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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Nature's Laws

Visual representation of nature's laws

Dr. Earle Waugh and Chief Wayne RoanAboriginal People of all regions of the world traditionally have governed themselves through complex legal codes and other governance tools.  The traditional governance of Indigenous People residing in Alberta  (Woodland and Plains Cree, Blackfoot and Dene belonging to Treaties 6, 7, 8 and 11) have been the focus of the Nature's Laws Project. The project is ongoing and the Nature's Laws website will continue to grow as research products grow.

Laws may be written or unwritten. The Constitution of Britain, for example, is not written. In Canada, some laws are statutory, others are "Common Law." The laws of Indigenous Peoples around the world are often referred to as "Nature’s Laws."

The spiritual dimension of existence is always operative in First Nations' culture. Spiritual concepts were expressed in terms of "truths" or "laws" and people were expected to act according to these laws in every aspect of their daily life. In other words, the laws were meant to be "lived," rather than “obeyed." Such "living-out" of Nature's Law promoted a balanced, healthy and well-rounded community.

Today, numerous First Nations peoples have moved away from Nature’s Laws and live totally according to laws of the dominant society. Others live by both systems of law. Still others are attempting to move back into Nature’s Laws. A similar situation exists for persons whose ancestry includes both Indigenous and European cultures, Métis people, for example.

Nature’s Laws are highly interwoven and, like nature itself, a holistic entity incapable of being divided. Nonetheless, it is possible to view this holistic entity from different angles, or through different "lenses," in order to see special dimensions and relationships. Eight of these “lenses” through which Indigenous Understandings of Nature’s Laws can be more clearly seen, that is, the Categories of Nature's Laws, are presented on the website in separate sections as follows:

  • Spiritual Life—In Nature’s Laws, culture is shaped by ideas about "the sacred." This lens explores the notion of sacredness leading us to the interconnectedness of all things. Through it, the notion of what is "religious," in Western thought, is expanded to include all cosmic reality.
  • Traditions—Each of the world's peoples have their own special ways of behaving over long periods of time. Some of these ways are unnoticed; others are seen or designated as "tradition."  Some traditions appear repeatedly in ordinary daily life; others appear in special ceremonies or "Ritual Law."
  • Culture—Culture is the all-embracing system in which
    individuals live. Often, it is invisible to the people who live within it, but is easily seen by people of different cultures. In Nature’s Laws, Culture includes such areas as Relational
    Law, Personal Law, Language and Linguistics, Local/Oral Law and Constitutional Law.
  • Governance—“Governance” is the way in which authority and power are expressed and experienced. In indigenous culture. “Governance” differs significantly from western notions of power and authority vested in government. This section presents Governmental Law, Legislation and Self-Governance.
  • Resources—The website also provides a range of resource material including primary information from scholarly sources, oral histories, case law, bibliographies, related articles, videos and other resources.
  • Context and Background—This section provides a context for understanding Nature's Laws, defines 10 categories of Nature's Laws developed by the project team and makes the case for traditional Indigenous justice within the laws of Canada.

Featured Article: Speech by the Most Honourable Antonio Lamer, PC, CC, CD, LLD, DU. September 26, 2002.

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