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



Spirit Realm

Visual representation of nature's laws

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Beaver Chief and FamilyBalance—In the case of the Aboriginal people in Alberta, there existed an ecosystem equilibrium involving social, "natural," and spirit dimensions. There was a certain equilibrium in the cosmos with all beings, from plants through to spirit beings, existing in a symbiotic relationship. This was not a balance of equal beings, however. For example, the democratic idea of equality of all people is a pale reflection of this larger concept. First Nations political life accepted the principle that the people that were on Turtle Island had equal rights to live here, for they forged treaties that assumed the equality of the participants.

On the other hand, not all persons were equal…by the very fact that their gifts and roles differed. Furthermore, the contemporary western notion of gender equality could not apply, because gender was a feature that was incorporated into a spiritual system…there could be apparent inequities between men and women based on the principle of fertility--- young women’s abilities to create life might also destroy the livelihood of all men, young or old with the unsanctioned use of her female power during the hunt or ceremonies. That was a power no man had.

Such a conception ruled out our equality between men and women on the basis of some notion of "humanity." Rather, women went through transformations that took them from being equal in power (pre-pubescent) to supremely powerful (menstruating and child-bearing woman), to women equal in wisdom and power with men (post-menopausal). In sum, equality was governed by different rules and laws than we accept today, and it was controlled by a system of understandings that we would say had legal and spiritual force. Yet that entire system was operating under the power of this basic sense of balance.

No one questioned that sense of balance, and it constituted one of the roots by which the sacred came to be known, acted upon and respected. It was the responsibility of the medicine people and tribal leadership to maintain the community in this spiritual sense of balance, and it was their insights that provided assistance to the community to debate and weight actions that might bring chaos to the social order. Balance had immense ramifications across the whole spectrum of Aboriginal affairs, and constituted a fundamental aspect of legal thinking.  Group of First Nations Chiefs

Harmony—Moreover, within the band and tribe, the chief and elders attempted to keep a balance between the individual rights of the family members and the greater good of the group. Where there was a fundamental conflict between the two, the decision was always to compromise for the social good of the group. Hence social harmony was another basic value of tribal life. Someone who insisted upon his own way would have to face the logical outcome…the harmony in this group was upset by his desires. If he felt strongly enough about this, he then had one alternative: to leave and form his own band. Personal independence of the sort the west has come to prize is unknown in Nature’s Law…even the great Plains warrior tradition placed limits on personal independent activity, even as it glorified the extraordinarily courageous act. Thus harmony is held to be a value reflecting the sacred in society.

Spirituality—A number of values were held to have spiritual content, yet were applicable to everyday human behaviour. It was expected that the people would exemplify these values in order to aid in promoting harmony and balance in their communities.  These values can be briefly mentioned as love, kindness, truth, respect, honesty, patience, wisdom and humility; it would take considerable explication to unpack what each of these meant within each of the tribes in Alberta, for that would require examining acts that were said to exemplify them, and likely each would have tribal and cultural differences. Apart from that enormous fact, however, it is essential to acknowledge that these norms and values provided the riverbed for First Nations life…these are sacred and no one would challenge the validity of them, even if there were differences of opinion about their application to individual cases. Incidentally, the importance of these norms make it possible to see certain structural similarities to our way of life and its legal system.

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