Definition: One of the 10 categories of Nature's Laws developed by the
Project Team and defined as "Basic principles enshrined in the human cosmic setting,
but not "legally" defined: the lived environment, as opposed to proclaimed, list of
responsibilities; the ideal society."
There is an aspect of Nature’s Laws which deals with
issues of identity and social belonging of the group as a
whole. We are calling this "Constitutional Law". The
Constitution of a people might not have been in writing, but
the people understood it as the foundation of who they were.
Constitutional authority set out traditional hunting
grounds. It included treaty agreements and inter-tribal
arrangements. Issues related to the well-being of the group
were also involved in constitutional affairs.
The Plains Cree call this "constitutional law" "nehiyawewintotam",
meaning "the person acts like a Cree person". Today, the
same word could mean the person acts like a First Nations
person, or someone of any nation.
This concept of a "constitution" in Nature’s Laws arises
out of the fact that each group of the Indigenous Peoples
holds to a collective "will to survive." Nature’s Laws
indicates that survival is a basic principle in the
universe. Every People, every Creature, affirm this truth.
Throughout Indigenous culture, both the nature and scope
of Nature’s Laws has been seen through by the intellectual,
spiritual life and experience of each group. Since each
group may view Nature’s Laws from several perspectives,
including its own language, the traditional interpretation
of Nature’s Laws by each People is the Law for that group,
with the understanding that others will have different
understandings. This is seen as a demonstration of welcome
diversity rather than conflict.
Each group recognizes that the People came into existence
at some moment at some other point in some different time.
That moment lies outside of the time of "now." The
consequence is that the ideals of the moment of Creation are
something that Indigenous thinkers and scholars must learn
and pass on to the People from one generation to another.
The People are those who accept that they belong to a given
understanding of Nature’s Laws. This is their constitution.
The commonality of Nature’s Laws is also shown by the
fact that each Indigenous group has a language used to talk
about Nature’s Laws. Language thus becomes the formative
tool required for constitutional law, since it articulates
the understandings that the People have of themselves and
Nature’s Laws. It was assumed by Indigenous Peoples that
each Peoples' language formulated Nature’s Laws according to
that language system, but that Nature’s Laws in and of
itself, remained the same across all cultures, regardless of
how the People formulated it.