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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Context and Background
Held by
 Indigenous People

Ten Categories of Nature's Law

Indigenous "Justice"
 In Canada

Visual representation of nature's laws

The Aboriginal concept of Nature’s Law differs from the western concept of natural law understood within the western legal tradition and the tradition of the French philosophes

In the West, natural law is usually associated, first, with the rhythms and patterns that scientists have seen in nature and, then, with local codes and legal understandings that were applied in regional European communities. Thus, natural law is held to grow out of the regular patterns of everyday life known and accepted by everyone in the community.

Aboriginal notions of Nature’s Law have a much different focus and encompass all of this and more including:

  • All of the elements that we would associate with genealogical relationships
  • Ancestral spirits
  • The workings of the cosmos
  • The moral laws expressed in right living
  • The succession of growing things in nature
  • The range of senses and sensory perception
  • The relationships between human beings and plants and animals and, finally,
  • The interconnectedness across time, generations, natural processes and culture.

In other words, Nature’s Law relates to the principle of integration within society, culture and cosmos. Thus, it can be seen that Nature's Law enlarges the meaning of the western concept of natural law within a larger framework. In essence, everything becomes part of an ecosystem and is not bounded by western views of what we see or feel. Aboriginal attitudes towards the law are practical and, unlike the western legal tradition, it is not based on a hierarchical system of principles or customary practice.  Nature’s Law is, thus, very contextual and relates to tribal social organization.

In this introductory section, we will attempt to sketch out significant differences in the Indigenous understanding of law. This clearing of the ground will demonstrate that, while history does help in comprehending Indigenous law (in this report we use the words "Indigenous" and "Indigenous" more or less equivalently), for Indigenous peoples that law was based upon certain intuitions about the cosmos, the world, animals and humans that we can only designate by our word "natural," despite its inadequacy. The social devotion to this "nature" constituted the foundations for Indigenous law.

The 10 categories of Nature's Laws developed by the project team are explored as is the case for traditional Indigenous justice within the laws of Canada.

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