Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more, with a free trial

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Ebook487 pages9 hours

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

()

Read preview

About this ebook

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.

Editor's Note

Building bridges…

“Braiding Sweetgrass” has been a mainstay on the New York Times bestseller list since its release, so we’re not surprised this one’s a community favorite. Author Kimmerer has built several bridges with this book — between modern science and Potawatomi traditions, and between humankind and the natural world.

LanguageEnglish
Release dateSep 16, 2013
ISBN9781571318718
Read preview
Author

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Her first book, Gathering Moss, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing. Her writings have appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. 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.

Related to Braiding Sweetgrass

Related ebooks

Related articles

Related categories

Reviews for Braiding Sweetgrass

Rating: 4.191082802547771 out of 5 stars
4/5

471 ratings34 reviews

What did you think?

Tap to rate

Review must be at least 10 words

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Braiding Sweetgrass is by Robin Wall Kimmerer, who also wrote Gathering Moss, which I have not yet managed to acquire and read, though I love mosses and would love to have a moss garden. A friend told me that Robin Wall Kimmerer is being considered a modern-day Emerson. I can see why.Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientifc Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants is organized into five sections: planting, tending, picking, braiding, and burning sweetgrass, each representing a different aspect of the ritual relationship with this culturally significant species. The book opens with the creation story of Skywoman and exlains the traditional meaning of sweetgrass for many indigenous Americans (Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potowotami Nation). This essay is followed by many others, each illuminating the inter-relationship among ecology, traditional practices, cultural teachings, American history, and personal and family experiences. Kimmerer is an ecology professor and compares and connects her Western scientific training with her traditional ecological knowledge. This book is also a call for societal transformation to undo the damage to community (in every sense of the word) from unchecked capitalism and technological "progress" at great human and ecological cost.The writing was very personal and personable, both accessible and engaging. And after finishing it, I had an epiphany. I live in the land where Aldo Leopold is revered, and his A Sand County Almanac introducing his land ethic is celebrated. Of course, it is exactly the same philosophy that is central to many indigenous cultures as exemplified in this book, but of course once it's been repackaged and introduced as an original concept by a white man, well then, whole different story. I guess that makes Aldo Leopold the Elvis of environmental writing. My understanding is that similarly, the founding of the democracy of the United States of America was cribbed pretty heavily from the model of the Haudenosee Confederacy, but somehow we don't acknowledge the Native American source for the great American political experiment.This book doesn't dwell on any of that. Instead it introduces us to many key species in American ecosystems, including pecans, strawberries, asters, goldenrods, maples, witch hazel, water lilies, black ash, lichens, and of course sweetgrass, plus key species of Indian agriculture, especially the famous three sisters of corn, beans, and squash. Each essay shares something ecological and then uses it as a metaphor to explore social, historical, cultural, economic aspects of life. The book also shares various aspects of indigenous ethics.I think what struck me most was comparing the Skywoman creation myth to the Garden of Eden creation myth. "Can they, can we all, understand the Skywoman story not as an artifact from the past but as instructions for the future? Can a nation of immigrants once again follow her example to become native, to make a home?" versus "Look at the legacy of poor Eve's exile from Eden: the land shows the bruises of an abusive relationship. It's not just the land that is broken, but more importantly, our relationship to land." That's really something to think about--how our stories both show and shape our perceptions and values and priorities. This book has a lot to teach us.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This book describes a worldview that brings our major societal issues into focus and describes an ethic that shows interrelationships and could heal them all.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    My favorite plant author, Robin writes warmly and personally about her relationship with plants and the world around her. She stimulates us to question our cultural bias of distancing ourselves from the natural world and suggests that acting with reciprocity, sharing our gifts in exchange for the gifts nature gives us, will enhance the survival of all species (including humans).A few of her chapters get a bit more preachy, on issues that are currently overwhelming our environment, but on the whole this book speaks on a family level: Robin writes of cleaning up a pond in her attempt to be a good mother and provide a swimming area for her daughters; she writes of gardening, of listening to grade schoolers say a Thanksgiving in their native language, of boiling maple sap, of teaching college students to consider how they would feel if the earth loved them back. She shares some traditional Native American practices but cautions us to all find our own ceremonies that upwell from our own situations.The title honors a plant which embodies the different approaches to knowledge which she takes as a scientist and a Potawatomi.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Heartbreaking to think of the things that are gone from this earth and terrifying to know we are on the brink of losing so much more. In the end the author gives a ray of hope. From the author - "Weep! Weep! calls a toad from the waters edge. And I do. If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us all weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again"
