Serpent Slayer – A Lawyer Without a Ticket

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How a Squamish leader beat systemic discrimination to become one of Canada’s top legal experts on First Nations issues

by Janet Nicol

Despite his lack of a law degree, Squamish leader Andrew Paull (1892–1959) was remarkably successful in defending clients in British Columbia’s courts of law in the early part of the twentieth century.

Paull had received legal training but refused to be called to the bar because at the time it would have meant giving up his Aboriginal status.

So he worked as an unofficial lawyer, as well as a land claims lobbyist, longshoreman, community organizer, and lacrosse coach.

He was also the secretary of Mission Reserve No. 1 at Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver, and formed the North American Indian Brotherhood in the late 1940s.

It was Paull’s performance in the courtroom that impressed his contemporaries. He was able to cite chapter and verse and memorize long portions of documents.

According to his colleague Maisie Hurley, “He was considered the greatest authority on this continent on Indian aspects of the law. He would have been one of the country’s most brilliant criminal lawyers if he’d had a degree. He had dignity, drama. He was superb.”

When handling murder cases, Paull was often successful in getting the charges reduced. He also argued for Aboriginal land rights and opposed laws that were discriminatory towards Native people.

You can read my story on Andrew Paull in the February-March 2015 issue of Canada’s History magazine. See more on-line at http://www.canadashistory.ca/Explore/First-Nations,-Inuit-Metis/A-Lawyer-Without-a-Ticket

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