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Native Claims

Stan Cuthand

What do our Indian Leaders mean when they say, "We, the Original Peoples of this land know the Creator put us here."

This statement contradicts the concept of creation found in the myths (Atayohkewina) of The People (Indians). The Mythical Beings (Atayohkewina) prepared the world for the coming of mortal man, they were the Creators who became stars, sung moon, plants, animals and eventually the animals gradually transformed to human beings. The fallen spirits became the insignificant objects such as glow fungus, puff balls, and certain trees; evil creatures such as water spirits, eg. water lynx, witikow and others possessed with evil beings. They were part of creation and were creators, and became symbolized in religious rituals. They were living forces who collided and fought each other and the good usually overcoming evil. The idea of a supreme being came as the great mystery "Manitow," whom the Elders called "Kisewayisiyin," (kind-person), for they thought they were too humble to say the Name. Then when they prayed, they referred to the "Mystery" as "The one above who made all things." You cannot say "Creator" in one word. Later the Missionaries change Manitow to KiseManitow (Kind God).

The First Nations declaration also states that "the Creator gave us laws that govern all our relationships to live in harmony with nature and mankind."

This declaration is possibly influenced by the story of Moses receiving the ten commandments from God on Mt. Sainai. It is a powerful story and no doubt comes from oral tradition. It is not inconceivable to discover that Haamerabi, King of Babylonia 2000 B.C. had a code of ethics almost identical to the ten commandments, written before the time of Moses.

Custom preceded natural law. Their customs have their source from the myths (Atayohkewina). It was very powerful and dictated certain behaviour towards relatives and living creatures; to promote harmony within a communal society and for the survival of The First People, who lived in a harsh environment. So we can conclude that Indian culture is to live in harmony with the

The third declaration of The First Nation is; "The laws of The Creator defined our rights and responsibilities." This makes God an authoritarian; The Old Testament idea, who made demands on his chosen people.

The reality is that there is an absence of personal authority in Indian society, hierarchical relation ship or a separate ruling entity. For example: the elders, leaders of societies merely gave information and advice but they did not make demands. They were not revered for their power or authority but because of their knowledge of the customs, traditions and rituals; and their rituals had a link with their ancestral creation. The shamans had a different relationship: for the health and well being of individuals, they admonished the clients for wrong behaviour. Most universities have Native Studies departments and the new generation, native and non-native are very knowledgeable. Therefore our leaders have to be careful in their interpretation of Aboriginal beliefs, in trying to authenticate their arguments.