Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship
In Memory of Killian O. Doherty
A graduate of the University of Oregon Law School, as well as Georgetown University and the Universidad Nacionale de General San Martin in Argentina, Killian O. Doherty was a beloved member of the team at ELAW, where he used his legal and linguistic skills to collaborate with lawyers around the world to protect communities and the environment.
Killian was passionate about protecting the planet and defending the rights of Indigenous communities. His expertise in areas of Latin American jurisprudence was well known, and partners often called on him to hear about decisions from courts in other countries. He seemed to collect helpful court decisions from Latin America as a hobby. He loved linguistics and loved to study the language used by courts throughout the region. He was called on by partners to present on issues such as how courts around the world were addressing climate change.
People from the Wayúu Indigenous group in Colombia and colleagues in Peru planted trees in the Amazon in his memory. He was a friend to all, and he had friendships around the world. His ability to communicate across cultures, unwavering commitment to environmental justice, and passion for life touched many. Killian passed away at the age of 37 after battling a rare and aggressive cancer.
Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship
The Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship honors our colleague and friend, Killian, who exemplified true commitment to advancing environmental justice in his personal and professional life. Together with Killian’s family, ELAW launched this Fellowship to carry his legacy forward.
Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellows or Interns receive a stipend to collaborate with the ELAW team to advance environmental justice, especially in the areas of Indigenous law and human rights. These opportunities honor the trajectory of Killian’s work with ELAW that began as a law student intern and grew into a staff role collaborating with partners around the world to share legal strategies and expertise.
Killian Fellows are lawyers who work closely with the ELAW team to complete a project that advances their own work in these areas of law, or they may build on work that Killian started, helping gather and analyze legal precedents that support efforts to defend rights of Indigenous peoples to their land and to live in a healthy environment.
Killian Interns are law students who gain experience by working with ELAW’s Law Team to support the work of environmental and human rights lawyers around the world.
Killian Fellowship openings are posted here annually:
Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellows and Interns
Renata Corrêa Vieira
Renata Corrêa Vieira works in Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil and home to more than 60 different Indigenous peoples. She works with Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) representing Indigenous peoples in this large territory. Some communities that live in the forest have had little or no contact with industrialized society. Many of the Indigenous peoples face dire threats, including illegal mining, illegal sport fishing that threatens food security, and drug trafficking.
Renata is working with Indigenous communities interested in adopting their own rules with an aim to seeking recognition from the state of these rules. Renata applied for a Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship to study whether courts in other countries recognize internal rules adopted by Indigenous communities.
Renata’s 10-week Fellowship creates the opportunity to work closely with the ELAW team. We also connected Renata to ELAW partner Ana Lucía Maya Aguirre, who will share decisions from courts in Ana Lucía’s home country, Colombia. Renata will collaborate with ELAW’s Law Team to write up her research so we can share with other lawyers working to defend the rights of Indigenous peoples.
“I am very happy with the Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship opportunity,” says Renata. “It has connected me with an extremely qualified and attentive body of lawyers, and has helped me provide better legal support to defend the right of the Indigenous peoples with whom I work to recreate their governance instruments within their territories.”
Juana Trujillo Cardenas
Juana Trujillo Cardenas, a new Ecuadorian lawyer, was pleased to gain field experience with ELAW’s Law Team, while helping protect communities and the environment around the world.
“This was an amazing experience with such a warm and caring team of professionals. I am so honored to have been given this opportunity,” says Juana.
During her 10-week Killian Fellowship, her projects included: collaborating with the Law Team to support the work of environmental and human rights lawyers in Argentina, Mexico, Panama, and the Philippines; providing legal research on environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and cases protecting mangroves to enhance ELAW’s library of Legal & Scientific Resources; and contributing to two amicus curiae briefs to be submitted by ELAW in support of cases brought by our partners.
Nora Lorenzana is a Mexican attorney based in Guadalajara. Her Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship supported her work to defend the Indigenous Wixárika people and their human rights and land rights.
Nora has worked with three Wixárika communities in the northern part of Jalisco since 2007. These communities organized the Wixárika Regional Council, which works to advance Wixarára advocacy. Nora is part of the council’s legal team. They filed a lawsuit in 2011 to defend a sacred site called Wirikuta from silver mining, and in 2012 the judge granted a legal suspension of any mining activity until the final judgment is delivered on the case.
Wirikuta is in the southwest of the Chihuahuan desert, north of the Potosí plateau. It is the final destination of a 550-kilometer pilgrimage carried out since time immemorial by Wixárika people. Wixárika legend holds that during the creation of the world, their earliest ancestors traveled to the place where the sun was born. Their ritual recreation of this journey sustains the essence of life of the entire planet. In addition to being the foundation of their culture and identity, Wirikuta is also one of the most biodiverse deserts in the world and was declared a UNESCO Sacred Natural Site in 2001.
During her Killian O. Doherty Environmental Justice Fellowship, Nora will compile precedents from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and from United Nations bodies that protect territorial rights, the cultural integrity of Indigenous peoples, and natural resources. This information is critical to bolster the advocacy efforts of the Wixárika and will be an asset to ELAW partners facing similar challenges in their work to defend Indigenous rights.
PHOTO: Banner photo at top of the page by Killian O. Doherty.