By Gail Maifeld
The reader is introduced to Skywoman, who tells the story of sweet grass which, in Anishinaabe belief, was the first plant to grow on earth. Sweetgrass holds a “sacred role” and represents an important component of “global ecosystems,” which gives rise to the possibility of a positive relationship between humans and the natural environment. Man should listen to Skywoman rather than the monster Windigo that speaks to us to consume. Man should learn from the indigenous peoples who learned from watching plants, trees and water interact – how plants support each other, how the roots of the cottonwood tree support the shoreline and how cattails purify the water. Kimmerer combines heritage with the knowledge of native peoples and science.
Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, is a union of personal biography, science and biology. Kimmerer is an active member of the Citizen Patawatomi Nation. Braiding Sweetgrass is a book of essays on Native folkways with plants and their roles in human life. It was originally published in 2013 and was reissued in 2020 with new illustrations. In her book, Kimmerer shares indigenous knowledge and encourages individuals to seek a healthy relationship with their natural environment.
How would you be feeling if you couldn’t speak your native language? Eat familiar native foods? Wear native clothing? As a member of the Patawatomi Nation, Kimmerer shares the beauty and necessity of native language and tradition. Native storytelling is a tradition that illustrates the delicate layering of science and culture. Storytelling focuses on a balance between environmental passions and science.
If you are yearning for a book of optimism about humans’ relationship with the environment in a world on fire, Braiding Sweetgrass is for you. Or, as a book of gratitude toward nature and a culture of reciprocity toward nature, Braiding Sweetgrass will soothe your soul.