In the pre-reserve era, Aboriginal bands in the northern plains were relatively small multicultural communities that actively maintained fluid and inclusive membership through traditional kinship practices. These practices were governed by the Law of the People as described in the traditional stories of Wîsashkêcâhk, or Elder Brother, that outlined social interaction, marriage, adoption, and kinship roles and responsibilities.In Elder Brother and the Law of the People, Robert Innes offers a detailed analysis of the role of Elder Brother stories in historical and contemporary kinship practices in Cowessess First Nation, located in southeastern Saskatchewan. He reveals how these tradition-inspired practices act to undermine legal and scholarly definitions of “Indian” and counter the perception that First Nations people have internalized such classifications. He presents Cowessess’s successful negotiation of the 1996 Treaty Land Agreement and their high inclusion rate of new “Bill-C31s” as evidence of the persistence of historical kinship values and their continuing role as the central unifying factor for band membership.Elder Brother and the Law of the People presents an entirely new way of viewing Aboriginal cultural identity on the northern plains.
About the author
Robert Alexander Innes is a member of Cowessess First Nation and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. He is the author of Elder Brother and the Law of the People and co-editor, with Kim Anderson, of Indigenous Men and Masculinities.
“Robert Innes’ and Sam McKegney’s books are path clearing, situating Indigenous ways of knowing at the centre of their methodologies. The personal qualities of both books—the centrality of stories—push the reader, particularly the Indigenous reader, to really think about their place in the world and the responsibilities we carry to others.”
"This book makes a significant contribution to the fields of indigenous studies, history, anthropology, and political science to name a few. Ultimately, each chapter skillfully weaves together a powerful narrative of kinship, membership, and belonging as practices of Indigeneity, resistance, and resurgence.”
“An exciting work that uses a gendered analysis, decolonized interview techniques, and traditional history approaches to create an engaging scholarly work.”
Canadian Journal of History