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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

Page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11

Peigan Holy Woman and OthersPlace and the Stage—Most sources seem to indicate that personal life was filtered through the landscape and the seasons, so the traditional interpretation of one’s life would find words to comprehend its purpose through the natural world. These were delivered to the young in a number of ways: the stories about the old people, the tales of the mythic figures (much as the West does through the biblical characters), the concepts of movement from the spirit world into this world and then back again, and the roles played by one’s blood ancestry and spirit helpers, the power dreams one had, etc. There is solid evidence that the community defined when a person became a "real" person (i.e., when a child had taken on the character of an ancestor and was identified as such), when the personal role in the community had been established (i.e., when the young women had undergone puberty rites, and the young man had had significant spirit dreams or gone on a vision quest to establish "giftedness"), when a young man demonstrated leadership qualities (as a hunter, or as a scout or warrior), when a woman shifted to being an elder rather than a child-bearing person, when a man moved to the elder’s fire (i.e., was considered a voice of wisdom), when a person received community-shaping roles (i.e., as a shaman or holy woman), and when the general leadership skills became evident (i.e., for the role of chief)  and when the mind was loosing its grip and the person moved into the stage of a person more in the spirit world than in the world of the band. In sum, the natural course of life can be given a term derived from Western religious tradition: it was revelatory of a sacred order. Nalleka, Cree Woman

Merit—We know, for example, that the Cree and T'suu Tina people continually evaluated all aspects of leadership amongst themselves. They did this, not to try to undermine the validity of leadership, but to determine whether other gifts from other people might best handle the issue at hand. Thus a warrior chief was always weighed by his elders to see if he should be replaced by a young man whose prowess had recently been shining, since the notion of going with someone whom the spirits were blessing was a common idea. It is only the day-to-day chief who did not have to deal with this constant evaluation, since his blood and ancestral lines was held to validate his position.

Medicine ManEven the holy people, medicine men and women were subject to this merit system, with roles meted out on how the spirit world seemed to be giving them "good luck."  Accountability thus was built into the system; like all systems, however, it had its failings for there appear to be several cases that have come down to us where family prestige and wealth overrode the evaluation of talents. Still that does not undermine the basic nature of this traditional understanding of the sacred value of merit. Obviously this notion of the sacred varied from tribe to tribe based on the tribe’s experience and the memories it carried and the cultural norms it preserved. Such a perspective implies an openness to new definitions of the term, and validates the oft-expressed Aboriginal idea that truths were a matter of constant searching and meditation. And it highlights that leadership within could be measured against the collective memory of the group. 

Communication—This is a complicated concept involving the sacred. The spirit world communicated through dreams in ways that have been rejected by our culture. Almost all major decisions among traditional First Nations people required a direct interaction between the spirit world and the mind of someone attuned to its truths. If someone dreamed the same dream four times, it was regarded as a definitive message.  Much has been said earlier about oral communication, so we need only add that the facility to speak, to be an orator, was one measure of the excellent gifts given to an individual. The orator was a key person within the leadership of the community, for s/he could articulate positions and give definition to the band. The ability of speak authoritatively was much prized by First Nations people, probably because of the crucial role orallity played in defining the people. Such gifts were regarded as an expression of the sacred within the life of the community, and they represent but a small dimension of the ways in which communication (i.e. both ordinary words and "spirit" language) generated a sense of the sacred.

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