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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Braiding Sweetgrass – As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, 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, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Book Review by Iain C. Massey
This is a book that unites what has been foolishly separated. Biological science and indigenous plant knowledge. Our relationship to the earth and our treatment of it. The modern world and the traditional. Words and actions. Giving and receiving. Kimmerer is a scientist, a professor of biology, and also a member of one of North America’s First Nations. She writes out of love, and pain, and deep knowledge. This book changed and enriched the way I look at the natural world. We HAVE to come to our senses, heal our dialogue with our planet, and the great good sense of this book can help.
“Robin Wall Kimmerer is writer of rare grace. She writes about the natural world from a place of such abundant passion that one can never quite see the world the same way after having seen it through Kimmerer’s eyes. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she takes 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. She is a great teacher, and her words are a hymn of love to the world.”―Elizabeth Gilbert
“Robin Wall Kimmerer has written an extraordinary book, showing how the factual, objective approach of science can be enriched by the ancient knowledge of the indigenous people. It is the way she captures beauty that I love the most―the images of giant cedars and wild strawberries, a forest in the rain and a meadow of fragrant sweetgrass will stay with you long after you read the last page.”―Jane Goodall
“With deep compassion and graceful prose, Robin Wall Kimmerer encourages readers to consider the ways that our lives and language weave through the natural world. A mesmerizing storyteller, she shares legends from her Potawatomi ancestors to illustrate the culture of gratitude in which we all should live.”―Publishers Weekly
“Robin Wall Kimmerer opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as inanimate.”―Krista Tippett, host of On Being
“The gift of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book is that she provides readers the ability to see a very common world in uncommon ways, or, rather, in ways that have been commonly held but have recently been largely discarded. She puts forth the notion that we ought to be interacting in such a way that the land should be thankful for the people.”―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Braiding Sweetgrass is instructive poetry. Robin Wall Kimmerer has put the spiritual relationship that Chief Seattle called the ‘web of life’ into writing. Industrial societies lack the understanding of the interrelationships that bind all living things―this book fills that void. I encourage one and all to read these instructions.”―Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation and Indigenous Environmental Leader
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About the Author
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. She lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.