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Braiding Sweetgrass

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

By Robin Wall Kimmerer
12-minute read
Audio available
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

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.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“I love the way Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about the plant world and our (lost) relationship with it. In Braiding Sweetgrass we learn about native populations’ relationship with nature and how our modern ways have broken that connection. The big theme is ‘reciprocity’ and how the natural world is there for us, but only if we also give back will it continue being there.”

– Therese, Video Producer at Blinkist

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

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

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

By Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Synopsis

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.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“I love the way Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about the plant world and our (lost) relationship with it. In Braiding Sweetgrass we learn about native populations’ relationship with nature and how our modern ways have broken that connection. The big theme is ‘reciprocity’ and how the natural world is there for us, but only if we also give back will it continue being there.”

– Therese, Video Producer at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 7

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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