Blood Tribe member becomes first Indigenous president of Harvard University's legal aid program
University of Lethbridge grad Julian SpearChief-Morris is in his second year of law school at Harvard
A member of southern Alberta's Blood Tribe has become the first Indigenous student to head Harvard Law School's Legal Aid Bureau in the history of the 104-year-old organization.
Julian SpearChief-Morris was recently elected president of the bureau, the second largest provider of legal aid services in the Boston area.
"I've gotten a lot of great feedback from my friends and family back in southern Alberta and it's been truly humbling," he said, speaking from Cambridge, Mass.
SpearChief-Morris became involved in the bureau late in his first year of law school.
"I've learned so much from the people that I was working with and I just wanted to take on a bigger role," he said.
Former guidance counsellor
SpearChief-Morris, who is from Lethbridge, says his family background and previous education and work experience has helped him in the legal aid role.
"I grew up with a mom from the Blood Reserve and my dad's actually African American, from Los Angeles. So navigating that growing up was a very unique experience," he said.
After graduating from the University of Lethbridge with an Urban and Regional Studies degree, SpearChief-Morris worked for a year as a guidance counsellor with Aboriginal students in the Lethbridge School District.
"That community development background has really helped my work here at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau," he said. "It's different from most people around here, but it's been very useful for me."
Plans to return to southern Alberta
Following university and his work as a guidance counsellor, SpearChief-Morris wanted to learn more about strengthening communities.
"After finishing my undergrad degree, I felt like I had more questions than answers, so I decided not to go into planning," he said.
"I took this job as a guidance counsellor, which was great, but in that position I also saw a lot of issues I didn't have the skills to address. I felt like I was just addressing symptoms rather than the root causes of those issues, so that's what led me to law school."
In law school, SpearChief-Morris said he's tried to focus on learning how to strengthen communities and make them healthier.
He plans to take that knowledge back to southern Alberta.
"My long-term goal has always been to return to southern Alberta and see if I can put my experience to use," he said.
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener