Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Kimmerer is a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In this book of essays, through beautiful, poetic writing she speaks about the intersection of natural sciences and indigenous knowledge systems. She presents an alternate worldview to the typical Western viewpoint. In her essays, she explains the concept of land as teacher and healer rather than as property. Before colonization, Indigenous peoples worked with the land and used their wisdom to engage in a reciprocal relationship. Today, we have lost our connection with nature. Plants, animals, and land are treated as commodities. We don’t see a responsibility to nature but instead take its resources with little thought.
Nonfiction, memoir, essays, social justice
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 lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider 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 are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return.
At times this book is eco-anxiety provoking as it describes the destruction of nature. However, it is overall uplifting. Its indigenous worldview is one more of us should learn about. Western societies tend to think that the world must be run on the traditional land-as-property capitalist system, but societies thrived for thousands of years with a different way.
In these essays Kimmerer describes how people go out into the rainy night to help endangered salamanders cross the road, elders teach the younger generations how to make a black ash basket with their own hands, people attempt to preserve dying indigenous languages, and Kimmerer struggles to uphold the principles of reciprocity in a consumerist world.
A beautifully written, poetic work that is highly important for people to read, especially as we realize our ways must change if we are to survive the climate crisis. A call to returning to the view of land as sacred teacher, to heal our relationship to nature and become intimately connected with it once again.