Robin Wall Kimmerer on the Language of Animacy

In the English language, we reserve the pronouns of personhood for humans—”he,” “she,” “they”—and not for animals, plants, and landscapes. Yet in many of America’s indigenous languages, such barriers are dissolved, and so, too, is the sense of distance between human and nonhuman. Orion editor Helen Whybrow speaks with Robin Wall Kimmerer, a speaker of Potawatomi and an enrolled member in the Citizen Band Potawatomi, about how to find a language that affirms our kinship with the natural world. Kimmerer’s essay on the subject, “Speaking of Nature,” appears in the March/April 2017 issue of the magazine.





  1. Thank you for this article. I regard Robin Wall Kimmerer as a true gem—a gift to the planet and to the whole of humankind. Few Authors have by their writing enriched my life to the degree that she has.

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