Summary and Roadmap Despite the significance of kinship studies in American Indian Literature, many American Indian Studies (AIS) have ignored this area of research. Raymond DeMallie challenged AIS scholars to recognize the essence of Native American Studies, explore the richness of these studies, and find creative methods that can build them going forward.
Robert Alexander Innes took DeMallie’s challenge positively and dared to venture into the vast territory of unexplored research: the kinship practices of Cowessess First Nation. The study is titled: Elder Brother, the Law of the People, and Contemporary Kinship Practices of Cowessess First Nation Members: Re-conceptualizing Kinship in American Indian Research Studies. The research borrows from previous studies that reveal the fluid nature of ethnic identities. Innes examines the construction of identity among the members of Cowessess First Nation over time as well as the significance of kinship relations in affirming both individual and collective identities. In a brilliant demonstration of a grip of this research topic, Innes explores four main areas of kinship relations in the Indian context. They include the legal definition of Indian in the Canadian law and the challenges that informed the implementation of Bill C-31 in 1985 and the concept of the law of the people and Elder Brother Stories.
Other areas include the association between the values in the stories and kinship patterns among Cowessess members and results of the interviews of various Cowessess band members that reveal the allegiance to traditional kinship practices. By relying on a broad gamut of literature and interviews, Innes offers a sophisticated and insightful perspective of the Aboriginal construction of identity with a specific focus on Cowessess First Nation. In this paper, I will discuss how Innes argues the importance of the definition of Indian, and how it contributes to the understanding of the implications of elder brother stories in strengthening collective identities among Cowessess First Nation members.