New Philosophy

Native American Philosophy

What is Native American philosophy?

Native American tribes and nations have held well-developed world views, religions, epistemologies, metaphysics, and social and political views long before Europeans invaded and appropriated their lands. Much of this knowledge was transmitted orally and subject to loss and fragmentation, following what many indigenous people call the Native American Holocaust.

The development of Native American philosophy as a subfield in academic philosophy requires not just reconstruction of past knowledge but some acceptance of the methods of Western philosophy. The problem is that these methods are highly problematic for most indigenous thinkers. Furthermore, after centuries of distorted descriptions of their cultures by anthropologists and government officials, most Native American philosophers have a strong preference for speaking in their own voices, rather than agreeing to let others present their perspectives.

There are not very many Native Americans in U.S. university philosophy departments at this time—perhaps fewer than 50. Nevertheless, since the 1980s a “canon” of Native American philosophy has developed, which includes the following sources: The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen (1986); How It Is: The Native American Philosophy of V. F. Cordova by Linda Hogan, by Kathleen Dean Moore, Kurt Peters, and Ted Jojoba (2007); Cultural Sites of Critical Insight: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and African American and Native American Women’s Writings, by Angela L. Cotton and Christa Davis (2007); American Indian Thought: Philosophical Essays, by Anne Waters (2003); and Defending Mother Earth: Native American Perspectives on Environmental Justice, by Jace Weaver (1996).


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