Nehiyaw Governance

At Aden Bowman’s Multicultural Day, I had the opportunity to hear Ian Worm speak about traditional governance. He began by telling us his name, where he was from, and what his parents were named. He explained that the purpose of the explanation was to speak with truth and honour from the beginning, and to establish a relationship with who he was speaking to.

After the introduction, he began to explain about Cree traditional governance, stressing the belief of respect towards the earth. He said that humans are not above the rest of the world and we have no right to hold dominion over any part of it. Traditional Cree government relied on the idea of self-governance, which is when everyone knows their place and role as an individual. Cree society was separated into specific gender roles. The man’s role was to do the heavy labour, hunt, defend the community, conduct governance of a community, and take care of the women. The women’s role was to take care of the men, be in charge of the community while the men were gone hunting, educate the children on customs, beliefs, language, and gender roles, gather medicine, and counsel men.

Mr. Worm described the governance as a matriarchy, which is when women are in charge.  He said that the grandmothers chose the chief and ran the community while men were gone. However, the chief that was selected by the grandmothers was a man and it was his job to represent the community. Based on my limited understanding from the presentation, I’m not sure I would call the government a matriarchy as he said the women were in charge while the men were gone hunting.  What about when the men returned? Also, the chief was a man. This is something I’d like to learn more about.

After his explanation of Cree traditional governance, he went into an explanation about the changes that came with settlers and gave a little information about treaties. His speech was quite interesting and I learned a lot about different ways a community can be run.


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