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Publish Date: July 2014
Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
BY Robin Wall Kimmerer
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 indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together in Braiding Sweetgrass 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—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 a rich braid of 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 a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement 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.
BEYOND THE BOOK
Robin Wall Kimmerer was invited by Sam Kahamba Kutesa, the president of the UN, to speak to the general assembly on the topic of Healing Our Relationship with Nature." Listen to her groundbreaking remarks (starting at 57 minutes in) in the video below:
- Listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer read a holiday-themed excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass:
- Watch Robin Wall Kimmerers talk on climate change and indigenous knowledge.
- Listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer read an excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass:
"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, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things
"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, author of Seeds of Hope and My Life with the Chimpanzees
"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
"With deep compassion and graceful prose, botanist and professor of plant ecology Kimmerer (Gathering Moss) 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
"Beautifully written…. Anyone who enjoys reading about natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love this book."—Library Journal
"There are times when a simple category doesn't do a book justice. Saying that Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass is nature writing doesn't quite capture what she does in this treasure of a book. It's rare to find a book that teaches you scientifically and also nurtures you philosophically--but that's what this is. Upon finishing I read the epilogue twice just to allow her wisdom and kindness and care for this world to soak in a little more."—Hans Weyandt, Micawber Books, St. Paul, MN
"Though Ms. Kimmer does not shy from pointing out where things have been and continue to go wrong, she addresses them all with compassion, hope, and an empowering language I have never encountered before."—Jack Hannert, Brilliant Books, Traverse City, MI
"I am very, very impressed with Robin Kimmerer’s style and substance--a great balance of personal memoir, scientific knowledge, Native American wisdom and storytelling. I love how she shares her respect for the plant world and it’s chain of relationships which reaches out in all directions. I’ll be recommending it."—Paul Jaffe Copperfield's Books Inc., Sebastopol, CA
"The gift of 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."—Star Tribune
"Highly Recommend."—CHOICE magazine