Are They Like Us, Yet? Some Thoughts on Why Religious Freedom Remains Elusive for Aboriginals in North America
International Indigenous Policy Journal
It is well-documented that European culture differs from that of Aboriginal culture. Perhaps one of the most striking differences is in the relationships and attitudes each group has towards land. For Europeans the land is a commemorative gift of the creator there to be exploited for economic benefit; for Aboriginal peoples, the land is also a gift but one that a continuing extension of the creator’s immanence in which all things are related to one another. The one is an economic relation, the other a spiritual relation that denotes family. When two very different cultural systems encounter one another, there are bound to be clashes. Regardless, it is the overriding interests of the state that take precedence in countries where religious freedoms are constitutionally guaranteed – but such guarantees apply only insofar as the religions seeking freedom mirrors that of the dominate society. This paper explores these differences in relationships to land and how Aboriginal religious freedom suffers as a result, which has significant impacts on well-being and cultural continuity.