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

Uniqueness of Aboriginal Language

Contribution of Language to

Visual representation of nature's laws

Contemporary Indigenous peoples in Alberta belong to one of three language families: Algonquian, Athapaskan and Siouan. Recent scholarship has modified Sapir's famous paper in 1929 that grouped the many languages in North Americal into 12 middle-level stocks and then six "superstocks," but the trend towards linking tribes and cultural groups through language was firmly established and still constitutes the primary modus operandi of comprehending linkages behind the diversity. Apart from this, our case for using language as a basis for drawing out legal concepts rests on three foundations:

  1. The role and significance of storytelling as the premier mode of embodying the truths of Nature's Law

  2. Aboriginal claims that language is essential to comprehend cultural affirmations such as sacred beliefs, more values and notions of law and

  3. Language remains one of those basic ingredients of society.

The Importance of Tone
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.


One characteristic of language is that it does not destroy concepts and crucial words even when the concepts are not used in every day discourse. Words remain, even if the conceptual framework move on to another way of speaking. In this way, legal-type language still is available for piecing together the main directions used to affirm norms and customs.

The Power of the Cree Language to Communicate With the Earth
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.


"… the need for flexibility and to be in communication with the world-as-event may account for the fact that Athapaskan languages stress action verbs so heavily. Even the nouns tend to be nominalized verbs [see Krauss and Golla 1981; compare Witherspoon 1977] … there can be enormous discrepancies of meaning arising from the categorical discreteness and concreteness that English imposes, which is altogether absent from the Dene language and thought" (Smith, World as Event 73).

"The world of a dominantly oral or oral-aural culture is dynamic and relatively unpredictable, and event-world rather than an object-world. What we are getting at here can be understood in terms of the nature of sound as compared to other sensory perceptions. Sound is of itself necessarily an event in the way in which the object of no other sense is" (Ong 637).

"An oral culture, we must remind ourselves, is one in which nothing can be ‘looked up.’ Words are sounds, and sounds exist only as they are going out of existence. I cannot stop a word as I can a moving picture in order to fix my attention on an immobilized part of it. There are no immobilized parts of sound. If I stop sound, I have only its opposite, silence. An oral culture is deeply aware of this evanescent quality of words. Homer expresses this awareness when he sings of ‘wingèd words.’ At the same time, oral cultures consider words more powerful than we do, probably in the last analysis because whereas we interpret movement as instability, they are keenly of the moment of sound as signaling use of power" (Ong 638-639).

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