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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Definition of People

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


The People include those who have died but still live in another dimension of the Universe, those who exist on this earth now, and those who will be born in the future.

The very notion of "The People" differs, based in part from the previous notion, but in part from the belief that the group that is alive today is not the only significant collectivity interested in affairs within the community. Where Marx and others have argued that "the people" constitute the authority, and democracy is said to rest on "the people," both understandings are rejected by Indigenous philosophy. From the Indigenous perspective, one acts in a respectful manner because, a) one is the extension of the ancestral legacy in the present world and b) one is the custodian of the ancestral spirit that will be embodied in children to come.

Many Indigenous peoples believed (and believe) that an individual has up to seven souls; two and four seem to be the accepted number. One "shadow" stays near the body at death, and hovers around the grave. Another goes to the sky and joins the dance in progress there: the Northern Lights. Children can also be said to be the ahtcak of a departed person who has returned to live again with the people. This is important because it would be very unwise for those living today to undertake an activity that will be detrimental to the coming generations…up to seven of them.

Bad behaviour is not, then, just personally unwise, it is culturally destructive, since the spirits of the ancestors might be disgruntled and bring disease and other misfortune upon the miscreant and his descendants. Hence the living community is made of those who have gone on and those who will be born in the future time. This view is expressed in the feast for the dead, as this selection reflects:

O yes, occasionally when a man killed the first ducks he woud make a feast for the departed spirits. It would take five or six ducks to make a feast. There has got to be a pipe. They fill the pipe. Before they light it they ask kicem (kicemenito) to see the stem. Then they put some duck meat on a plate. Then light the pipe and point it south for ahtcak-the departed spirit. Then point it straight upward-then point it twice to the north and then down to the ground.

Straight up is for Assini "Stone"; to the north for tcahkapewatayohkan, "Touching Atay" and his sister notogwewatayohkan, "Old Woman Atay." Then they point south, they name the one that keeps the departed spirits, kiceayican, "Old Man." When they point to the ground it is for tcepaiyuicini, "Ghost Stone." First the pipe is pointed. Then the plate is held up in the same directions. Mandelbaum with Fine Day: June 25, 1935, AMNH Box 1 Folder 1:45 quoted in Ballaigeron, p. 138.

We call all the spirits manitowok or atayohkanuk. (That’s what) we call angels we see in pictures and the face in the moon.

I never heard tell of how the ahtcak was created. I don’t understand the difference between ahtcak and atayohkan. We know that kicemanito lives forever. The ahtcak goes and lives with kicemanito. When you are about to be born kicemanito gives you an ahtcak in the womb. When you are born the ahtcak is with you right along. But nobody knows where it is. The ahtcak directs our minds. When it is weak and doesn’t help a person enough—this is what we call a crazy man. When ahtcak leaves you—you are dead. Every creeping thing has an ahtcak. Where it goes after it leaves a man or beast I don’t know. (Mandelbaum with Fine Day, July 17, 1935. AMNH Box 1 Folder 5: V 1-2. Qtd in Ballaigeron, p. 142.

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