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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Rights of Interpretation

Indigenous Peoples

Constitutional rights
and responsibilities

Social Reality

Rights of

Origin of

Exercised as a

Definition of People

Great Turtle Island



Survival for
All Beings

Survival for
the People

Right to Exist


The Land

Spirit of the Land

Judicial and Fiscal Order


Visual representation of nature's laws

Page 1 | 2

The Community Reserves the Right of Interpretation of Nature’s Laws, based on their reading of its truths.

Indigenous thinkers point out that Western thinkers have identified such forms as the "social contract" or the "democratic ideal" as the foundation for legal and cultural systems, implying that because they have done so, and these views have been widely espoused, then all Peoples should accept them. Yet it is not self-evident that one model of these foundational understandings is accepted, even among Western thinkers. Indeed, for Indigenous peoples, the very fact of the diversity of government and constitutions reflects the fact that disparate peoples interpret reality differently.

Nor can the democratic spirit be maintained otherwise. What Indigenous Peoples insist upon is that other kinds of permanent structures within their own history have shaped their understanding of what is foundational, so that what Europeans call "religion" or "culture" or "language" will predispose Indigenous People to make institutions in their own way. Consequently constitutional law among Indigenous People is modeled on or arises out of ritual and linguistic verities, not out of "secular" ideals:

The law that was sent to us is the natural law as expressed through our ceremonies, and the ceremonies themselves change with the four seasons. Elder Wayne Roan, October, 2001.

It follows then, that even such things as "truth" cannot be reduced to one kind of language or one kind of argument. Indeed, truth itself must be held to rest ultimately within the cultural fold; this means that constitutional understandings will have to be rooted in conceptual frameworks that related to the way people really see themselves, not according to a foreign system imposed from without:

The highest compliment or tribute they could pay a speaker was to say of him or her ‘w’daeb-wae’, taken to mean ‘he/she is right, correct, accurate, truthful.’ It is an expression approximating the word for ‘truth’ in the English language, except that it means one casts one’s knowledge as far as one has perceived it and as accurately as one can describe it, given one’s command of language. Beyond this one cannot go. According to this understanding, there can be no such thing as absolute truth." (Basil Johnson: Intro to Dancing with a Ghost)

Nature’s Laws, then, has its own sense of truth; it may not, however, be easily translated into a system that finds it difficult to see its own religious values enshrined in its law. Or a system that insists that religious value might imply a bias to law. The issue is raised if one examines who signed the treaties and why.

Canadian government treaty-making might imply the supremacy of the Christian faith…a kind of ideological triumph over traditional religion. Even more, treaty-making might have been an occasion for reactive movements to rally around religious notions that were regarded as "traditional" by Indigenous people, but were really trans-tribal.

Furthermore, we must also be aware that commitment to Nature’s Laws does not imply that "traditional" religious activity remained the same. For example, Michael Pomeau outlines the reforms instilled by the Grand Medicine Society and the Midewiwin. These had important impacts on Treaty #3 in the East, and the Midewewin tradition has directly impacted on the region outlined by this study.

The question that has yet to be asked is, How much unification did the Mide bring to the negotiating table through its influence on various tribes and groups? Perhaps, then, religious movements among Indigenous peoples contribute significantly to the success of the government's treaty-making, by providing cross-tribal awarnesses, and developing an idea of "The People" that was even larger than tribal affiliations:

There is one item I would like to begin to investigate more specifically in this spiritual hermeneutical approach to Treaty Number Three. This issue is the intriguing and suggestive fact that at least two of the signatories to this treaty were Mide priests (Lovisek 1996). Most were from the Bear Clan Totem. What kind of perspective did they bring? How did they view the process? What did they hope to gain from this signing?

Prior to examining the Mide priests as an important context for this treaty, we should briefly examine the Grand Medicine Society and its members. Known as the Midewiwin, this society was and remains enclosed and largely secret. It had two major roles: that of healing and that of ordering morality. Members met twice yearly to perform curing ceremonies, to receive initiates, and to advance members to higher degrees.

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