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Braiding Sweetgrass summary

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

4.5 (335 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is a powerful exploration of the relationship between humans and nature, weaving together indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and personal anecdotes.
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    Braiding Sweetgrass
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    As part of a Native American family, the author was raised in two very different worlds.

    Like many Native Americans, the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, has experienced a clash of cultures. Modern America and her family’s tribe were – and, to a certain extent, continue to be – at utter odds.

    Kimmerer is Potawatomi, which, like many other Native American tribes during the nineteenth century, suffered through terrible conditions and harmful government policies as the United States expanded. Many tribe members suffered tragic deaths as they were forced on deadly marches to relocate to new lands.

    Kimmerer’s grandmother was one of the Potawatomi who was given citizenship and legal protections as a landowner in the state of Oklahoma.

    Kimmerer spent a good deal of time with her grandmother, and she even attended Potawatomi gatherings. But, for the majority of her childhood, she lived in upstate New York. As she grew up, the cultural differences between the Potawatomi and modern American society became very clear.

    One significant difference was how people treated nature, especially the food it provides. Often Kimmerer would go out to a nearby field and pick wild strawberries after school. The author sees these kinds of offerings as the world’s gift economy – things that are given to us without the expectation of any payment in return.

    But it is part of Potawatomi culture to show gratitude for gifts like this by offering reciprocation.

    For strawberries, this means going back to the fields after berry season ends to find seedlings and prepare new plots of land to plant for more to grow.

    With this form of reciprocation, humans form a mutually beneficial relationship with nature that’s not unlike a bond between two people: They take care of each other not because they have to but out of love.

    However, she found out first-hand that modern America doesn’t practice the gift economy.

    Growing up, Kimmerer had a small job picking strawberries at a local farm where the owner strictly prohibited the eating of any strawberries without paying for them. So if she wanted to enjoy any of the farm’s fresh strawberries she would have to return most of her money right back to where it came from.

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    What is Braiding Sweetgrass about?

    Braiding Sweetgrass (2013) offers a profound and insightful look at the relationship between humans and Mother Earth. With the growing concerns about climate change, deforestation and the depletion of our natural resources, it is more important than ever to reevaluate how we treat the world around us. Find out how the traditional practices of Native Americans can help us make the world a better place for future generations.

    Braiding Sweetgrass Review

    Braiding Sweetgrass (2013) offers a unique perspective on our connection with the natural world and the importance of reciprocity in sustaining it. Reasons to read this book include:

    • It combines indigenous wisdom with scientific understanding, providing a fresh and insightful take on environmental issues.
    • The book emphasizes the importance of gratitude and giving back to the Earth, fostering a deep connection with nature.
    • Its thought-provoking stories and reflections inspire readers to reevaluate their own relationships with the environment and take action.

    Experience the transformative power of Braiding Sweetgrass and reconnect with the natural world.

    Best quote from Braiding Sweetgrass

    I envision a time when the intellectual monoculture of science will be replaced with a polyculture of complementary knowledge.

    —Robin Wall Kimmerer
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    Who should read Braiding Sweetgrass?

    • Environmentalists
    • Students of anthropology or botany
    • Readers who appreciate a holistic approach to science

    About the Author

    Robin Wall Kimmerer is a writer, scientist and professor in the Environmental Sciences and Forestry Department at the State University of New York. The founder of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, she is also the author of Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses.

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    Braiding Sweetgrass FAQs 

    What is the main message of Braiding Sweetgrass?

    The main message of Braiding Sweetgrass is the importance of reciprocity and gratitude in our relationship with nature.

    How long does it take to read Braiding Sweetgrass?

    The estimated reading time for Braiding Sweetgrass is 10-12 hours. The Blinkist summary takes about 15 minutes to read.

    Is Braiding Sweetgrass a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Braiding Sweetgrass is worth reading for its unique insights into our connection with nature and the importance of reciprocity.

    Who is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass?

    The author of Braiding Sweetgrass is Robin Wall Kimmerer.

    How many chapters are in Braiding Sweetgrass?

    There are 32 chapters in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The chapters are: Skywoman Falling, The Council of Pecans, The Gift of Strawberries, An Offering, Asters and Goldenrod, Learning the Grammar of Animacy, Tending Sweetgrass, Maple Sugar Moon, Witch Hazel, A Mother's Work, The Consolation of Water Lilies, Allegiance to Gratitude, Picking Sweetgrass, Epiphany in the Beans, The Three Sisters, Wisgaak Gokpenagen: A Black Ash Basket, Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teachings of Grass, Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide, The Honorable Harvest, Braiding Sweetgrass, In the Footsteps of Nanabozho: Becoming Indigenous to Place, The Sound of Silverbells, Sitting in a Circle, Burning Cascade Head, Putting Down Roots, Umbilicaria: The Belly Button of the World, Old-Growth Children, Witness to the Rain, Windigo Footprints, The Sacred and the Superfund, People of Corn, People of Light, Collateral Damage, Shkitagen: People of the Seventh Fire, Defeating Windigo, and Epilogue: Returning the Gift.

    How many pages are in Braiding Sweetgrass?

    There are 390 pages in Braiding Sweetgrass.

    When was Braiding Sweetgrass published?

    Braiding Sweetgrass was published in 2013.

    What to read after Braiding Sweetgrass?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Braiding Sweetgrass, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Forest Bathing by Qing Li
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    • The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber
    • The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
    • All About Love by bell hooks
    • A History of God by Karen Armstrong
    • Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard
    • The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf
    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari