Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Plants are vital others whose lives entangle with human ones. For the white herbalists I work with in the United States, humans can build meaningful relationships with plants—those relationships are the ground from which “good herbalism” grows. These herbalists practice “friendship” with plants in ways analogous, but not identical, to Indigenous understandings of the kind of kin that non-human persons are (e.g. Kimmerer 2013; Geniusz 2010; Nadasdy 2007). When Métis scholar Zoe Todd writes about kin relations with fish as a deeply Indigenous practice (Todd 2017), she also calls attention to how settlers have tried and failed to overwrite Indigenous relations across species (see e.g. Reardon and TallBear 2012; Rifkin 2014; Society 2006). I suggest that “friendship” as a frame helps white herbalists practice relations with, and obligations to, plants—one which allows them to learn from Indigenous philosophies while awkwardly attempting not to appropriate those philosophies. The kinds of relationship entailed do not align with settler-colonial frameworks for juridicolegal “rights and responsibilities”—or what Rifkin would call “settler common sense” modes of belonging (Rifkin 2014). For herbalists, friendship with and responsibility to plants must be practiced differently than with other humans, and are themselves a form of environmental knowledge. I argue that settler herbalists’ friendship with plants connects (sometimes problematically) with Indigenous modes of kinship across species difference. I examine the consequences of friendship with plants first for linking human and environmental wellbeing; and next for rearticulating what kinds of relationships are possible for settlers in occupied territory.