What Indigenous words can teach us about reciprocity  


Evan Pritchard 

Saturday, February 9th

7-9 pm

@ Flower Power Herbs & Roots, 449 Piermont Ave, Piermont NY 10968



tickets here 

 There are few nouns in Algonquin speech, but there are words we would translate with nouns, thereby distorting the relational/reciprocal view of reality they describe. The actual “thing” words are clusters of verbs, adjectives, modifiers, gender signs, time indicators, and those root verbs encourage relationship. A lot of the reciprocity becomes clear when used in typical phrases. There’s no commonly used noun for “teacher;” Nee gee-gehn-oo geezkuk; kee gee-gehn sabownuk means “I am teaching you today; you will teach me tomorrow.” To teach is a verb but it happens reciprocally. A verb usually happens to something else, and it is usually reciprocal. Pipsissewa is an herb whose Mi’kmaq name means “it breaks up the (gall/kidney) stones.” Breaks up/dissolves is the root. Even colors are verbs in Mi’kmaq, and they really are. If a tobacco leaf is green we would say it is nee-buch-ta-moo, “it is being the color of the forest in summer.”If we dry it, it may become another color, then another. So colors in nature are verbs as are the plants that do them. When we see everything as verbs we can begin to see ourselves as verbs too, a dynamic being in action, not just an “owner of lonely heart.” Native “spirit names” tend to be verb oriented, referring to visible things, but it is not a possession-oriented world. Herbs have spirit names, as do animals, and they generally tell us of their power to heal or to harm—acting in reciprocity with all that is. And is is a verb. No experience necessary.


This workshop will be led by Evan Pritchard, a descendent of Mi'kmaq people.  

Mr. Pritchard has taught Native American studies at Pace University, Vassar College, and Marist College and is the director of the Center for Algonquin culture. He has been featured on NPR, Fresh Air, and the History Channel, and lives in New York.