Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 1571313567

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take “us on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert). Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.

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I can too easily imagine what it must have been like, those first ejections from the pipe falling in chalky white splats like the droppings of an enormous mechanical bird. Splurting and pulsing at first, with air in the mile-long intestine that stretched back to the gut of the factory. But it would soon settle into a steady flow, burying the reeds and rushes. Did the frogs and mink get away in time to avoid being entombed? What about the turtles? Too slow—they wouldn’t be able to escape being

life and here was his face looking at me from a news clipping. He was our Potawatomi grandfather, one who had walked all the way from the Wisconsin forests to the Kansas prairie with my grandma Sha-note. He was a leader, one who took care of the people in their hardship. That garage door was left ajar, that light was left burning, and it shone on the path back home for me. It was the beginning of a long, slow journey back to my people, called out to me by the tree that stood above their bones.

abandoned in adulthood, when the age of reason has presumably been attained. Apparently my daughter had reached that age and I was not about to interfere. “Mom, I’m not going to stand there and lie,” she explained. “And it’s not exactly liberty if they force you to say it, is it?” She knew different morning rituals, her grandfather’s pouring of coffee on the ground and the one I carried out on the hill above our house, and that was enough for me. The sunrise ceremony is our Potawatomi way of

our responsibility to the world was enacted, sacred ground. It belonged to itself; it was a gift, not a commodity, so it could never be bought or sold. These are the meanings people took with them when they were forced from their ancient homelands to new places. Whether it was their homeland or the new land forced upon them, land held in common gave people strength; it gave them something to fight for. And so—in the eyes of the federal government—that belief was a threat. So after thousands of

Harvest—to take only what is given, to use it well, to be grateful for the gift, and to reciprocate the gift—is easy in a pecan grove. We reciprocate the gift by taking care of the grove, protecting it from harm, planting seeds so that new groves will shade the prairie and feed the squirrels. Now, two generations later, after removal, after allotment, after the boarding schools, after diaspora, my family returns to Oklahoma, to what is left of my grandfather’s allotment. From the hilltop you can

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