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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Spirit Realm

Visual representation of nature's laws

Some Differences in Perception that will help to comprehend Aboriginal Law Systems

MooseIn 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 "Aboriginal" and "Indigenous" more or less equivalently), for Aboriginal 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.

Pre-contact Society Summary

Series Coordinator - Dr. Earle Waugh
© 1980 Access

One of the most important distinctives of Aboriginal systems of law is the fundamental motivators for ethical behaviour. For example, in Western culture the notion of God, along with the concomitant doctrines of judgment have played a key role in the development of its worldview, and both have philosophically and theologically been connected to ethical decision-making. These foundational concepts are largely absent from traditional Indigenous systems of law, at least in a form that Westerners would understand. Indigenous systems are based on the imperatives deriving from being embedded in a "natural" system that makes foundational demands.

The Plains People

Series Coordinator - Dr. Earle Waugh
© 1980 Access


This means tribes may have had sophisticated notions of gods and supernatural beings, but that these figures did not motivate ethical culture. Some did not have these notions at all, and variety characterizes the remainder. What this study has found is that in the Indigenous context, no august being demanded obedience to an absolute law; nor was there a being who was responsible for condemning those who did not obey. Rather, the notion was that going against this enlarged sense of nature/supernatural would inevitably lead to negative consequences. It might better be characterized as: you and your society will only get out of nature’s system what you put into it, a "natural" justice system exists in the world. One went against this natural system at his or her peril.

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