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    A beautifully written account of ecology, economy, and heart braided and interweaving the macro and micro. Listened to the author reading the book, and truly enjoyed the experience.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I loved this book so much! I usually can read a book straight through but not this one. Each chapter gave me food for thought and I usually had to sit back and contemplate where we are and how we got here... and how we might be able to return to our roots. Both metaphorically and literally.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Everyone living in “the first world” should read this book. My life is changed and I am forever grateful.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This was beautiful and moving and fascinating and sad, and I cried listening to many parts of it. The loss of land and place and language is incomprehensible, yet the Indigenous people who have had so much taken from them are still taking care of the earth/Earth.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Loved the book, gave you a good insight on how Native Americans treated nature and raised. Covers a bit on how the government tried to remove their language from them. Starting the book i had a respect for nature but upon finishing the book i had a much greater respect for nature and how to treat her even better. Look forward to reading her other book.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I listened to the audio version, read by the author - incredible. One of those books that makes you realize you really know nothing at all.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is lovely reading...a naturalist, botanist, indigenous spirit teaches us how to learn from the earth and all its "people", including the non-human ones, and offers hope that we may not be doomed after all. There is a fair amount of science, but it's all digestible. And there is a lot of soul-food as well. Highly recommended.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Biologist tells the stories of plants and human relationships with them from a Native perspective, arguing that Native ways of knowing provide key insights for the appropriate relationship of gratitude for and engagement with the natural world.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A must read if you are into ecology and foraging, or if you are an American wanting to learn about the land you live on and the people that inhabit it with you (both past and present).
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Wonderful and powerful. Somehow heartbreaking to surface at the end of the book and realise it was written in 2013 and the world has had 7 more wasted years. A refreshingly different perspective, both when practicing science and the viewpoint of indigenous peoples who are already in a post-apocalyptic situation. I shall keep this on my bookshelf and dip into it again and again.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Should be required reading in all science and cultural studies programs, but of great value to the general public as well. Kimmerer is in the relatively rare position to see how ancient indigenous traditions and practices may provide the scientific answers we need to insure the future viability of the human species as well as the planet. I'll never look at a cattail marsh the same way again.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I listened to this, and I enjoyed it enough that I'm planning to buy it so I can reread it. It's full of fascinating science blended with beautiful stories and a thread of compassion and care that runs through everything. If you're even remotely interested in plants, I highly recommend it. The audio is particularly nice because it lets you hear all the pronunciations properly.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I was in a dream-state throughout this whole book.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Part personal identity and discovery, part environmental teaching, part poetry, this book was my favorite read of the year. Understanding indigenous knowledge of plants and planting, incorporated with one woman's deepened journey to her Native American heritage was incredibly touching, and the writing is beautiful.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    You might call the chapters in Braiding Sweetgrass, essays. I call them stories, and stories within stories. This book is a love song to the earth. Robin Wall Kimmerer weaves together scientific research and the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples in such a way that she reminds the reader a to see, touch and hear the beauty around us - in a raindrop, or the life-cycle of lichen - things we could so easily rush blindly past.In these stories, she gently leads us to consider reciprocity, and to learn a way of thinking and being that was almost lost as the missionaries and settlers vigorously attempted to stamp out indigenous language and culture. Each of the stories here gives us a challenge, and a chance, to reconsider, to appreciate, to act and to lovingly braid the sweet-smelling hair of Skywoman.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Beautifully written using the metaphors of the stories of indigenous peoples, and the workings of nature to illustrate the error of viewing the earth as a resource rather than a gift to which we need to reciprocate. It tries to be hopeful and positive but upon reading it, it often feels too late and hopeless. By robbing the earth we've expanded the human population such that I fear returning to a caring approach to the earth can not sustain the population.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I loved this book. I was fortunate enough to listen to it on audio, read by the author. Kimmerer is a member of the Potawatomi Nation and is a scientist. I so appreciated her melding of science and the indigenous way of seeing the world and being in the world. Listening to her read the book felt like poetry, hearing her say tribal words for plants (and other things) as well as Latin names of plants and animals. I wanted to soak this book in through my pores.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Wonderful read and great storytelling! “It is not the land that has been broken, but our relationship to it.”
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    A unique perspective from a woman with one foot in the scientific world and the other in her Native American community. An essential read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    What a fantastic book! This book gave me new perspectives, and ideas of how to look at science and the world around us. While it can be a bit depressing in some parts, the whole of the book was fantastic, and really gave me a lot to think about and to learn. Its definitely worth reading.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is a profound and beautifully written book. It could change your life forever!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    "Braiding Sweetgrass" is without question the most meaningful book I have ever had the honor of reading. It is changing me from the inside out, hopefully never to be the same!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    In this age of rising ecofascism, this is a welcome and necessary reminder that humans are just another link in the deeply, closely interconnected web that is life. Humans and "nature" aren't opposites, are one part of the other. Wonderful and important to me both as a young person facing climate anxiety and as a natural sciences student.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    There is so much to recommend this book. The science is reliable because the author is a trained botanist. Her text is poetic as she ties her scientific knowledge to the traditional, indigenous teaching of her Potawatomi family and community. She shares teachings from the culture that have been almost lost which explain so many things that scientists spend years studying in the laboratories. It is very long and took me longer to read because I wanted to hear her voice and repeat sections for the observations of nature and the relationships between strawberries, pecans, cattails, salamanders, maples and of course sweetgrass. Fascinating.

    1 person found this helpful