Spirituality and beliefs
One thing that Quebec’s eleven first nations have in common—albeit with individual variations—is their spirituality. This spirituality is based essentially on the close ties between humanity and the earth—ties which often verge on veneration or even sacredness. The gratitude they feel towards Mother Earth and her inhabitants—whether plants (representing health and the power of healing) or animals (nature’s larder)—has been part of everyday life for Aboriginal peoples since the dawn of time. Many Aboriginal religious beliefs and traditional practices are still very much a part of daily life today. One example is prayer, which allows direct communication with the Creator. There are also many differences between Aboriginal nations—each people has developed their own specific philosophy based on cultural, linguistic and geographical differences.
Nature: to each their own
For Aboriginal people, a person’s homeland is the basis for their identity: the Cree are considered to be a hunting people, whereas Micmacs are a people of the sea. Certain nations display their specific talents through their handicrafts: the Atikamekw are known for their skills with birch bark and the Abenaki are famous for their basketwork. As for the Huron-Wendat people, they are extremely talented craftspeople and are recognized as excellent traders. Clothing also says a lot about identity. Aboriginal ceremonial clothing, known as regalia, is not only finely worked and unique to the person wearing it, but it is also steeped in meaning, the result of dreams or influences sent from the Creator. The dictum “clothes make the man” applies to the clothing worn at pow-wows, where each people wears their distinctive style of dress: beaded medallions, feathers in headdresses with traditional patterns, embroidered and beaded animal skin clothing, necklaces and bracelets made of bone or adorned with bear claws, moccasins, etc.
The circle of life and Mother Earth
The circle is an element central to Aboriginal beliefs. Its important role can be seen in many ways in their art and ceremonies. The drum, the sacred circle and the medicine wheel are good examples that represent the circular movement out of which arises a force that brings meaning to life, provided it is lived in harmony with nature. And isn’t the earth round? The legend of Mother Earth claims that the earth was originally an island. A turtle created the earth by bringing dirt up from the bottom of the ocean to create the continent. That is why Mother Earth is represented by a turtle.
The wisdom of the Elders
It’s impossible to fail to notice the deep respect Aboriginals have for their Elders, symbols of knowledge and skills to be handed down to younger generations.
Did you know?
While sweet grass attracts good spirits, sage repels the bad ones.