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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Constitutional rights and responsibilities

Indigenous Peoples

Constitutional rights
and responsibilities

Social Reality

Rights of
Interpretation

Origin of
Interpretation

Exercised as a
People

Definition of People

Great Turtle Island

Relationships

Equality

Survival for
All Beings

Survival for
the People

Right to Exist

Implications

The Land

Spirit of the Land

Judicial and Fiscal Order

Empowering

Visual representation of nature's laws


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Constitutional rights and responsibilities arise out of the First People who established Nature’s Laws and lived it during their sojourn on earth.

Indigenous People often are frustrated by the apparent inability of non-Indigenous Canadians to comprehend that First Nations' culture has continued to exist for at least thousands upon thousands of years in one form or another on Turtle Island. Breaking through the assumption that there can only be one way of understanding legal development, i.e. through European ideas, seems so difficult. Yet, for Indigenous people, it is so obvious, even on European grounds…

There are few people in Europe who will claim connection to ancestors of 10,000 years ago, so why is the European view so convinced of its absoluteness? No greater evidence of the gap in understanding relates to "origins." Constitutional issues are grounded by both European and Indigenous people on a reading of "history," but which history is most legitimate to direct understanding in North America?

For Indigenous People the answer is self-evident: Whose identity has survived the longest? Consequently, it is the stories of the People's history that should define their constitutional world, not one imported from abroad. Some evidence of this is found in the following quotation from Elder William Dreaver:

"I think the Whiteman should try to understand the natural law that our grandfather has raised (us on). It is the natural law that we do not really want to talk about. I was once asked in the white world what that meant and I said that the little I understand of it, that everything that is here was given to the Old Man and Old Woman…the first ones who were born here, is what I am saying. …Everything on this earth we have to survive on, is here…and I still think this way. There is a lot here for us. This is what I think …it is important for the Whiteman to try to understand , of all that they have claimed on our land. …This land is whole and good….We are all under the same laws; we all have the same rights. I am not preaching to you (when I say) I can take these logs to build a house to where I will settle…that's what our grandfather had said. You can take logs to build a house to live in – that's what our grandfather said." (Cree Elder William Dreaver, May 4, 2002)

Similarly, some scholars are now coming to see the validity of this perspective, as the following selection from Turner demonstrates:

"The oral tradition contrasts with Western European tradition of giving primacy of meaning to the written text. The Spirit in the Land was written as an attempt to show that Gitksan Wet'suwet'en knowledge passed down through their traditions of storytelling ought to count as legitimate sources of legal evidence in the courts of la TRANSCRIPTION PROBLEM "Never before has a Canadian court been given the opportunity to hear TRANSCRIPTION PROBLEM In witnesses describe "within their own structure" the history and nature of their societies" (Gisday Wa and Delgam Uukw 1992).

If this is correct, then the problems inherent in interpreting the meaning of the treaties cannot be resolved by the unilateral imposition of one interpretation. Canadian governments have insisted upon imposing their interpretation of the treaties on Aboriginal peoples at least since the time of Confederation. A just discussion about the meaning of treaties demands that Aboriginal interpretations find their way into the discourse alongside other interpretations.

In addition to treaties, there are numerous acts of legislation by British Canadian governments that can be interpreted to mean that Aboriginal sovereignty has not been extinguished. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples' interim report on Aboriginal self-government, Partners in Confederation, argues that there is already within the Constitution recognition of the in the right of Aboriginal self-government. Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act I982 guarantees the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal people of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that rights continue to exist even if they have been suppressed by legislation.

Indigenous peoples argue that their original sovereignty has been preserved throughout the legislative history of Canada. To make this argument, Indigenous peoples are forced to capture in words, or worse, in a theory, the spiritual significance of their sovereignty This is usually followed by the governments denying that the source of Indigenous sovereignty lies in such mysterious spiritual connections with the land. The governments then impose their interpretations of how Indigenous peoples came to fall under the authority of the Canadian state.

There are alternate views, however, The Royal Commission states at the beginning of its publication, Partners,

"Other possible sources for the right exist, such as international law, natural law, treaties, and the laws, constitutions, and spiritual beliefs of Aboriginal peoples; and other methods of articulating the rights are available" (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples 1993).

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