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Aboriginal Political Organizati on
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Aboriginal Political Organization. Leadership Most Woodland First Nations were made up of many independent groups (usually fewer than 400 people), each.

Jan 02, 2016

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  • Aboriginal Political Organization

  • LeadershipMost Woodland First Nations were made up of many independent groups (usually fewer than 400 people), each with its own hunting territory. A leader generally won his position because he possessed great courage or skill in hunting.This leader had an intimate knowledge of the habitats and seasonal migrations of animals that they depended on for survival.

  • Iroquoian First Nations did not migrate in search of food. An abundance of food supplies made it possible for the Iroquoian First Nations to found permanent communities and gave them the leisure time to develop complex systems of government based on democratic principles.

  • Many Iroquoian, had a three-tier political system, consisting of village councils, tribal councils and the confederacy council.All councils made decisions on a consensus basis, with discussions often going late into the night until everyone reached agreement.

  • On the Plains, the individual migratory groups, each with their own chief, assembled during the summer months for spiritual ceremonies, dances, feasts and communal hunts.Plains First Nations had military societies that carried out functions such as policing, regulating life in camp and on the march, and organizing defences.

  • The Pacific Coast First Nations had a well-defined aristocratic class that was regarded as superior by birth.The basic social unit for all First Nations in this part of the country was the extended family (lineage) whose members claimed descent from a common ancestor.

  • Most lineages had their own crests, featuring representations of animal or supernatural beings that were believed to be their founders.The most famous method of crest display was the totem pole consisting of all the ancestral symbols that belonged to a lineage.

  • The people of the Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins were divided into several independent groups made up of different family units. Each group hunted a separate territory, with individual boundaries defined by tradition and use.A group leader was selected according to the group's needs at a particular time. On a caribou hunt, for example, the most proficient hunter would be chosen leader.

  • Practical Realities of Decision Making in the Iroquoian ConfederacyFrom 1560 to 1720 the Iroquoian Confederacy (16000 people) was comprised of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and the Mohawk cultural groups.The Tuscarora were admitted to the confederacy around 1720.The nations of the confederacy often fought and pursued separate goals and objectives.

  • The Confederacy was comprised of a central council of 50 permanent leaders. All original five Iroquoian nations were represented on the council.The officially recognized and elected political leaders were known as sachems.Leaders were accepted based on their lineage, acceptance by the community, and personal values and skills of leadership and mediation.

  • Each of the five nations was only allowed one vote in council matters.The council had to achieve unanimity of issues before any decision could be accepted as valid.The council was essentially a foreign policy decision making body concerned with matters of war, trade, and peace treaties.

  • Decisions were made through lengthy and well considered deliberations upon issues.The procedure required that all Council members be allowed to present their views.The principle guiding the Council was to maintain collaboration while allowing for individual autonomy.

  • The decentralization of power within the Confederacy Council and the individual nations councils sometimes led to factionalism (divisions which lead to the inability to resolve issues and problems).This placed the Confederacy in a weak position when dealing with highly united European colonies, which eventually led to their downfall.

  • Role of WomenWomen traditionally played a central role within the Aboriginal family, within Aboriginal government and in spiritual ceremonies.Men and women enjoyed considerable personal autonomy and both performed functions vital to the survival of Aboriginal communities.

  • Women were viewed as both life-givers and the caretakers of life. As a result, women were responsible for the early socialization of children.In matriarchal societies, such as of the Mohawk, women were honoured for their wisdom and vision as well as for the sacred gifts which they believed the Creator had given to them.

  • Women figured centrally in almost all Aboriginal creation legends. In Ojibway and Cree legends, it was a woman who came to earth through a hole in the sky to care for the earth.It was a woman, Nokomis (grandmother), who taught Original Man (Anishinabe, an Ojibway word meaning "human being") about the medicines of the earth and about technology.

  • When a traditional Ojibway person prays, thanks is given and the pipe is raised in each of the four directions, then to Mother Earth as well as to Grandfather, Mishomis, in the sky.To the Ojibway, the earth is woman, the Mother of the people, and her hair, the sweetgrass, is braided and used in ceremonies.

  • The Dakota and Lakota (Sioux) people of Manitoba and the Dakotas tell how a womanWhite Buffalo Calf Womanbrought the pipe to their people. It is through the pipe that prayer is carried by its smoke upwards to the Creator in their most sacred ceremonies.