Ontologies of Eco Kin: Indigenous World Sense/ing


  • Esme Murdock




world sense, Indigenous philosophies, culture, reconciliation, original instructions


In our global neocolonial and neoliberal present, so-called solutions to settler-Indigenous conflict are often framed as a reconciliation achieved through a multicultural democratic society. However, this conception of resolution frequently adopts a superficial understanding of culture that ultimately understands cultural difference as reconcilable in the sense that other cultures can be folded into or made compatible with dominant cultural norms. On Turtle Island (North America), especially within the settler colonial context, such reconciliation as resolution becomes a differently fashioned form of domination as assimilation especially from the vantage points of Indigenous nations and Afro-descended peoples. This essay explores the ontological incommensurabilities of cultural difference that resist assimilation or translation into dominant Euro-Western cultural frameworks. It does this through examining the way culture and ontological orientation, or world-senses, are made and live on through various modes of cultural preservation and practice. I examine these ideas through Indigenous practices of orality, origin stories, ceremony, and cultural revitalization.


Akins, D B and W Bauer (2021). We Are the Land: A History of Native California. Oakland: University of California Press.

Anderson, D A (1996). The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth. Mt. Airy: Sights Production.

Baldy, C R (2018). We Are Dancing for You: Native Feminisms and the Revitalization of Women’s Coming-of-Age Ceremonies. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Bauer, W (2016). California through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Cajete, G (2003). “Philosophy of Native Science”. In: American Indian Thought: Philosophical Essays. Ed. by A. Waters. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 45–57.

Clayman Institute for Gender Research, dir (2023). Why Indigenous Land Back Is a Feminist Issue. 1:28:05. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kCml_ILcX0.

Corntassel, J and C Holder (2008). “Who’s Sorry Now? Government Apologies, Truth Commissions, and Indigenous Self-Determination in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Peru”. Human Rights Review 9, pp. 465–489. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12142-008-0065-3.

Coulthard, G S (2014). Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dater, A and L Merton (dirs) (2008). “Taking Root: The Vision of Environmentalist Wangari Maathai”. In: New Day Films.

Davidson, S F and R Davidson (2018). Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony. Winnipeg: Portage & Main Press.

De La Cadena, M (2015). Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

Estes, N (2019). Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.

Gray, R R R (2022). “Rematriation: Ts’msyen Law, Rights of Relationality, and Protocols of Return”. Native American and Indigenous Studies 9(1), pp. 1–27. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/nai.2022.0010.

Harney, S and F Moten (2013). The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe: Autonomedia.

Keeptwo, S (2021). We All Go Back to the Land: The Who, Why, and How of Land Acknowledgements. Edmonton: Brush Education.

Khader, S J (2018). Decolonizing Universalism: A Transnational Feminist Ethic. New York: Oxford University Press.

King, T L, J Navarro, and A Smith (2020). Otherwise Worlds: Against Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness. Durham: Duke University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv11sn1vd.

Lugones, M (2010). “Toward a Decolonial Feminism”. Hypatia 25(4), pp. 742–759. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-2001.2010.01137.x.

Maathai, W (2007). Unbowed: A Memoir. New York: Anchor.

McGregor, D (2017). “From ‘Decolonized’ To Reconciliation Research in Canada: Drawing From Indigenous Research Paradigms”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 17(3), pp. 810–831.

McLeod (dir), C (2001). In the Light of Reverence. Documentary.

Méndez, M J (2018). “‘The River Told Me’: Rethinking Intersectionality from the World of Berta Cáceres”. Capitalism Nature Socialism 29(1), pp. 7–24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10455752.2017.1421981.

Mignolo, W D (2000). Local Histories/Global Designs. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Miranda, D A (2013). Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir. Berkeley: Heyday.

Murdock, E G (2018a). “Unsettling Reconciliation: Decolonial Methods for Transforming Social-Ecological Systems”. Environmental Values 27(5), pp. 513–533. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3197/096327118X15321668325948.

Murdock, E. G. (2018b). Unsettling Reconciliation: Towards Decolonising Land and Rights Relations in Canada. Published 24 September 2018. URL: https://whitehorsepress.blog/2018/09/24/unsettling-reconciliation-towards-decolonising-land-and-rights-relations-in-canada/.

Nelson, M K, ed. (2008). Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future. Rochester: Bear & Company.

Onondaga Historical Association, dir (n.d.). The Creation Story. 3:33, accessed 26 July 2021. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSzDM7Jmg94.

Oyˇewùmí, O (1997). The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

“Reconciliation Is Dead. Revolution Is Alive” (n.d.). Accessed 25 July 2021. URL: https://unistoten.camp/reconciliationisdead/.

Simmons, M (2023). ‘Heartbreaking’: An Overhead View of Coastal GasLink Sediment Spills into Wet’suwet’en Waters, Wetlands. URL: https://thenarwhal.ca/bc-coastal-gaslink-sediment-spills/.

Simpson, L B (2012). Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Simpson, L. B. (2017). As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Stanton, K (2011). “Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Settling the Past?” The International Indigenous Policy Journal 2(3). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18584/iipj.2011.2.3.2.

The Governor’s Office of Tribal Affairs (n.d.). California Truth & Healing Council. Accessed 21 November 2023. URL: https://tribalaffairs.ca.gov/cthc/.

The Red Nation (2021). The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth. Brooklyn, NY: Common Notions.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. URL: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Honouring_the_Truth_ Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf.

Tuck, E and K Wayne Yang (2012). “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor”. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1(1), pp. 1–40.

Vizenor, G R (1993). Summer in the Spring: Anishinaabe Lyric Poems and Stories. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

W Kimmerer, R (2015). “Sky Woman Falling”. In: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, pp. 3–10.

Watts, V (2013). “Indigenous Place-Thought and Agency Amongst Humans and Non Humans (First Woman and Sky Woman Go On a European World Tour!)” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 2(1).

Younging, G, J Dewar, and M Degagné, eds. (2009). From Truth to Reconciliation: Response, Responsibility and Renewal—Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.




How to Cite

Murdock, Esme. 2024. “Ontologies of Eco Kin: Indigenous World Sense/Ing”. Journal of Social Ontology 10 (2). Vienna, Austria. https://doi.org/10.25365/jso-2024-7692.



Special Issue Cultures & Ontologies: Empirical, Ethical & Political Consequences