Within wider discussions of environmental ethics, Indigenous philosophies and worldviews have been put forward as philosophical counterexamples to the Western hyperseparation from nature. A summary of a general Indige- nous position is provided by Whitt et al. Who consider that “Indigenous responsibilities to and for the natural world are based on an understanding of the relatedness, or affiliation of the human and non-human worlds.” In general it can be argued that this relational approach stands in contrast to Western treatments of the natural world as a radically different, inferior Other. In the context of the present study Indigenous lifeways may “offer insights that may help dominant societies unlearn some things and become open to other ways of knowing the world.” In knowledge of a diversity of living Indigenous traditions and a multitude of Indigenous cultural practices, this chapter will maintain the established theme and will focus on the occurrence of specific ideas and prac- tices related to plants. In particular, it aims to uncover how plants are incorpo- rated within the realm of human moral considerability. It will pay specific attention to the principles that lead to respectful relationships coexisting with human-plant predatory relationships. Here I am not seeking to universalize or appropriate Indigenous thought for use in Western societies. This chapter is written “not for imitation or for direct instruction, but for inspiration and enriched understanding.”

This chapter will deal almost exclusively with the well-documented Indige- nous cultures of Australia, North America, and Aotearoa/New Zealand. While acknowledging their distinctness, these cultures have been assembled together in their recognition as animistic societies, scholars of the “new animism.” 6 Recent scholarship on animistic Indigenous societies presents a number of shared rela- tional principles and criteria, which this chapter presents thematically. Primarily, in animistic worldviews, it is a general principle that the plant, animal, and human realms interpenetrate. Within a great diversity of oral tradi- tions, in almost all cases, there is a recognition of the kinship between human beings and the natural world, a kinship that is based not upon rebirth (as in Chapter 4) but upon shared heritage and substance. This idea of a shared geneal- ogy is prevalent in the wonderful Earth ancestry stories held by Aboriginal Aus- tralians, Native North Americans, and Maori people among many others. Many of these creation stories involve the strong motif of metamorphosis to express interpenetration. These Earth-based stories are a key feature of Indigenous tradi- tions. In New Zealand, as in other regions “Creation accounts are the founda- tions upon which Maori of the Pacific have built a cosmological, religious philosophy and metaphysics.” 7 Due to the importance of these accounts, this chapter is structured around their narrative presence.

Less well-known than this basic Earth relatedness or the widely discussed idea of sacred landscapes is the concept of personhood, championed by the schol- ars of animism such as Irving Hallowell, Nurit Bird-David, and Graham Harvey. Rather than focus on sacred plant species, this study of human-plant interactions will be supported by the concept of personhood. Personhood is a crucial, all pervading concept—for as persons, plants are recognized as volitional, intelli- gent, relational, perceptive, and communicative beings. Living in a world under- pinned by the plant kingdom, the existence of plant persons is incredibly important for discussions of interspecies ethics.

This acknowledgement of plants as persons is based on and in turn strengthens the recognition of plants as kin. Indeed, personhood is expressed and galvanised within specific kinship relationships between individual plants and humans. These specific, local kinship relationships are accompanied by obli- gations of responsibility, solidarity, and care. Therefore, they are one of the most important aspects of inclusive human-plant relationships. Crucially, however, in animist cultures, the recognition and acceptance of plant personhood and spe- cific kinship coexists with predatory relationships.

In contrast to Western philosophies, Indigenous animist societies do not seek to deny personhood and pursue exclusion because some persons must be killed for others to live. In contrast to Jainism, animist lifeways do not avoid vio- lent contact with individual plants. While they aim toward connection and inclusion, the examples of animist thought and practice included in this chapter do not lead to a totally hands off approach to the plant kingdom. The need to kill persons is accepted as a fact of life. This chapter examines the outcomes of the interplay and negotiation between the recognition of kinship, personhood, and relationships of use that involve killing