First Nations leadership and spirituality within the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples : a Saskatchewan perspective
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This study investigated First Nations leadership and its connection to spirituality within the context of the hearings held in Saskatchewan for The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The questions that guided the study were as follows: 1) In what way is leadership constituted and conceived for the First Nations of Saskatchewan, 2) What does the concept and practice of spirituality encompass for the First Nations of Saskatchewan, 3) What is the imputed understanding of the relationship between spirituality and First Nations leadership? The literature review investigated the characteristics and attributes of First Nations leaders, then progressed to the exploration of the holistic nature of First Nations leadership and the contrasting relationship it has with western leadership, and finally, identified the importance of spirituality for the First Nations people. Because of its encompassing nature, spirituality was inevitably linked to First Nations leadership; it was identified as a pervasive worldview or belief and a source of strength for leaders. The study used The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) hearings held in Saskatchewan as the primary source of data collection. Approximately 3000 pages of the Saskatchewan hearings, in transcript form, were analysed. Although there were some structured hearings, generally the RCAP hearings were fairly open and provided rich description and a vast amount of valuable information. The predominant themes that emerged in relation to First Nations leadership included: leadership that was accountable and trustworthy, leadership that embraced the treaties and self-government, positive leadership, and leadership and the youth. However, spirituality is a term that appears throughout the hearings. Spirituality was associated with healing, culture, and education, but was not clearly defined by the participants. The themes that emerged in relation to spirituality included: spirituality and its connection to healing, and spirituality and its connection to culture. The data indicated that spirituality was clearly an important aspect of First Nations life and should encompass leadership. Apparently for First Nations people spirituality is "in-grained" and an "ever-existing" aspect of life that does not require repeated explanation. It was not surprising to see the close connection between spirituality and First Nations leadership when one reflects on the First Nations holistic perspective on life. The inter-connectedness speaks to the importance of an emphasis on spirituality in any First Nations leadership education.