The following quotations are from:
Daniel Wildcat, “Indigenizing Politics and Ethics: A Realist Theory,” in Power and Place: Indian Education in America
“Two key insights shape Aristotle’s thought: first, the recognition that humans are by nature political animals; and second, the understanding that ethics are the result of custom and habit. Politics, for Aristotle, is understood as the study of social arrangements, whereby individual human virtues are developed to their fullest. Inquiry into ethics is defined by Aristotle as the study of the greatest good within social arrangements or relationships. Aristotle’s genius is in the implicit linking of politics to ethics.
Aristotle correctly recognizes that human beings are by nature political, or social, animals, but this does not imply that human beings are ‘by nature’ ethical in their behavior. If not born ethical actors, Aristotle rightly concludes one’s ethics will be a result of learning through experience in a community—through inculcation by custom and habit. On this point, Aristotle’s reliance on the formation of values and beliefs through societal experience, as opposed to a system of ethical values produced through teaching or preaching, has a great affinity with American Indian thinking about the source of ethics. God is Red pointed out that the strength of American Indian value systems, including ethics, is found in the context of their ‘communities’’—the natural environments from which they emerge. Aristotle’s emphasis on the state, custom and habit, and the greatest good provides the basis for a comparison to an American Indian or indigenous conception of politics and ethics.” 89-90
“Traditional Native thought agrees with Aristotle’s linkage between an individual’s ethical development and one’s community. However, unlike Aristotle’s treatment of the ‘state’ or community, which consists exclusively of human beings, traditional Native thinkers include as a part of their political communities many other-than-human persons, including persons that swim, winged persons, four-legged persons, and so on. In short, while Western thought, following Aristotle’s lead, defines politics and ethics as exclusively human issues and endeavors, Native thought and, more importantly, practices have defined politics and ethics as involving a much broader conception of persons. This point is obvious in the stories, oral traditions, and ceremonies and social life of Native peoples. Many of our languages even offer evidence in support of this claim.
In their earliest interactions with the Iroquois, French Jesuits recorded that the Iroquois seemed confused with respect to who or what constituted a person. The confusion was the Jesuits’ , not the Iroquois’. The Iroquois understood the concept of person, or personhood, to include plants, animals, and other natural features of their environment, and their language expressed this understanding. As a result, when they considered their moral and political community, it was perfectly reasonable to include the non- or other-than-human persons—plants, animals, and some other natural phenomena—as community members.
This very ancient idea is the basis of an implicit environmental ethos, an ethos that leads one to fundamentally different notions about how we ought to relate to the environment, apply technology, and generally live with the earth. The worldview attended to this ethos requires one to speak of a moral sphere that goes beyond merely thinking that morality is about the relationships you and I have as human beings. Morality and politics have to do with a reality that involves relationships we have with other-than-human persons of the biosphere and the ecology we (human beings) are a part of.” 92-93
“Native people would argue that it makes no sense to limit the notion of politics and ethics to only human beings. How we human beings live will indeed reflect the communities we belong to ; however, by limiting the definition of persons to human beings, Aristotle created a false and far too narrow sense of community and corresponding spheres of political and moral life. The inclusion of other living beings and natural objects into a category of persons, which includes human beings, requires a notion of politics and ethics inclusive of these other community members.” 95
“According to Aristotle, it is the political and moral sphere of human existence that distinguishes human life from the rest of the natural life on earth. Aristotle was right to see the good state and the good leader(s) as those that allowed members to develop their particular or shares of virtues to the fullest. However, from a Native standpoint, Aristotle stops short of grasping the big picture in a more accurate and immediate way. He too narrowly defines persons and community, or more properly the state. In so doing he poses a view of the greatest good that fairly ensures the environmental mess human beings have created. By excluding the many other-than-human persons of the natural world from active full participation in determination of the greatest good, ecological catastrophe seems guaranteed.
Whether intentional or not the result of this single idea has been to create a worldview where humans are thought to be above the rest of nature (superior by virtue of the fact that human evolution has resulted in our species possessing an intraspecies adaptive ability to reason), an idea that has brought us to the brink of a global ecological crisis by reducing the question, the very idea, of the summum bonum to be about relationships among human beings.” 95-96