The Manito Aki Inakonigaawin (MAI) is the Great Earth Law of the Anishinaabeg. It is informed by the seven Grandfather Teachings of Humility, Bravery, Honesty, Wisdom, Truth, Respect, and Love, as well as other sacred principles. While rooted in ancient customary protocols, the MAI enables a ground-breaking contemporary process.
The MAI is a sacred and holistic law that has always been in place and will never change. It outlines practices for traditional planning and emphasizes a responsibility for stewardship and protection of the natural environment. It also offers clear direction for following customary engagement protocols and provides a framework for successful partnerships. Through its implementation protocols, the MAI calls for a community process and presents a mechanism for enforcement and compliance. The MAI provides opportunities for the future and is the foundation of Niiwin Wendaanimok’s approach.
Although the MAI has been in effect since Time Immemorial (and is therefore unwritten) a portion of the Law has recently been translated to written form. This expression of the MAI is called the Resource Law and is intended to be both equal in force and compatible with the contemporary laws of the Crown.
The MAI is being used as the basis for a Treaty-based relationship between the Niiwin Wendaanimok Partnership and the Crown. On February 5th, 2020, the Partnership signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Ontario. Through a sacred ceremony, participating governments confirmed their relationship under the MAI, and committed to a respectful, collaborative working relationship. Wauzhushk Onigum Chief Chris Skead shared in a statement: “From time immemorial, resource-sharing in our territory has been guided by Manito Aki Inakonigaawin — our Great Earth Law. When we follow this path and its protocols, wise, fair, and sustainable decisions are made for both the land and the people.”
The MAI is at the centre of the Niiwin Wendaanimok’s method for planning and construction. By implementing the Resource Law, strategic planning can be carried out according to traditional approaches. There are four phases of traditional planning under the MAI: The Visioning Phase, the Scouting Phase, the Hunter/Warrior/Gatherer Phase, and the Feasting and Celebrating Phase. These phases provide an organized structure for preparation and action. Following these phases allows the Niiwin Wendaanimok Partnership to be equipped for wise and informed decision-making while respecting sacred laws and protocols.
At all stages of planning and construction, the Niiwin Wendaanimok is driven by the wisdom and guidance of our community members and Elders. The MAI calls for a community process, and this is carried out through ongoing communication, regular meetings, and frequent ceremonies with each of the four Nations. The process of engagement is guided by four key principles, outlined in the Resource Law: Weweni (Take our time), Bebekaa (Doing it right), Biiziindun (Listen), and Kegogtachken (Don’t be afraid). These principles allow for meaningful engagement and participation throughout the entire duration of planning and construction, and build lasting relationships that extend beyond project timelines.
Respect is to honour all of creation. It develops when one takes the time to establish a deeper relationship with others and with Mother Earth. Respect is mutual and reciprocal; we must give respect if we want to receive respect.
To know love is to know peace. Love knows no bounds and must be unconditional. We must accept it sincerely and give it freely. Those who are able to demonstrate this teaching are at peace with themselves.
To walk through life with integrity is to know honesty. We must first be honest with ourselves, recognizing and accepting who we are. This will allow us to be truthful and trustworthy with others.
Bravery is to face a problem with integrity. It takes bravery to be able to stand up against things that are not right. We must have conviction in our decisions and courage in our thinking and speaking.
Humility is to know our role within creation. We must respect our place and praise the accomplishments of others.
It is important to be aware of the balance and equality
with all of life.
Wisdom is intelligence or knowledge that is to be used for the good of the people. We need to consider how our actions will affect the next seven generations. We seek out the wisdom of our Elders because they have the ability to draw on their knowledge and life skills to provide guidance.
Truth is to know all of these things. We must understand that the Teachings all go hand in hand. We must trust in our teachings and be true to ourselves and others.