I recently traveled to Alberta to participated in a “Natural Law" workshop lead by Canadian First Nation elders from the Treaty 6 area. But what actually occurred was confusing to me.
My understanding of “natural law” is based on what I perceive as Indigenous Peoples' integral relationship with nature. Indigenous ways of knowing in my opinion is not religions; rather it is ways of life centered upon the complex relationships between Indigenous societies with nature (Mother Earth). Each Indigenous culture had its own holistic and sophisticated structure based on the laws of nature which existed prior to European contact and, more specifically, prior to contact with church missionaries.
My opinion is that christianity was transferred at initial contact to Indigenous peoples as a means to control and conquer them. Some people argue that the colonizers were “saving the souls” of the Indigenous peoples from a certain peril of hell, but in fact what resulted was a genocidal erasing of Indigenous peoples' beliefs that had served their societies for a long time. And I am not to mention the residential schools scattered across Canada who did so much harm it will take many generations to heal the inter-generational harm.
Christianity is centered on a hierarchy religion reflecting a European paradigm, where Indigenous beliefs on the other hand are non-hierarchical and egalitarian.
What I was hoping to learn from the teachings of the elders was 'natural law' without the Christian bits, but sadly, I left disappointed and confused. The elder began his speech with letting story of Adam and Eve and how we are all sinners. Are some of today's Indigenous elders confused as a result of being indoctrinated by Christianity, and are seeking to explore their spirituality by collapsing Christianity teachings with anything that is organic and fluid, meaning spirit or energy? Unfortunately, the indoctrination of Christianity is so well embedded and woven into the fabric of these Indigenous elders' teachings and is passed off as "natural law". What sadden me the most is that they seemed unaware that their teaching was in fact based on Christianity. This is what colonization looks like.
I am not judging Christianity as something that is bad. I was raised Catholic I know a little something about indoctrination. My mom is devote and many family members as well. All I am saying is that I was interested in learning the true teachings of 'natural law' in the form of a decolonized (or better yet pre-colonized) and pure teaching, which I am positive continues to exist in First Nations country somewhere.
The photo above is a picture of a spiritual Dene man, my Dad, who had knowledge of 'natural law' as understood by the Dene people. But I was too young and maybe too stupid (or at least too willing to believe in the lessons of priests and nuns) to accept his teachings had merit, until sadly it was too late.