I'll follow this thread and also throw in my two cents when questions are of general application. I'm a native lawyer in a larger firm. I can generally "pass" - most people don't think I'm native - so I'm sure my experiences differ from many. For example, I've been privy to many a conversation that I'm sure the people involved wouldn't have been having if they knew there was a native person in the room.
As an aside, I, like most urban natives I know, have no connection to the culture, history, or spirituality of my ancestors. For example, my great-grandmother on my mother's side was a medicine woman, but raised my grandmother and her siblings to be as white as possible. My grandmother continued the tradition, and I can't blame her. Life is much, much easier when you can fit in.
Very cool! More AMAs!
Since no one had ponied up a question yet (get it? ponied up??) I'll at least start.
How has legal practice affected (if at all) your Aboriginal identity? That is, I can imagine a person who maybe felt only lightly connected to their Aboriginal heritage (having done my share of Gladue submissions I've seen it) but having been admitted to law school on that basis forged more or a connection. I can also imagine someone drifting farther from it in the process of learning and practicing mainly "western" law.
Did you go to law school with any explicit intention to practice law in a way that incorporated Aboriginal issues? Did you end up doing so?
EDIT: Also, as a suggestion rather than a question, if I'm not mistaken you practice in a smaller community? Maybe you could talk more about that too, because there seems to be a lot of discussion here about major urban centres but not a lot about smaller markets.
To be completely honest, I really didn't know anything meaningful about the history of the relationship between First Nations and Canada before law school. I had the superficial knowledge that Europeans came in and gradually spread across the continent, and that reserves were set aside. I knew about residential schools, and that native people had generally been mistreated by the Canadian government. That was pretty much it.
Law school really opened my eyes as to how and why things are the way they are now, and the things I learned have helped me to explain to people that are as ignorant as I used to be why reserves still exist, why the Crown owes certain duties to First Nations, and why native people (or anyone really) can't just pick themselves up by their own bootstraps.
I really haven't made more of a connection with my heritage, but that's because I don't feel like it is my heritage - I was basically raised white, as were my parents and grandparents. If you ask any of my family members, including those by marriage, what their heritage or ethnicity is, they will all just say they are Canadian (and there is some significant variation of descent). I am over 3/4 native by blood, but I just wasn't raised in any of the various native cultures from which I am descended. Even if I wanted to get in touch with "my" culture/spirituality/tradition, it would be entirely false - I even think it would amount to cultural appropriation. I've seen people do it before, and it's always awkward and awful. Your culture is the one you grow up in, regardless of blood.
As to practice, I have never had any particular intention of practicing Aboriginal law. I have worked on a few Aboriginal law files, but it's not really something I focus on. My involvement with Aboriginal law has primarily been incidental to my general civil litigation practice, though I have assisted another lawyer who does primarily practice Aboriginal law on a few occasions. It can be very interesting stuff, and I wouldn't mind doing more of it, but I'm busy enough with other things that I'm not planning to seek out Aboriginal law files/clients.