Elder Brother and the Law of the People
Contemporary Kinship and Cowessess First Nation


Cover image (Elder Brother and the Law of the People)

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.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Contents 6
Illustrations 7
Introduction 10
Map 1. Western Canada. Cowessess First Nation is located in southeasternSaskatchewan. 23
Map 2. Cowessess and its neighbouring First Nations, Sakimay, Kakewistahaw, andOchapowace. 23
Table 1. Population of Cowessess First Nation, July 2013 25
Chapter 1: Elder Brother as Cultural Hero - The Law of the People and Contemporary Customary Kinship 30
Tricksters 31
Âtayôhkêwina and Âcimowina 38
Elder Brother as Cultural Hero 41
Elder Brother Stories as Law of the People 44
Chapter 2: A Historical View of the Iron Alliance 50
Emergence of the Iron Alliance 51
Origins of the Assiniboine 53
Origins of the Saulteaux 55
Archaeology and the Emergence of Plains First Nations People 58
Origins of the Métis 61
Aboriginal People of the Saskatchewan Plains, 1800–1870 65
Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal People up to 1885 69
Chapter 3: Multicultural Bands on the Northern Plains and the Notion of “Tribal” Histories 77
Chapter 4: The Multicultural Composition of Cowessess First Nation 97
The Cowessess Band and Louis O’Soup, 1870–1913 98
Cowessess Band in the Twentieth Century 114
Chapter 5: Cowessess Band Members and the Importance of Family Ties 121
Impact of Dysfunction and the Reserve Economy on Kinship Practices 123
Change and Continuity of Kinship Patterns 125
Maintenance of Family Connections 134
Chapter 6: First Nations Response to Membership Codes of the Indian Act - Bill C-31 and Cowessess First Nation 148
Entrenchment of Legal Criteria for “Indian” 149
Challenges to the Indian Act’s Membership Code 150
Reactions to Bill C-31 156
Cowessess Members’ Views of Bill C-31 165
Chapter 7: Implementing Treaty Obligations in Saskatchewan - Cowessess First Nation andTreaty Land Entitlement 173
The Emergence of Treaty Land Entitlement 174
The Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement 182
Cowessess First Nation and Treaty Land Entitlement 187
Cowessess Members’ View of the Impact of TLE 196
Conclusion 203
Notes 207
Introduction 207
Chapter 1 208
Chapter 2 210
Chapter 3 215
Chapter 4 217
Chapter 5 220
Chapter 6 221
Chapter 7 222
Bibliography 225
Acknowledgements 243
Index 251