Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of PlantsNov 9th, 2014 | By ekrohn | Category: 26-2: Workforce Development, Media Reviews
By Robin Wall Kimmerer
Milkweed Editions (2013)
Review by Elise Krohn
Once in a great while, a book emerges that pushes our knowledge forward and gives us new tools for growth. In a time when humanity is collectively estranged from the land, when we seem to have forgotten the intelligence of the species around us, and when we extract natural resources without thought, Robin Wall Kimmerer (Potawatomi) awakens us to a rich and meaningful world that is all around us. Each chapter is an adventurous journey into the world of plants, with topics ranging from a Potawatomi creation story, to weaving black-ash baskets, to igniting student citizenship, to restoring a toxic Superfund site.
This is the best book I have read on Native science. As an Indigenous woman, a scientist, a teacher, and a mother, Kimmerer artfully weaves Western scientific methodologies with Native stories, cultural teachings, and the values of reciprocity and stewardship. The reader is drawn into the sheer wonder that arises when we actively do good science. Kimmerer shows us that science can be a path toward kinship, and when we awaken to the intelligences around us, we become more fulfilled human beings.
The book also explores European colonization and its impacts on people and the land. For example, she addresses the ramifications of a Native gift economy being replaced by a market economy. She explains the tradition of the “honorable harvest,” which is in stark contrast to the rising tide of resource extraction and disregard for the future health of the land. This book should be a required read for Native students —especially those pursuing studies in science and traditional knowledge systems. It is brimming with insights that will fuel the mind and feed the spirit.
Elise Krohn, M.Ed., is faculty in Northwest Indian College’s Traditional Plants and Foods Program, and author of Wild Rose and Western Red Cedar: The Gifts of the Northwest Plants, and co-author of Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit: Revitalizing Northwest Coastal Indian Food Culture.