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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Applying Western Legal Categories
Indigenous
Worldview

Knowledge Organization

Weakness of Codification

Applying Western Categories

Kinds and Types of Evidence

Visual representation of nature's laws


This means that the categories that we have used in this study to differentiate between different kinds of law are, in effect, non-binding from the Indigenous perspective. The reason is not hard to find: none of these kinds of laws are conceived in isolation from each other. In this report, we have identified the sacred as a key element in Nature’s Law, but segregating the sacred out from the various laws of the people is and was impossible. Law that was not connected to the sacred could not be conceived of as Nature’s Law…it was someone’s private dictum. No one had to obey a private dictum in the Indigenous environment, unless there were other reasons for it, such as loyalty to a chief even if he did things contrary to Nature’s Law.

Thus the categories we have used here to articulate the results of this study are really an attempt to express the fact that Nature’s Law did have socially-validated zones of behaviour, which could be understood as ‘composite constructions of law’ in our sense of the term. It just was not summarized in our way of thinking. In fact, Indigenous knowledge did have its own classification system-- Joseph Epes Brown gives an example of a classification system in which the Lakota people unite elements that clearly relate to breath and/or wind. Thus cottonwood trees are lumped together with spiders, flying insects, birds, elk and bison because they all are dependent upon air movement for survival. (Brown, 1973)

Wolfe, et al. have summarized the principle: ‘Because orally-based indigenous knowledge systems are designed to incorporate complexity, expand detail, and incorporate rather than eliminate the unexplained and unexplainable, they do not reduce information into condensing or summarizing categories; rather they seek inclusive groupings with complex internal differentiation.’( Wolfe, et al, 1992:18)

Yet even where classification was fairly clear, as for example, the rights to a hunting ground, Nature’s Law would not and could not legislate these categories as being an unchanging principle in legal reasoning. For example, Indigenous peoples practiced environment law in that some tribes used controlled burning as a way to promote fresh green stock to attract caribou or moose. How and where this was done depended on the proper resources within the land controlled by the Native band. The "how and the where" constituted traditional knowledge equivalent to our notion of law. By extension, then, Indigenous peoples had an equivalent of our environmental law, but they would never have agreed that their rules about burning were the equivalent of our recently-developed environmental rules on controlled burning.

From the perspective of this report, then, the categories of law we have identified constitute crucial elements of the Nature’s Law system, but we accept that they are utilized primarily to build knowledge bridges to the Western system of understanding. . Nothing is held to be absolute about them, other than that they indicate undeniable groups of understandings about the kinds of law that are found in Western legal codes. They are best understood as constellations of meanings we have grouped this way for comparative purposes. One other aspect of this presentation should be noted. We will begin the analysis of each category with a traditional case of law in the area that we identified. This case will be drawn from cases that have come down to us, or will be a composite of cases that have been passed on to us from oral tradition that appears to belong to this category of law, or be a case referred to in the literature.

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