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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Other Ways of Speaking and Knowing

Ceremony

Secrecy

Variety of 'Sacred' Moments

Dominance of
the Pipe

Meanings of
Sacred Pipe

Western Use of Language

Personal
Responsibility

Other Ways
of Speaking
and Knowing

Sources

Visual representation of nature's laws

There are literally hundreds of examples among Indigenous people where their interpretation of reality differs sharply from Western understandings, Western-based conceptions of Ritual Law. One way of approaching this problem is to note that not only words as spoken terms are at stake in some legal contexts, but also the primacy of the words of a language per se. Western law gives primacy to words, primarily written. Among Indigenous peoples, Nature's Law teaches that it is not just the word, but how it is used that matters. Thus Sadie Buck says: "Respect is in your voice. You don't have to add a word for 'please.'" This places the onus not on the word itself, but on the intonation, on its oral usage.

Even more difficult is that well known fact that among Northern Canadian peoples, the drum speaks. Drum language can deliver a very powerful message. Drums are used widely throughout Indigenous ceremonials, and they have that place precisely because they speak a "ritual" language. That language is valued and respected. It has legal authority in a community that adheres to Ritual Law. Certainly it has its own message of truth and life.

This is not the only way that Nature's Law is encountered…as we know, it is encountered in the natural environment. Perhaps many possible cases can be subsumed under a few words from a great old Tsuu T'ina holy man, Tatanga Mani:

Did you know that trees talk? Well they do. They talk to each other and they'll talk to you if you listen. Trouble is, white people don't listen. They never learned to listen to the Indians, so I don't suppose they'll listen to other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from trees; sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.

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