Abstract: One of the 10 categories of
Nature's Laws developed by the Nature's Laws Project
Team and defined as "Roles of Leadership; chiefs, Holy
People, Family Heads; Ceremonialists; Secret Society
leadership; Giftedness for specific roles (i.e., Chief to
lead in a war; Chief to lead in migration)."
The concept of Nature’s Law stressed
the notion of universality of nature—everything living had a
place in the nature of the world and its purpose.
Consequently, the very processes of nature were seen as
having a set of rules in place which defined the scheme of
things. According to this view, everything living, within
the parameters of its own existence, could best perform if
its activity took place in its rightful place.
Self-government, thus, also had as an essential co-ordinate
what we would call "space" or materiality. The laws that
were identified clearly were not virtual—they were said to
operate within the ecosystem in a real manner, even if what
"real" meant might not correlate well with a Western
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.
Perhaps, it would be best to start with
the basic formulae and code-making which was at the heart of
First Nations' viewpoints. Self-government was based upon a
world view and conception of the natural order. This was a
distinctive way of looking at the world and its life—it was
a kind of science, with the search for meaning and
understanding at the heart of the enterprise. What might be
said is that this model provides us with a handy, simplified
Aboriginal "scientific" model. That model was of all life as
part of a living organism. The notion of self-government,
then, went to the heart of the concept of Nature’s Laws,
because the rules of self-government were inherent in the
very meaning of the organism’s activity.
The idea of self-government can be
described as an expression of each form of life. It was part
of the construction of living organism—an ecology of natural
species in contemporary terms. For example, the plant grew
within a select place in the ecosystem, in a place that best
allowed its potential for growth. Its success as a plant
required that it be intimately related to other forms of
life, where its relationship to these forms provokes a
system of mutual interaction and response.
The second element of this First
Nations' model of "self-government" is the formation and
contribution provided by the world of microorganisms,
symbolized by the insect. As the plant performed, so the
insect both contributed and sustained its place in the
ecosystem according to set laws. The third element in this
model was provided by the more physical, visual movement of
the animal world. The final stage of this "governmental"
model was provided by the nehiyew, whose contribution
was not regarded as greater than the others, but rather was
perceived as integral to the now complete ecosystem. The
cycle is sealed by the intimate relationship between the
human and all other forms, leading the model back to the
foundation of them all—the plant world. This interpretive
model of Aboriginal "science" was the foundation of Nature’s
Laws, and provided a rule of thumb for understanding not
only how the living world functioned but it explained the
crucial interrelationship of the whole organism.
With this model in mind, then, it is
easy to see how the Woodland Cree student of nature held
his/her role to be one of search for knowledge—as Hobbema
Cree ceremonialist Wayne Roan recently indicated, "The
native Cree is the student of creation, survival, science,
technology, law and the "government" of nature." This was
the intellectual model which underlay the traditional
nehiyew world view.