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

4.6  ·  Rating details ·  3,206 Ratings  ·  583 Reviews
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer as 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 (first published 2013)
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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
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
Alexis Ancona
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
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
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
michael Tintner
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author while camping and hiking in a national park. As the book came to a conclusion I was returning to my camp with tears in my eyes, hope in my mind, and pain in my heart. As someone currently studying science at an online university I am often disenchanted by terminology and jargon of the language scientist use, however, this book is as much poetry as it is scientific. The words are heartfelt and intelligent, they connect the feelings of mind and em ...more
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
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My new favorite book.
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
Dec 06, 2014 is currently reading it
I just started reading this and just finished the chapter on pecans. I really enjoy how she writes and I think this will be a quick read. It flows really nicely. So far I'm particularly struck by the way pecan trees reproduce. I'd never heard about that kind of reproduction. Nature is fascinating.


The chapter on strawberries brought to mind two things. First, it made me think about the wild spaces of my childhood. I grew up in a small town in a very suburban looking neighbourhood. But it
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading this book slowly because I'm savoring it and don't want it to end. Often I read it before bed to dream better. This is a wonderful book that makes me feel more connected to the natural world. I love her writing because she has the perspective of a botany professor as well as an indigenous perspective (she is Potawatomi). As an herbalist, I get both of those perspectives and love the author's way of connecting science and tradition.
C.E. G
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recently, I have been generally reserving 5 star ratings for books that I feel change me in some way (or sometimes just really flawless fiction). This book was definitely a reorientation to the world I live in. Robin Wall Kimmerer points out that many environmentalists say they love the Earth, but many are taken aback when she asks them the question "do you feel the Earth loves you back?" This book was the perfect blend of science and spirituality with sprinklings of history. She speaks not only ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I read this for my Tiny Book Club. The subtitle is Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. It was a revelation.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a descendant of the Potawatomi Nation, raised on the stories of her tribe. She went to college and trained as a botanist because, as she told her advisor in her freshman intake interview, in answer to his question, "So, why do you want to major in botany?": "I told him that I chose botany because I wanted to learn about why asters an
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
Blake Charlton
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
an interesting examination of botany, history, and society through an indigenous lens. many valuable observations and important criticisms about today's society; however, also a bit long and drawn out. characters that disagree with the author are flat, more often then not, made of straw, but this is more than compensated by the lovely character examinations of friends and colleagues. recommended.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible. It puts into words a relationship with the land and with each other that I have always felt and strived for but never have been able to articulate or even seen articulated so perfectly and completely as Robin Wall Kimmerer does.
Victoria Simpson
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's no way a few words will do justice to this book. Suffice it to say, I loved it and highly recommend it!
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book that straddles the place between scientific research and indigenous wisdom. The author narrates the audio book and her down-to-earth storytelling is personable and sweet. She has such a wonderful way of teaching the science of how a whole variety of plant life lives and adapts in the world, while seamlessly blending in indigenous stories and commentary on climate change and environmentalism. She holds all the feelings in one handwoven basket - the fear and frustration at ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The breath of plants gives life to animals and the breath of animals gives life to plants. My breath is your breath, your breath is mine. It's the great poem of give and take, of reciprocity that animates the world."

I've been sitting with this beautiful book for a few days, letting it sink in. This book changed how I viewed the world and put into words things I had felt deeply in my heart. I'll never look at maple syrup, an overgrown pond, cattails, salamanders, raindrops, or even toxic waste i
Analouise Keating
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book seven stars, I would give it seven stars. It is, by far, the best book I’ve read all year (and I read a lot of books). Kimmer draws on her experiences and insights as daughter, mother, Potawatomi, and biologist to offer thoughtful reflections on a variety of topics. I’m struck by her range, by her ability to signal the loss (Conquest, colonialism, environmental devastation, arid scientistic thinking, etc.), to explore this loss in great detail, but also to maintain visi ...more
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
A wondrous journey into First Nation mythology, the inter-connectedness of plants, trees, and animals with the human community, and how we learn our best knowledge from the natural world. Kimmerer grants a new, but ancient, philosophy about the land and our mutual responsibility.
Kristin Boldon
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, book-group, new, own
A beautifully written book that has changed the way I see and act in the natural world.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5-4 stars = 1.5 thumbs up (it's an imperfect scale)

I was super pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this as much as I did. Part of that is due to the audiobook, read by Robin Wall Kimmerer, who has a soft and musically lyrical voice. She did a great job reading her book. What a pleasure to listen to!

I loved learning about America's Indigenous Peoples and their relationship to the land (all land, really). I loved learning about the honorable harvest, reciprocity, creating a culture of gratitude
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. The combination of science and indigenous knowledge and wisdom was so powerful, and enjoyable to read, I just want to make sure everyone reads it right away. Of course, that's not how it works. In fact, I fear that the people who most need to read this wouldn't get it, and that's not a good sign for our world. Still, the more people who read this, the better: Better for the reader, better for humanity on this planet.

This is one of those that my friends Linda and Maryellen re
I listened to this one on audio, which is narrated by the author, and I really loved the experience. She's clearly delighted in parts, where she considers nature and Native stories and culture, and it shines through in her voice.

This collection of essays is love letter to both science and Native knowledge and heritage. But it's also a call to action: to stop being part of the machine of greed and theft from what the world gives us. It has given me so much to chew on and consider, especially as
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.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Took me MOONTHS to finish, but beautiful stories written beautifully. Would recommend.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I think I like what she was going for more than I like what she actually put together. There is a lot of good stuff in here though, especially if you live in "Maple Nation" (the bioregion of the northeastern U.S.). It's just a little too carried away with the romanticism, almost being mawkish at times even. It's also pretty repetitive, making it a lot longer than necessary, and the solutions are left way too vague. I can't stand New Agey justifications for "appropriate technologies" like when sh ...more
Shauna Roth
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There were so many quotes that touched me while reading this wonderful book. Let me share a few...
P5… ‘Our elders say that ceremonies are the way we “remember to remember”…’
P249...’Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention. If you stand together and profess a thing before your community, it holds you accountable. Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm. These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic. These are ceremonies th
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Literature of the...: First meeting for discussion 1 4 Nov 10, 2017 11:03AM  
Nature Literature: Braiding Sweetgrass discussion 16 48 Jun 05, 2016 06:58PM  
Healing in Nature: Slow reading 1 11 Nov 03, 2015 10:41AM  
All About Books: Group Read (December/January) Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin W. Kimmerer 88 229 Dec 28, 2014 01:09AM  
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  • Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes
  • What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World
  • The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature
  • Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth
  • Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
  • Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination
  • The Education of a Gardener
  • Under the Sea Wind
  • The Natural History of Selborne
  • The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration
  • The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species
  • Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature
  • Letters From Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods
  • A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply
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
“In some Native languages the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.” 62 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.” 40 likes
More quotes…