A key concept in the cultural philosophies of most indigenous nations is respect. A person gains respect by acquiring practical and spiritual knowledge and then living in a prudent manner while teaching others to do the same. By learning knowledge and sharing knowledge, a person is fulfilling a central life task. Acquire all the knowledge you can and share that knowledge with others. Respected elders are not just those people who have grown old and are elderly in years, but they are the persons who have acquired the cultural knowledge of the nation and have learned though many years of experience.
Sometimes there are special ceremonies for girls and boys that enable them to more clearly understand their task in life, for the nation, and within the cosmic order. Each person has a specific role to play. Through ceremony, and with the help and interpretation of knowledgeable elders, a person may realize their life calling. Vision quests, individual sacred bundles, and coming of age ceremonies were some ways in which individuals achieved an understanding of their life goals and purposes. Individuals were directly influenced by the Creator, or intermediary spirits, and were given specific and unique missions. Other persons did not challenge the pathway of particular individuals as long as they were supportive of the well being of the nation or community. Persons who used their knowledge for harm were considered witches or sorcerers.
Leadership in an indigenous nation can depend on broad kinship support, but also required knowledge and respect toward all members of the community. Successful leaders served at the discretion of the community, often having power only as long as the leader maintained positive influence over and support from community members. Leaders honored the spiritual tasks of individuals, and were knowledgeable about history, ceremony, practical life, and engaged with community issues and well-being. A leader had to be a good parent and have a well ordered family life, before they could take on management of a group or participate in national government. Those who did not manage good households were not ready for management of group or national affairs.
Leaders needed ceremonial and spiritual knowledge, since government within indigenous nations was not confined only to human beings. Indigenous governments did not separate cosmic knowledge and spirituality from the political management of the nation. The cultural philosophy of the nation was central to understanding the goals and purposes of the nation. Each nation has a part to play in the cosmic plan of the Creator. Nations were composed of people, and there were also numerous non-human nations in the world. Each nation had its own specific and unique instructions from the Creator. All other nations respected the ways of each other nation. Every nation had special and unique teachings from the Creator. Nations were also formed by the different species of plants and animals, as well as other beings in the universe that had power, motion, and purpose. Individuals, kinship groups, nations, were all to be respected for their different purposes and goals since that is the way the Creator made the universe. Politics in indigenous nations not only required managing human affairs, but also required maintenance of equilibrium with the other beings and forces in the universe. Contemporary indigenous governments can be evaluated by how well they fulfill the tasks given them in their creation teachings.
For thousands of years, indigenous governments were informed by tribal cultural philosophies focused on maintaining respectful, useful, practical, and well-balanced relations with the entire cosmic order. Cultural philosophies, individual, kinship, and national goals and purposes informed indigenous nations about how to achieve balance, order, well-being for individuals and nations. At the same time indigenous nations sought to avoiding harm due to actions that disrupted cosmic, national and individual relations. Respect for the ways of the cosmic order were central to maintaining long-term well-being and fulfillment of individual and national goals.