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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

4.57  ·  Rating details ·  48,547 ratings  ·  7,312 reviews
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the ...more
Hardcover, 391 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Milkweed Editions
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Gayle Highpine It is certainly written on a level and in a style that could engage HS students. But it is a very long book, almost 400 pages with small print, so for…moreIt is certainly written on a level and in a style that could engage HS students. But it is a very long book, almost 400 pages with small print, so for HS students I would assign particular chapters, not the whole book. Each chapter can stand alone as an essay.(less)
Gloria Animals play an important role in some of RWK's elaborations - for example the story of a deer hunter who says he only takes one bullet out with him, …moreAnimals play an important role in some of RWK's elaborations - for example the story of a deer hunter who says he only takes one bullet out with him, to shoot the deer that he intuits is the 'honourable harvest' and leaving all the others he sees. But as others say, plants and ecosystems make up most of the examples in the book(less)

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Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rowena by: Yasmin
Shelves: science
"What if you were a teacher but had no voice to speak your knowledge? What if you had no language at all and yet there was something you needed to say? Wouldn't you dance it? Wouldn't you act it out? Wouldn't your every movement tell the story? In time you would be so eloquent that just to gaze upon you would reveal it all. And so it is with these silent green lives."- Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

In 2007, Yann Martel compiled a reading list for Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harp
Diane S ☔
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of my goals this year was to read more non-fiction, a goal I believe I accomplished. Never thought I would rate my last three non-fiction reads 5 stars. This was a wonderful, wonderful book. It teaches the reader so many things about plants and nature in general. Different animals and how the indigenous people learned from watching them and plants, the trees. tis is how they learned to survive, when they had little.

teaches us about thankfulness, gratitude and how often we take these wonderfu
Miranda Reads
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing

February's Reading Vlog is out today!
The Written Review
This is a gorgeous book all about nature and science - what more can a girl ask for?

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist by trade and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation - and she combines her passion for plants and history in this book.

Each chapter focuses on a different overlap between science and her culture.

I love that she had a more personal take on science - so often science is emphasized as rigid, observational and abov
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I feel I must justify my rating of this book as some of my peers would disagree with me. First, I simply did not enjoy the book stylistically. While I treasure creative nonfiction essays, I find Kimmerer's language over-reaching in its poetic pursuits. If this were my only qualm with Braiding Sweetgrass, I would be able to overlook it. However, Kimmerer's lengthy prose-poetry is coupled with an over-generalized critique of American/Western/Christian culture (often conflating all three instead of ...more
Wendy Feltham
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it
It's difficult to rate this book, because it so frequently veered from two to five stars for me. Five stars for the beauty of some of Robin Wall Kimmerer's writing in many essays/chapters. Five stars for introducing me to Sweetgrass, its many Native American traditions, and her message of caring for and showing gratitude for the Earth. Five stars for the author's honest telling of her growth as a learner and a professor, and the impressions she must have made on college students unaccustomed to ...more
Lucy Dacus
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book has taught me so much, hopefully changed me for the better forever. It was heartbreaking to realize my nearly total disconnection from the earth, and painful to see the world again, slowly and in pieces. I'm sure there is still so much I can't see. But I'm grateful for this book and I recommend it to every single person! ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Nov 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
I had no idea how much I needed this book until I read it.
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an important and a beautiful book. We are discussing it here:

Rather than repeating all my thoughts I post the link.

