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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

Sustainability—From time immemorial, First Nations apparently had codes of knowledge, identified as traditional knowledge among scientists and scholars today, that constituted a body of understanding about nature and people’s roles. The interesting story is told of the Mohawk going to war again its neighbours because they killed all the beaver, including the females in a destructive raid. Sustainability was so prized among the Cree that leadership in husbanding resources was a measure of greatness, a "giftedness." The sustaining notion, nakateyimmiwewinikh, meaning in a protecting manner, is connected to nakateyihcikewin, which is the act of scrutinizing or being heedful, and to the idea of respect elucidated above.  What specific data we have of this conception arises from the little material we have been able to cull from traditional knowledge…and much of this lore has died with the most venerable hunters. At any rate, it is clear that this was a considerable part of Nature’s Law.

Respect—We mentioned above the significance of respect. We noted there that "the Cree word wahkohtowin expresses the notion of an overarching law of respect and belonging. One belonged, first and foremost, to the sacred order of things laid down by the first Creator. One also belonged as a member of the family of the first ancestor, so the word could equally be used to describe "descendant."  Decisions about who did or did not belong were indicated by attendance at such invited gatherings." Respect was the oil that kept the Aboriginal system functioning properly…it is clearly connected to kihci, since that word can be translated in measures of respect and honor. Further, the notion of kihci reflects what we would call an ethic…one lived an ethical life if one always operated with respect. We catch a flavor of respect’s meaning from the reminiscences of elder Adam Salopree, Dene Tha’, of the Meander River Reserve. Even though he uses Christian terminology to express his ideas, and clearly has theological understandings woven throughout his explanation, something of the importance of respect overrides; Meili recounts:

If people pray when they’re young, it seems like God gives you the power to respect other people and all things in the world. If you pray later in life and you’re a very good person in all kinds of ways, then when you die your spirit goes right up to heaven and God welcomes you. He takes you right away.

Adam explains that the spirit separates from the body at death and has two directions to go. "If your spirit doesn’t go to heaven, if you did wrong and didn’t pray, these are the people who just wander around this earth and they suffer a lot. They have to stay in an awful place like purgatory until they’re ready [to go to heaven]. In the Indian way, prophets can see these wandering people in their dreams. They are cold and they suffer. The ones who are still around, some people can see them at night, too." Many Dene, especially the older ones, wear red ribbons attached to their clothing to keep them protected from wandering spirits at night.

"If people are really bad, God can’t take them and they are reborn on this world. They come back to a woman when she’s pregnant." These spirits must live earthly lives again and again until they learn to live according to the Creator’s laws and can be accepted by Him, Adam stresses. He shakes his head and wonders how people who understand the continual birth-death-rebirth cycle, and the endless miseries that it brings with it, can be foolish and blind enough to do bad things in their lives and choose to stay on the wheel.

Adam finishes talking and offers to sing. His voice merges with the sound of his drum, rising and falling with the cadence that makes Dene singing so distinctive. His last, high note hangs in the air like the smell of smoke from a camp-fire. Silence fills the room and no one - not I, nor Maggie, my interpreter - feels like talking as we hold the sounds of the song in our minds. Though Adam sings in a language different from mine, it is obvious the song’s words are deeply significant to him.

Finally, he breaks the silence and explains he felt deep emotion while singing. He confirms the song is special; it is the one his father sang for his mother before she died. (Meili 130).

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