Thank you, Charlie for bringing us round to this important topic. Many people may be familiar with the saying “All my Relations…” This saying refers to everything in the circle of life not just humans.
For many Indigenous nations, the circle represents all of life on earth (Creation). Humans do not occupy a place above the other parts of Creation. We do not have “dominion” over anything other than ourselves. In other words, we the two-legged, are equal to the four-legged, the no-legged, the rooted nations, the water nations, the winged nations, the ones that crawl, the ones that burrow, the ones we can’t see and so on. All are equal in the circle.
Many Indigenous nations recognize this equality by offering gifts and giving “thanks” when they take something from Creation be it an animal for food, a plant for medicine or a tree for clothing or transportation. Since we all depend on the other elements in Creation, we have a responsibility to take care of each other. This caring for all of Creation is a daily life practice. Many of the ceremonies and practices that we use are intended to maintain the balance of all life in the circle to All my Relations…
When settlers came to North America they equated these practices with “religion”. However, these duties and responsibilities that Indigenous people perform to maintain balance in their own lives and all of Creation are not a religion but rather a way of life. With colonization, many Indigenous practices were outlawed and many have been lost. Today, in recognizing that Indigenous land was unceded, many non-Indigenous institutions have affirmed Indigenous access to traditional practices in their buildings.
Videos & Artwork
Video from the Mi’kmawey Delbert Cultural Centre in Nova Scotia that mentions how Kluskap taught the Mi’kmaq to live in harmony with all Creation.
Here is the Mi’kmaq moon calendar (pdf) represented in a circle with different parts of the ecosystem. It was developed as part of a SSHRC research project to bring together scientific knowledge from Mi’kmaq and western processes at Cape Breton University’s Institute for Integrative Science & Health.
Gwen Bear, elder in residence at UNB and respected art instructor from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design speaks about the importance of harmonious living in the Wolastoqey tradition. See the New Brunswick Museum’s virtual website.
Mi’kmaq scholar, Margaret Robinson discusses the notion of “animal personhood” in Mi’kmaq world view in this article:
Robinson, M. (2014). Animal personhood in Mi’kmaq perspective. Societies, 4(4), 672-688. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4698/4/4/672/htm
Journal Articles and Books
Mi’kmaq/Acadian theologian Terry LeBlanc, in his 2012 doctoral dissertation, looks at 17th and 18th century writings to explore the religion vs. spirituality question. He noted that the Jesuits approached religion through cognition (thinking and reasoning) while the Mi’kmaq used intuition and engagement with nature.
Zabrina Whitman’s 2013 master’s thesis takes on the very modern debate between economic development and traditional Mi’kmaq values of sustainability.