A main theme in contemporary liberal democratic states is equality. The equality that is implied in nation-states is the equality of individual citizens. All individual citizens within a country, at least in theory, have equality before the law, have the right to vote, equal opportunity, and should not face discrimination for differences in gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion or age.
Indigenous nations usually also have great respect for individuality, although it works somewhat differently from equality within a nation-state. Indigenous respect for equality comes from the spiritual world. A man or woman may seek knowledge and understanding from the spiritual world as a means to helping sick people, give direction to the community, create new rules, and to seek wisdom and guidance. Through ceremonies, prayers, sweats, or vision quests, individuals often seek personal guidance for how they are to live their lives, and what tasks a person should take up with their lives. Such spiritual knowledge can inform a person about their life calling, their leadership or family roles. A spiritual calling gained through fasting or ceremony is a way of seeking knowledge, and learning how a person fits into the great plan of the cosmic or spiritual order. Usually messages gained about spiritual callings are specific and mean only something to the individual.
Elders may listen to recountings of spiritual experiences or visions and interpret them, but the experiences are very personal, and often do not have meaning to other people. A person in an indigenous community has specific roles or tasks to do in their lifetime. The tasks come directly from the creator or indirectly through messengers from the creator. A person’s spiritual calling is specific and based on spiritual teachings or messages. A person’s spiritual calling is respected and honored. No mortal person has the power or right to tell another person to engage in a task that is contrary to their given spiritual path.
Consequently, individualism, in this case a spiritual individualism, is highly respected, and allows considerable toleration of individualism, as well as respect of an individuals’ right to participation in community political and social relations. The emphasis on consensus based political and social decision in indigenous nation making is at least in part based on the individual autonomy created by spiritual individualism.
For Indigenous Peoples, spiritual autonomy and specificity also belongs to nations. For Westerners, relations between nations is outside the law, and are highly competitive, a virtual war of all against all. For indigenous nations, the ideal is peaceful, mutually beneficial relations with human nations, but also with all the beings and powers of the cosmic order. Because each nation has specific creation teachings and therefore specific national tasks to complete for the creator and other spirit beings, individual nations are spiritually distinct, unique, and have their own ways of interpreting and participating in the world. Each nation has distinct and diverse cultures and spiritual teachings that are respected and honored by other nations.
The diversity of nations is given in the creation teachings, and no nation or person has the right or power to interfere with the plans and purposes of the creator. Indigenous nations respect the ways of other nations, and in return they expect and want understanding and respect of their own way of life and ways of spiritual engagement. Indigenous nations are predisposed to respect nation-states and their ways of life, but in return indigenous nations want and expect respect for indigenous lifestyles, governments, cultures, and spiritual goals and purposes. There is great tolerance among Indigenous Peoples for diversity among nations and individuals. Every nation and individual is unique and spiritual beliefs support and define the right of nations and individuals to pursue their specific life and cosmic tasks.