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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Orality and Social Memory
Orality and Creativity

Orality and Ceremonialism

Orality and Social Memory


Visual representation of nature's laws

Insofar as the ceremony does depict what actually occurred in the ancestral past, it is considered true. The re-enacting of the creative authorities and their long-ago creativity also bears with it the thrust of social memory. In their study Collective Remembering, David Middleton and Derek Edwards comment that "re-presentation within particular genres, be they dance, song, theatre, or story, carries with it a social memory-making, that is, continuities in the community of participation out of which any particular performance was developed" (4).

It is this social memory that plays a key role in Native American cultures. Middleton and Edwards note: "Of particular interest is the way remembering and forgetting are integral with social practices that carry with them, in important ways, a culturally evolved legacy of conduct and invention, both material and social, central to the conduct of daily life" (1) These concepts are directly applicable to the Indigenous case. Social memory is central in the construction of Indigenous law for that memory not only remembers what we would call the historical past, but more importantly (from an Indigenous perspective) it remembers the potent mythic past. It is in this enlarged sense of significant history that moral and religious values can be seen to be intertwined, for the stories laid down by the ancestors set both the framework and the laws of the contemporary community. This centrality of the practice of remembering in the daily lives of Indigenous peoples constitutes the ground of knowing who they are and what they are to do: in effect, social remembrance retains both the ceremonial acts that we would call religion and the norms that we would call law. The result is circular: storytelling is the crucial element in the ongoing expression of identity but it cannot be divorced from the religious values inherent in society, while society itself is made up of the social rememberings that form the lore described by the storytellers.

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