Indigenous Ontologies: Gullah Geechee Traditions and Cultural Practices of Abundance


Western epistemologies on race defined blackness and indigeneity through scales of poverty, or more precisely, in frameworks privileging economic deprivation. Indigenous fishing communities are typically constructed as subsistence fishers whose practices only served to exacerbate resource scarcity as a result. I present a case study of the Gullah Geechee, self-defined as culturally indigenous and racially black, to explore how consciousness, indigenous knowledge, and cultural practices allow access to resources that enable them to achieve a level of autonomy. I draw on the livelihoods of three fishers, ranging from familial to commercial, to examine how the power of giving, through the cultural practices of reciprocity, sharing, and cooperation, yield abundances vital to building a sense of community. I suggest that indigenous ontologies offer alternate ways to conceptualize indigeneity in the Americas.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    I use pseudonyms, and “fisher” as a general nomenclature for livelihoods including crabber, oysterman, shrimper, and pole fisher in commercial or artisanal fisheries.


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This dissertation research was supported in part by the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship Program and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

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Correspondence to Sharon Y. Fuller.

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Fuller, S.Y. Indigenous Ontologies: Gullah Geechee Traditions and Cultural Practices of Abundance. Hum Ecol 49, 121–129 (2021).

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  • Indigeneity
  • Abundance
  • Subsistence fisheries
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Cultural practices
  • African diaspora
  • Subsistence fishing
  • Gullah Geechee
  • St. Helena Island
  • Sea Islands
  • South Carolina
  • United States