kihcitwâw kîkway meskocipayiwin (sacred changes): transforming gendered protocols in Cree ceremonies through Cree law




Lindberg, Darcy

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Engaging in Cree ceremonies, in one manner, is a legal act. It is also a gendered act as well. Thus, ceremony is one avenue to seek both legal and gendered transformations. The transformational processes this thesis contemplates are the protocols (or rules of procedure) involved in Cree sweat lodge (matotisân) and pipe (ospwakân) ceremonies. Some of these protocols are gendered in nature, in that they set out different actions based upon sex or gender. Looking at gender is a necessary part of our continuing work with Indigenous legal orders. Further, engaging in ceremony as legal practice offers one avenue in addressing the potentials for inequality that gendered protocols bring about. While this research does not seek a definitive resolution to some critical discourses about gendered protocols, it focuses on their legal nature to explore processes of change that reaffirm the sanctity of Cree ceremonial spaces while opening up these spaces for radical dissent. This research asks: (1) What are the processes for changing the gendered nature of protocols in Cree ceremonies, and as result changing Cree law? (2) What are the barriers within Cree social practices that prevent ceremonial change? (3) What are the potential dangers Cree spiritual and legal practices changing? In order to maintain the integrity of the knowledge systems resident in Cree ceremonies, to uphold our obligations to the relations involved in the ceremonies, and to avoid potentials for violence in our deconstructions or transformation, an ethos of deep relationality should inform our processes of change. This means seeking out methods of change that are already resident within ceremonial structures, and ensuring reciprocity when we actively seek transformations by upholding obligations resident in nehiyaw piimatisiwin (Cree way of life/being).  



Indigenous law, Cree/nehiyaw law, nehiyaw piimatisiwin (Cree way of being/life), Cree ceremony, Gender, Protocols/rules of procedure, Cree legal traditions