Here, Alexandra reviews Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Who is the author?

Robin Wall Kimmerer is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi nation (a federally recognized tribe of Potawatomi people located in Oklahoma), the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York, a distinguished teaching professor and a celebrated writer and plant ecologist. Quite a C.V.!

Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass

What is the book about?

A Braiding Sweetgrass review called it a “hymn of love to the world” and indeed it is a quietly revolutionary book that calls on its readers to look closer at the natural world, and become part of it, rather than existing outside of it. Dr. Kimmerer weaves scientific knowledge with ancient indigenous wisdom and the teachings of plants, showing that they needn’t be mutually exclusive. She channels her love of the living world, with grief for the living world, into action to care for the land.

A Favourite Passage…

“What happens when we truly become native to a place, when we finally make it home? What are the stories that lead the way? If time does in fact eddy back on itself, maybe the journey of the First Man will provide footsteps to guide the journey of the second.”

Why should I read Braiding Sweetgrass?

The book, first published in 2013, now has something of a cult following; for many it is their “eco-bible”. It speaks to people living in an industrial age who feel a deep longing for connection with nature but don’t know how to access it. Many have taken comfort from following one of the basic principles of the book, which is to not to treat nature like a resource, but rather as an “elder relative”. This concept, rooted in indigenous philosophy, is radical for the average Westerner but Dr. Kimmerer believes it is vital if we are to save the planet.

We have written a lot at Curious Earth about the power of the individual v the power of governments or vast companies like Monsanto, and it’s very easy to feel disempowered when faced with their seemingly insurmountable influence. But Dr. Kimmerer’s book shows us that we all have the capacity to change how we live on a daily basis, and how we love the planet on a daily basis—and the hope and joy she sings from the pages is contagious!

Why does it matter now?

Braiding Sweetgrass is as vital as ever in light of our current planetary crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic is a symptom of humanity’s dysfunctional relationship with nature and the impact has been catastrophic. This along with biodiversity loss, climate inaction surely makes Braiding Sweetgrass a must-read for anyone who wishes to take the long-term health of the planet seriously. There is a growing awareness of how indigenous perspectives can solve environmental and sustainability issues and this book is an excellent gateway.

Be Curious! – If you like that, you’d love this…

  • To Be a Water Protector: The Rise of the Wiindigoo Slayers by Winona LaDuke
  • Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker
  • Ancient Futures, 3rd Edition by Helena Norberg-Hodge

And remember… don’t rush to, shop LOCAL and support independent bookstores. Many bookstores are doing “click and collect” and/or deliveries, see if yours is too!

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