On completion:

I don't give that many books five stars. They have to qualify as amazing. The author writes so you understand the value of nature, of the gift that is given to all of us. She shows us that a gift is tied with responsibility. Only if you understand that you have received a gift do you feel the responsibility to reciproca
Powerful book with lots of indigenous wisdom related to science, gratitude, and how we relate to the land. I appreciated Robin Wall Kimmerer’s perspective on giving back to the land considering how much the land gives to us. As a social scientist myself, I found her nuanced ideas about the relationship between western science and indigenous worldviews compelling. Her writing about the importance of maintaining indigenous language and culture also elicited feelings of tenderness and sadness from ...more
Alvaro Perez-Quintero
Mar 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
OK, this book was a journey and not a precisely pleasant one. I must admit I had my reservations about this book before reading it. As a botanist and indigenous person you'd think this would be right up my alley, but there was something about the description that made it sound it was going to be a lot of new-age spiritual non-sense, and it was a bit of that, but mostly I was pleasantly surprised that it was a more "serious" book than I thought it'd be.

At the beginning I was genuinely pleased wi
As we struggle to imagine a future not on fire, we are gifted here with an indigenous culture of reciprocity with the land, revived and weaved together with the science of ecology; “we restore the land, and the land restores us”.

The Brilliant:
--In another life, I may have pursued ecology. Instead, I’ve spent my spare time reading deconstructions of capitalism/imperialism. It has been a challenge balancing this deconstruction with the social imagination for healing and reconstruction.
--I can’t re
Emily Crow
This book contains one exceptional essay that I would highly recommend to everyone, "The Sacred and the Superfund." As for the rest of it, although I love the author's core message--that we need to find a relationship to the land based on reciprocity and gratitude, rather than exploitation--I have to admit, I found the book a bit of a struggle to get through. The author has a flowery, repetitive, overly polished writing style that simply did not appeal to me. I would read a couple of essays, fin ...more
David Joy
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. I don't know what else to say. It left me at a loss for words. Read it. Just read it. ...more
Kate Savage
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how to talk about this book. I think it has affected me more than anything else I've ever read.

Each time I picked up this book, I sank into the world of plants and meaning, the slow vegetable world, seen jewel-bright from the underside. It was hard to do errands and think strategically. I thought how we use the word "grassroots" as a buzz phrase when applying for grants, to elbow our way into legitimacy, but Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds me that what the roots of grass really mean is
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, audio
Oh my goodness, what an absolutely gorgeous book with possibly the best nature writing I've ever read. I read this book almost like a book of poetry, and it was a delightful one to sip and savor ...more
If there is one book you would want the President to read this year, what would it be? This question was asked of a popular fiction writer who took not a moment's thought before saying, my own of course. She is wrong. The book the President should read, that all of us who care about the future of the planet should read, is Robin Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass.

This is one of the most important books written on the environment since Silent
Spring. Kimmerer blends her scientific background as an et
marta the book slayer
Mar 28, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers with ability to dnf
Recommended to marta the book slayer by: zoey
“This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden—so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.”


I was hooked from the first page; the comparison of Sky Woman to Eve was intriguing. I even enjoyed the personal anecdotes, specifically the story of the author's determination to restore her pond to its previous glory so her children can swim in it during summer.

As soon as the chapter on basket weaving began, I started to fall asleep. Beyond this point, the book
Mar 25, 2021 rated it liked it
"Science can be a way of forming intimacy and respect with other species that is rivaled only by the observations of traditional knowledge holders."

Robin Wall Kimmerer had wanted to be a poet before she began her college major in botany. Her skill with words is very evident in her lyrical writing. The descriptions of Native American myths and traditions as well as the beauty of nature are beautiful.

Kimmerer is a member of the Potawatomi nation as well as a professor of botany. Her respect and
"Paying attention acknowledges that we have something to learn from intelligences other than our own. Listening, standing witness, creates an openness to the world in which boundaries between us can dissolve in a raindrop."

From 'Witness to Rain' [essay], BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2015 by Milkweed Editions.

This word is used frequently in Kimmerer's 32 essays, and it echoes in my heart and mind days
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer presents a perhaps radical view to those of us living so single-mindedly in the modern world. We've become so disconnected from our roots—both literal and metaphorical—that it is easy to turn a blind eye to how our every action has an effect on our environment. In this book, she calls us to pay attention, to use the currency of our time and energy to give back
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I'm so glad I finally read this book for the Book Cougars/Reading Envy joint readalong. If you only read one science or nature book this year, this comes with my highest recommendations. We will discuss it more soon on their podcast and in the meantime I'll try to gather my thoughts!

