Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Regna Darnell


The Nêhiyawak, Four-Body People, known as the Plains Cree, reside in the territory of Maskwacîs. Of the Four Nations that encompass Maskwacis, this study focuses on Nipisihkopahk, also known as Samson Cree Nation and is located 70km south of the city of Edmonton in Alberta. Governance for the Nêhiyawak lies in the philosophical and spiritual teachings passed down through generations of ancestral knowledge especially in discussions relating to wâhkôtowin, kinship, ohtaskanesowin, origin, and the teachings from Wîsahêcâhk, Elder Brother, who taught the Nêhiyawak about morality and self through oral narratives. As relationships between the settler state of Canada and Indigenous Nations create dialogue concerning authority and autonomy, this study discusses the methods utilized through community collaboration for the process of enacting traditional governance. As it stands, Samson Cree Nation follows the band council system that was enforced by The Indian Act.

Forwarding the collective memory of the Nêhiyawak through their cultural knowledge, this study follows the journey of Nipisihkopahk as they forward the resurgence of traditional governance through their own laws rooted in the idea that we are all related, and this extends not only to the human world. Kisê-manitow, Creator, gave the Nêhiyawak wiyasiwêwina, laws, of how to conduct our self morally and ethically, revealing further the mindset of the people. Insights into the Creation story allow this study to delve deeper into the philosophical and spiritual values aligned within ceremony. Through this understanding of what it means to be Nêhiyaw, the study will also reveal key philosophical insights into Treaty and how better understandings can shape the diplomatic discussions between Indigenous Nations and the settler-state. Concepts of miyo-pimâtisiwin, the good life, and pimâcihowin, livelihood, allow for the ability to understand how the Nêhiyawak connect to land, culture, and family.

The Elders agreed that already published oral narratives and teachings would be utilized, since the intellectual property and ownership belongs to the Nêhiyawak Nation. The significance of this study is to allow Nêhiyaw indigeneity to come forward and allow for the well being of the citizens of Samson Cree Nation outside of the domination of colonial policies to occur. This study presents the process in how meaningful relationships should occur between researcher and community.