Review: “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This book was gifted to me at the end of 2020 and I’ve been incorporating lessons from it into every aspect of my life, from hunting and fishing to the way I conduct my dissertation research. In “Braiding Sweetgrass”, Kimmerer weaves personal stories into lessons about how we can incorporate an ancient worldview into our science, and become better ecologists.

As a member of the Citizen Potowatomi Nation, Kimmerer provides indigenous perspectives on the value of gratitude and the role of the sacred in ecology. For centuries, scientists have strived to secularize science, and perform “objective” analysis of the way our world conducts itself. Her opinion is that the scientific method, rooted in western ideology, is not necessarily at odds with the ancient, deeply personal and ritualized relationships that indigenous cultures have cultivated with the natural world. In fact, when you put the two together, your science can be enhanced. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge  and the Teachings of Plants: 9781571313560: Kimmerer, Robin Wall: Books

To make her point, Kimmerer leans on personal experiences in teaching and family life, using indigenous tradition to enhance students understanding of ecology, and foster a sense of gratitude for the relationships that tie organisms together. Discovering these relationships, she argues, is part of achieving “ecological consciousness”, which is impossible without recognizing and celebrating the gifts of the natural world.

There is increasing evidence in fisheries science that incorporating indigenous knowledge into western scientific practices produces more effective conservation measures. Kimmerer’s stories about reconnecting with her nation’s language and culture demonstrate that value. Her powerful anecdotes at times brought me to tears.

If you’re at all interested in land ethics, indigenous wisdom, or teaching, I highly recommend this book. It’s a national bestseller for a good reason, and I use the lessons in it every day. From thanking the animals I harvest, to changing the way I ask questions about my study system, I find Kimmerer’s hand reaching into all aspects of my life. Go support your local book store, and purchase a copy today. I’m sure it will enrich your life like it did mine.

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