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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Great Turtle Island

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

The People Recognize other Peoples within the land called Great Turtle Island and are Free to Associate with them as they Deem Necessary.

Even though much is said about the mobility of Indigenous peoples before the coming of Europeans, clearly the Indigenous people at the time of contact preferred to live together in groups or communities. The wanderer really had no place unless he was associated with a band, tribe or community. Moreover, association appears to have been crucial for communities and groups:

(I am) aware of cases where those who were wandering would seek to join a community. The examples occurred particularly with relatives of members of the band. The Band would make a decision. The community would usually have a vote on whether or not someone would be allowed to join. The decision was almost always made based upon the ability of the people involved to contribute (to the community). They also had to understand and practice the laws. Elder Walter Felix, October 2001.

Rather the model was to "belong" to a large linguistic and cultural group, but to live in small communities, more or less fixed in area of domicile; this was the "right" way to live, but you had complete confidence in making arrangements with others if the need arises:

It is important to recognize Natures Laws(s) and accept them. That is how you would be accepted (in traditional culture). Bush Cree and Plains Cree interacted. A Bush Cree may have a vision and wish for a Sundance. You cannot do a Sundance in the bush, so he would go to the Plains Cree. He would borrow the Chief and People of the Plains Cree to conduct the Sundance. The People would be provided by the Plains Cree to do the Sundance. The Sundance is the ultimate of all ceremonies. (Elder Wayne Roan, October 2001.)

Relationships with other groups were marked by formal ceremonies of engagement…welcome ceremony of some sort, a gift from the petitioner, a preferred seating place for the visitor, a meal or properly prepared food, ceremonies with the stem and the pipe:

"They then slowly advanced, the horsemen again preceding them on their approach to my tent. I advanced to meet them, accompanied by Messrs. Christie and McKay, when the pipe was presented to us and stroked by our hands.

After the stroking had been completed, the Indians sat down in front of the council tent, satisfied that in accordance with their custom we had accepted the friendship of the Cree nation."

In this statement, Morris underestimated the importance to the Indians of the pipe-stem ceremony. It signified more than an offer of friendship, although that was certainly included. The pipe-stem ceremony was a sacred act undertaken before conducting any matter of importance. In the presence of the pipe, "only the truth must be used and any commitment made in its presence must be kept."

From the point of view of the government officials, the ceremonial was merely a picturesque preliminary favoured by Indian custom. To them, the binding act of making treaty was the signing of the document at the close of negotiations. This was the mode of affirming agreements among Europeans. On the other hand, " ... the only means used by the Indians to finalize an agreement or to ensure a final commitment was by the use of the pipe." (Taylor)

No negotiations could take place if both groups did not bind themselves to honest negotiations, in friendship. If duplicity or high-handedness of any sort was present, the offenders were quickly sent away. To enter into agreement when there was not mutual understanding was to violate Nature’s Laws:

Only after setting the discussions within a context of friendship and care were specific treaty terms proposed. They were similar to those of the first five treaties. Peter Erasmus related that on the second day of meeting Morris asked for the Indians' views on these terms. Nevertheless, he added that he could go no further than he had the previous day.

Pound Maker who was not a chief at that time spoke up and said, ''The governor mentions how much land is to be given to us. He says 640 acres, one mile square for each family, he will give us." And in a loud voice he shouted, "This is our land! It isn't a piece of pemmican to be cut off and given in little pieces back to us. It is ours and we will take what we want."

A strong wave of approval came back from the seated Indians at his statement. Some braves in the last row rose to their feet, waved their hands and arms, shouting, "Yes! Yes!" in Cree. Apparently these were Pound Maker's followers. It was some time before the main chiefs could restore order.

Erasmus claimed that Morris was visibly shaken by this episode which portended difficulty in gaining acceptance of the government's treaty terms. Morris replied that unless certain lands were set aside for the sole use of the Indians, the country would be flooded with white settlers who would crowd the Indians out as they had elsewhere. This reply dealt with only one of Poundmaker's points, the principle of reserves. It by-passed the questions of their size and of the Indians' role in determining the conditions of their own future. Mistawasis brought that day's proceedings to a close by suggesting that the commissioner's words should be thought out quietly.

The Cree did not hold a council the next day (Sunday). The people were given the day to talk things over amongst themselves. The Indian council was called for Monday and the full assembly with the commissioner for Tuesday. (Taylor 19)

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