If anything I wish I could have read it more slowly....
Allison Hurd
Dec 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. A fairly gentle, love-based look at ecology and the climate crisis with lots of educational value. As an American, I don't think my countrypeople appreciate or understand enough about native culture, as a general rule and so I was very grateful for this sort of overview of modern day native life, as well as beautiful stories about the past. I also loved learning about the plants she mentions, and feel quite relieved to know that the proper pronunciation of pecan is peh-cah ...more
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
A wonderfully written nonfiction exploring indigenous culture and diaspora, appreciating nature, and what we can do to help protect and honor the land we live upon. This nonfiction the power of language, especially learning the language of your ancestors to connect you to your culture as well as the heartbreaking fact that indigenous children who were banned from speaking anything from English in academic settings. It also greatly touches upon how humans and nature impact one another and how we ...more
Richard Reese
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Science is a painfully tight pair of shoes. It perceives the family of life to be little more than a complex biochemical machine. It has created powerful tools for ravaging the planet’s ecosystems, creating a hard path for our descendants. It gives us knowing, but not caring. It’s not about wisdom. It’s about pursuing the wants and needs of humans, with less concern for the more-than-human world.

Robin Kimmerer is a biology professor. After being trained in the rigid beliefs of science, she heard
L.G. Cullens
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Both a shameful reckoning and a hopeful emergence, in essence this writing presents a perspective that is at odds with our horse-blinkered, materialistic culture's views of the natural world. The perspective is not one of an idealistic utopia, but rather one of respectful coexistence with all life, and balance with the natural world that in providing a conducive environment is essential for our existence — one of honest appreciation for the gifts that enable being, and of meaningful reciprocity ...more
D.L. Mayfield
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
hands down one of the best books of 2019. I took my sweet time reading this, because it deserves to be savored, and not rushed. Poetic, incredibly smart, insightful . . . and a profound re-ording of the world. I loved it.
Feb 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: usa, nature
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist. She is also a native American, member of the Potawatomi Nation in the US. As a trained scientist, Kimmerer has learned to ask data-based questions about the natural world. Her upbringing brought an emotional connect with the natural world. She tries to marry the two in her own teaching career. In Braiding Sweetgrass, the author has tried to show how both scientific and traditional ecological knowledge are important in conservation. Without consulting the local ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book I cannot praise it enough. It is a vitally important read for humanity as we see ourselves, how we see the world, our relation to it and how we need each other. While she speaks of greed that chokes the world and ourselves she speaks too of positiveness and what we can do to heal the earth and ourselves. More than recycling bins, carpooling and composting in the garden, we need to reassess ourselves as children of the land. How important the earth is to us and how important we a ...more
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass, as thick and shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother’s back. But it is not mine to give, nor yours to take. Wiingaashk belongs to herself. So I offer, in its place, a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world. This braid is woven from three strands: indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinaabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most. It is an intertwinin
This is one of the most singular and beautiful books I have ever read. This is perspective altering in the best way. We have so much to learn and heed from indigenous stories and traditions; their very thinking and language and reciprocity with nature that our colonial nation destroyed is desperately needed to save this earth. Notes forthcoming. There are so many post-its and bent pages I need to revisit.

"How, in our modern world, can we find our way to understand the earth as a gift again, to m
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Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (also credited as Robin W. Kimmerer) (born 1953) is Associate Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). She is the author of numerous scientific articles, and the book Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. She is Potawatomi and combines her heritage with her ...more

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Look, we know there's a lot of pressure when it comes to picking a book for your book club. You'll need to please a lot of different types of...
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“In some Native languages the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.” 208 likes
“Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.” 184 likes
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