Lesson Two: Foundational Tones


Students will consider the importance of tone and leadership in creating societies and systems of justice.

FL1(j) - Debate criteria for just laws and systems of justice and apply to scenarios and case studies.

FL1(i) - Compare the purposes and functions of law and the justice system in Canadian society today with traditional Indigenous approaches to law and justice (e.g., restorative vs. punitive justice).

A focus of this lesson is the foundational tone of societies, and how that tone can lead to success or failure. To help understand this focus, two rather extreme examples of shipwrecks are used. The Méduse ended in tragedy largely because of its leaders’ pure selfishness. On the flip side, the Julia Ann ended happily thanks in part to the selflessness of its leaders. The foundational tone of these temporary societies set them on very divergent paths.

The ideas surrounding foundational tone will be a factor in understanding the six shipwrecks featured in this resource. It will also help students when they set out to create their own shipwrecked society in the final lesson of this resource. To ground this thinking in issues closer to home, this lesson begins with a classroom discussion of some of the foundational tones of Western societies and Indigenous societies.

In November 1999, the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission of the Government of Manitoba released its Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba. The report is now dated, something which is reflected in the terms it uses. That understood, Volume I, Chapter Two of the report does a good job setting out some historical differences between Indigenous and Western worldviews, and how these views set the stage for their justice systems.

As the Commission points out, there are many different Indigenous peoples living in the land that today constitutes Canada: some 630 First Nation communities representing about 50 nations. Because there are so many unique Indigenous nations, it would be incorrect to say that there is a single “Indigenous” worldview and subsequent way of justice, just as it would be incorrect to say that there is a single “Western” worldview and subsequent way of justice. While some nations may be similar to others, essentially every sovereign nation develops its own worldviews and ways of justice.

Nonetheless, as the Commission notes, “At a fundamental cultural level, the difference between Aboriginal and Western traditions is a difference in the perception of one’s relationship with the universe and the Creator.” They go on to say...

For instance, in the Judeo-Christian tradition:
[Mankind was told to] fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish in the sea, the birds of heaven, and every living thing that moves upon the earth. In contrast, Ojibway thought believes that man does not hold “dominion” over the earth and all its creatures. In fact, man is the least important entity in creation. Creation came about from the union of the Maker and the Physical World. Out of this union came the natural children, the Plants, nurtured from the Physical World, Earth, their Mother.

To follow were Animalkind, the two-legged, the four-legged, the winged, those who swim and those who crawl, all dependent on the Plant World and Mother Earth for succour. Finally, last in the order came Humankind, the most dependent and least necessary of all the orders.

The differences between these two worldviews account, in large part, for the differences in the philosophy, purposes and practices of legal and justice systems. Each worldview is the basis for the customs, manners and behaviour that are considered culturally appropriate. One’s individual or cultural understanding of humanity’s place in creation, and the appropriate behaviour that understanding dictates, pervade and shape all aspects of life.

1. Using Teacher’s Background Information, lead class discussion about the foundational basics of Indigenous worldviews and Western worldviews. Questions for discussion could include:
• Are these views fundamentally incompatible?
• What could each worldview learn from each another?
• What is a better guiding view for society - dominion or interdependence?

2. To bridge discussion to how tone and worldview can frame the life of castaways, as a class read “Tone and Leadership.”

• What kind of basic needs would castaways have?
• Can people live harmoniously if their basic needs are not being met?
• What ways does the Méduse reflect a worldview based on dominion?
• What ways does the Julia Ann reflect a worldview based on interdependence?

3. Have students consider Discuss questions, either individually or in small groups.

4. For a more detailed account of the wreck of the Julia Ann, check out John Devitry-Smith’s paper “The Wreck of the Julia Ann” in the Brigham Young University journal BYU Studies.

5. When Captain Pond returned to safety, he wrote about his experience in Narrative of the Wreck of the Barque Julia Ann.

6. For details on the sole woman on the Méduse raft, check out Elizabeth C. Goldsmith’s article “Falling Off the Raft of the Medusa” on the Vanderbilt University Wonders and Marvels history blog.

Tone and Leadership: The Julia Ann and the Méduse


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