Loving and knowing in indigenous ways of life. A conversation with Melissa Nelson

An audio version of this conversation is at my podcast, Talks and Thoughts, available via podcast feeds.

“A worldview that understands indigeneity is a paradigm of regeneration, a worldview rooted in enduring values in what we call our original instructions, common themes of reciprocity, of gratitude, of responsibility, of generosity, of forgiveness, of humility, of courage, of sacrifice, and of course love. But these values are not just words, we need to live them.” Melissa Nelson

In this conversation with Melissa, we explore various facets of what she summarises in the quote above. The original instructions of indigenous knowledge are rooted in a reciprocal and relational way of being in the world, an integration of knowing and loving. The creatures of the world, with the landscape and sky, are living records preserved in oral traditions, spoken by participating in rituals and stories.

We discuss the consciousness prompted by creatures and places and how that varies between different peoples, across place and time. We look at the notion of the erotic and the role of human beings within the wider ecology, and also how a synthesis between modern scientific and indigenous ways of knowing might weave together to enrich our love and, therefore, being in the world.

We talked everything from eagles and turtles to love and participation.

Melissa K. Nelson is a Native ecologist, writer, media-maker and Indigenous scholar-activist. She is the President/CEO of The Cultural Conservancy, which she had directed since 1993. In 2020 she joined Arizona State University as a Professor of Indigenous Sustainability, after working since 2002 as Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University.

0:00 Introductions 01:13 What is indigeneity? 02:33 The names of tribes and nations 04:27 Stories in the landscape 06:06 The teaching of the eagle 07:17 Relational and reciprocal worldviews 10:25 Bridging worlds and the notion of love 12:47 Oral cultures and universals 15:01 The sun and turtles: beyond metaphor to participation 25:20 The link between love and knowledge 29:21 Expanding the erotic 32:42 The role of human beings 38:01 Science and indigenous ways of knowing