Nature’s Laws Arises from the Social Reality of
being Indigenous…everyone acknowledges and lives out the
Values held to be Nature’s Laws.
Indigenous claims for a constitutional dimension to their
legal system does not rest upon a similar intellectual
framework or even related social structure but upon notions
about who people are and why they live together that are
just as value-laden as any. They indicate that their
experience in North America has always been as "Peoples,"
that is as collectivities of groups and communities of
humans around common ideals, like Nature’s Laws, and
articulated in complex languages and cultures. They
developed civilizations here when Europe was just in its
infancy. The consequences of this viewpoint have
constitutional significance, as was pointed out by Georges
I am honoured by the invitation to contribute to the
Lafontaine-Baldwin lecture series, imagining the kind of
Canada we want in the 21st century. And I welcome the
opportunity to reflect with you on the issues that we need
to address in order to realize that vision.
To paint a picture of the Canada that Aboriginal people
envision I need only turn to the ideals of a good life
embedded in Aboriginal languages and traditional teachings.
The Anishinabek seek the spiritual gift of "pimatziwin" -
long life and well-being -which enable a person to gain
wisdom. The Cree of the northern prairies value "miyowicehtowin"
– having good relations. The Iroquois Great Law sets out
rules for maintaining peace "Skennenkowa" between peoples,
going beyond resolving conflicts to actively care for each
other’s welfare. Aboriginal peoples across Canada and around
the world speak of their relationship with the natural world
and the responsibility of human beings to maintain balance
in the natural order. (Mr. Georges Erasmus, Vancouver,
As a way of undercutting those who claim that Indigenous
Peoples have no independent value system, Indigenous
teachers and Elders try to delineate what makes their
"constitution" a stable part of their legacy, values which
were the heart and soul of the Indigenous experience before
European came; here is one report detailing the outcome:
The curriculum team and the NACTAC members first
identified ten justice concepts that had important
applications to First Nations: sharing, reciprocity,
cooperation, respect, rights, the importance of caregivers,
harmony, interdependence, honour, and balance (Archibald, Coyote Learns 152).