properly interpret colonial government documents, reports, and letters but also how to interpret Indigenous oral histories, belongings, and agreements as forms of Indigenous laws in themselves. The paper that I wrote for that class was the longest research project that I did during my time at UBC and my passion for the class was the main motivation behind my work.
How do you apply what you learned at UBC in your current Law studies?
There are so many ways that my education at UBC has contributed to my current law school experience. The basic skills that you learn while completing a history undergraduate degree, including in-depth reading, writing, research, and critical thinking skills are all equally as useful during a law degree. Law school is not about memorization and regurgitation of information, and I once thought it was. It is an exercise in critical thinking and comparative analysis of hundreds of cases across seven classes, at least in first year.
In addition to the reading and writing skills that have helped me navigate my first term at law school, my knowledge of Canadian history and Indigenous history has been surprisingly useful. TRU makes a profound effort to include Indigenous legal theories and epistemologies into the curriculum. We had a lengthy discussion about the Royal Proclamation and its repercussions in my constitutional law course and have discussed the importance of section 35 Aboriginal land rights cases in my property law course.
Outside of the school curriculum, I am an executive member of the Indigenous Law Students Association and pursue my interest in being an ally to Indigenous peoples through my work with that group. We attended the 2019 Indigenous Bar Association Conference in Ottawa and heard from a plethora of speakers, including Cindy Blackstock, Lee Maracle and Jade Tootoosis, whose work I explored during my undergrad at UBC. The history department at UBC also taught me the importance of cultivating relationships with your classmates and professors, as the professors in the history department are among the most approachable and helpful at UBC. I have continued this pattern of familiarizing myself with classmates and professors and I think it has been helpful so far!
What do you hope to do with your law degree in the future?
After law school I hope to work in medium or small aboriginal law firm in Vancouver. I want to use my law degree to advance Indigenous land, resource and development rights in the hopes of both supporting Indigenous nations’ sovereignty and promoting the improvement of environmental sustainability in the age of the climate emergency. I would also love to continue pursuing academia and I think that an undergraduate degree in the arts would be extremely helpful for post-JD studies.
Any advice for other history students interested in studying Law?
My advice for students in the history department that are interested in studying law is to focus on finding passion in their undergraduate studies! I had an incredible time at UBC studying history and although I was also writing my LSAT and applying to law school I took the time to enjoy my classes. Studying history will give you useful skills for law school but it is important to take your undergraduate courses as they are and take advantage of opportunities to do in-depth research and use some creativity in your work. Most of all, have fun, do not worry too much about admissions and be excited about the prospect of law school!