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


Excerpt from the Author, Page 10-11:

"...Recently, scholars, having recognized that race as a “natural human division in human populations has been widely discredited by science,” have focused their attention on Métis cultural expression rather than race as the source of difference. Nevertheless, race is still an implied factor in many scholars’ discussion of, for example, the ethnogenesis of the Métis.

The result of this emphasis on the cultural differences between, say, the Plains Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine, and Métis is a lack of acknowledgement of the cultural similarities among these groups. This book will highlight their historical cultural similarities, arguing that such similarities were facilitated by the role that kinship played in the relationships between these groups, and that these similarities impact the way that contemporary Cowessess members interact with each other.

In order to demonstrate the lasting cultural notions of kinship, this book will examine the responses of Cowessess members to Bill C-31 and the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) agreement." (10-11).

Publisher's Abstract:

"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."

Please see the attached PDF for Chapter Summaries of Elder Brother and the Law of the People


Publication Information

Innes, Robert Alexander. Elder Brother and the Law of the People: Contemporary Kinship and Cowessess First Nation. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2013.


Innes, Robert Alexander
Publication Date
Primary Resource
Resource Type