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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants Hardcover – October 13, 2020
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“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
"I give daily thanks for Robin Wall Kimmerer for being a font of endless knowledge, both mental and spiritual." ―Richard Powers, New York Times
“Robin Wall Kimmerer opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as inanimate.”―Krista Tippett, host of On Being
"The author has given us a profound perspective of history, restoration, reciprocity, responsibility and hope. If we take only what we need and find ways to restore what we do take, we can take care of the earth and she will take care of us." ―Forbes, "All-Star Book Club"
"In a world where only six percent of mammalian biomass on the planet now comprises of wild animals, I longed for books that pressed me up against the inhuman, that connected me to an inhuman world. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer moved me to actual tears." ―Alexandra Kleeman, The Millions
"In Braiding Sweetgrass, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer tackles everything from sustainable agriculture to pond scum as a reflection of her Potawatomi heritage, which carries a stewardship 'which could not be taken by history: the knowing that we belonged to the land.' . . . It's a book absorbed with the unfolding of the world to observant eyes―that sense of discovery that draws us in." ―NPR
"Kimmerer draws on her own experiences as a botanist and an indigenous woman to meticulously craft this book of essays about the importance of nurturing ecological awareness and developing a relationship with the natural world." ―Vogue
"[Kimmerer] weaves a beautiful narrative around the beauty of the natural world and the lessons it teaches us, which feels so important in these delicate times." ―Elle, "21 Books that Will Put You in a Good Mood"
"Professor and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer knows that the answer to all forms of ecological unbalance have long been hidden in plain sight, told in the language of plants and animals, minerals and elements. She draws on her own heritage . . . pairing science with Indigenous principles and storytelling to advocate for a renewed connection between human beings and nature." ―Outside
"Kimmerer eloquently makes the case that by observing and celebrating our reciprocal relationship with the natural world, one can gain greater ecological consciousness." ―Sierra Magazine
“With deep compassion and graceful prose, Robin Wall Kimmerer 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
“The gift of Robin Wall 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.”―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“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
"I want to give this book to everyone I know. There's a revelation on every page, like you're suddenly viewing the world from a slightly different angle." ―Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books
"[Kimmerer's] descriptions of our fellow living relations on Earth often brought me to tears of grief and gratitude." ―Erin Pineda, 27th Letter Books
"[Kimmerer's] eclectic wisdom filled my heart. Readers of Barbara Kingsolver and Wendell Berry will find much to savor in this beautiful meditation on what once was and could be again." ―Kris Kleindienst
"This beautifully steady book uses Sweetgrass as a guide for observation, respect, and indigenous wisdom, but it holds even more than that. Packed full of stories about many of the natural worlds' other inhabitants, Kimmerer breathes nostalgia, reciprocity, gratitude, hard work and practicality into every minute―just as she was taught." ―Katelynn Tefft, Third Place Books
"Equal parts Native American history, climate science, botany, and poetry, Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass slips in like a long bittersweet draft." ―Griffin Mauser, Bookpeople
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As a medical student training in mainstream hospitals, this book is a lifeline. I read a few pages at a time and take notes along the way. I won't spoil it, but if you are thinking that maybe this book might be good ... it's good.
Kimmerer filters scientific knowledge through indigenous story and wisdom about the natural world. Essay titles and compose reflect the intricate weaving of the book: “Skywoman Falling”, “The Council of Pecans”, “Maple Sugar Moon”, and “The Consolation of Water Lilies”. She brings the ancient wisdom to our contemporary world and poses the question, “Can we all understand the Skywoman story not as an artifact from the past but as instructions for the future?” (p 9).
Kimmerer shares her acute sense of beauty with not only the physical landscape, but also the linguistic. In the essay “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” she writes, “My first taste of a missing language was the word Puhpowee on my tongue” and her amazement to discover it means, “the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight” (p.48). With the discovery of Puhpowee, Kimmerer embarks on a journey to learn the language that was forbidden, beaten, and starved out of Native American children in government boarding schools. When the irritation at the verbs “to be a Saturday, and “to be a hill,” Kimmerer throws down the book, ready to give up, “Oh, the ghosts of the missionaries in the boarding schools must have been running their hands in glee at my frustration. ‘She’s going to surrender,’ they said.’” And in that moment she swears, “In that moment I could smell the water of the bay, watch it rock against the share, and hear it sift onto the sand…the verb wiikwegamaa—to be a bay—releases the water from bondage and lets it live” (p. 55).
An exquisite exploration into the natural world through ancient wisdom, Braiding Sweetgrass brings physical, cultural, and linguistic landscapes to life with such exquisite detail, it’s as if she paints the world anew. The three shining strands of sweetgrass in a braid, and strands within this book “represent the unity of mind, body, and spirit that makes us whole” (p. 378) A gorgeous and wise book.
Top international reviews
Wall Kimmerer draws on her own life experiences and her half North American Indian and half white settler ancestry. Her writing blends her academic botantical scientific learning with that of the North American indigenous way of life, knowledge and wisdom, with a capital W. She brings us fair and square to our modus operandi of live for today who cares about tomorrow, our throwaway society and our greed that can never be sated. It is clear that by comparison with our indigenous brotherhood we are absolutely the younger brother; the loafing teenager with no respect for anything their elders have to tell them, but rather thinking they know everything and they know best.
The author, rightly in my opinion, says that all of the messages that we receive, practically on a daily basis, about the destruction that we have so far wrought to our home planet do not in fact spur us into action, but rather send those that care into a frozen state of despair. Her idea is rather to take relative baby steps to try to restore landscapes local to us. She gives an example of a wrecked landscape local to her that people are gradually trying to rescue and bring back to life with some success. It is also about developing a creed of gratitude and reciprocal relationship to our environment, only taking what is needed and never more. Wall Kimmerer gives plenty of examples of how this can be done.
She is never sanctimonious and is the first to acknowledge that it is far easier to write about the correct way to live than to actually live it.
For all who care about our planet and nature and for all who wish to learn about the balanced life that the North American Indians lived before the white settlers destroyed their culture and way of being, I would highly recommend this book to you.
It is expressed very delicately, and points at how one can live gracefully, generously,
and how that in itself brings happiness.
It makes you feel close to nature and the beauty that surrounds us while giving us an understanding of botany and the interconnection of all life.
I would recommend this book to everyone interested in the natural world. I also intend to read more from this author.