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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
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Non-Fiction > Group Read (December/January) Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin W. Kimmerer

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Chrissie Having nominated it, now I am hoping it turns out to be good. I get a little nervous. Because I read only one book at a time and spend a lot of time reading, I will not start at the beginning of the reading period, but wait awhile so others have a chance to get into it. I don't want to be done before everyone else has started!

message 3: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I am really looking forward to this one, now I just have to find an affordable copy because no library around here will have the English copy of it (it's not yet translated)

Chrissie Jenny, I know it is on Kindle for 9.39USD. Maybe you don't have a kindle?

message 5: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I don't unfortunately. But I'll keep trying.

Chrissie You might check out Bookdepository. They have very god prices and don't add anything for the mailing. That is where I used to buy books. They have it on sale, but I could only see the Swedish price so I don't know what yours would be.

message 7: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Around 20 Euro apparently. But I will see how far the concept of online libraries has advanced. I have a Kobo, so finding an epub would do.

Chrissie Good luck. I chose Kindle simply because it had the largest assortment of books available, even if it is less in Europe than in the US.

Diane S ☔ I sent for one from another library in our system, hopefully they will send it.

Cathie (catitude) Picked this up from my library yesterday and started reading it. (Couldn't wait for Dec. 1st ☺ )

Chrissie Cathie, is it good? How far have you come? I thought I would pick it up after I finish what I am reading, so quite soon, probably tomorrow. I just don't want to start before several others have begun reading it. A little discussion would be good and I seen none happening here.

Who else is reading this? Does anyone have any plans for when they will start?

I am thinking that since this is a group read I should only start when several others have begun. I do not want to read it before the majority have not yet even begun!

Please let me know when you others plan on reading this.

Cathie (catitude) I'm really enjoying it so far Chrissie. Start reading it!! lol. Really, I think you will like it ☺ (And I won't feel so all alone, lol!)

Chrissie I will start, Cathie. At least you and I can read it together! I can imagine how you must be feeling reading a group book all alone! :0( Just let me finish off the book I am reading. I think tomorrow it will be done. I have Braiding Sweetgrass already on my Kindle. I am currently recharging the battery so everything will go smoothly. I really cannot wait to start.

Tell me a bit please!

Cathie (catitude) It's a wonderful book full of native lore, love of the land and very beautifully written. There's probably a lesson on nearly every page, but it never feels like a lesson; it feels like a story, natural, unfolding, evolving.

Robin Kimmerer has a great gift for the telling of a story, a narrative. There are so many wonderful phrases scattered throughout, that made me stop and think of how I look at this world and how I interact with it.

I'm so glad it was chosen for a group monthly read; I would not have picked it up otherwise, which is a shame, because this is definitely worth reading.

Chrissie I found out about it when Rowena spoke of it on a group thread, non-fiction or something like that. All the different topics covered is what drew me. Then I read a bit of the sample on Kindle, and I was enchanted by the writing. I knew I wanted to nominate it for a group read.

Still I was a little nervous because you never know if the sample will be as good as the rest of the book!

Cathie it sounds really wonderful. I cannot wait to start.

message 17: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 03, 2014 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Yup, but if it had not been for Rowena I would never have heard of it.

Diane S ☔ Just brought it home today. Hope to start over the weekend.

Chrissie That is nice, Diane!

Chrissie Cathie, I just love how it starts - how two people work together to braid a length of sweetgrass. For me it is beautiful, both what is being said and how it is being said. I love the indigenous story telling, there is such wisdom.

You look at the chapter titles and are intrigued - The Council of the Pecans! That is where I am.

Where are you, Cathie?

Chrissie These are some of my thoughts as I read the book. I am now in the chapter entitled: "An Offering".

Which do you prefer of the two different stories of creation, Eve or the Skywoman? I prefer the latter!

In the chapter "The Gift of Strawberries" I was intrigued by the explanation of the phrase "Indian giving". Am I the only one who has been puzzled by how this phrase came into being?

What you notice is the amazing mix of science and poetry.

I love learning how indigenous people see the world around them. This seems so much wiser.

How much richer the world seems if you stop thinking of everything as a commodity and instead a gift.....

I also love how the author's Mom asked the kids to leave their camping place "better than you found it".

Diane S ☔ I went ahead and started this. After waiting to get it from my library, I found in the book the print was excessively small. I could read it but it made the book seem like a struggle so I bought it for my Nook.

I loved the story of the sky woman, if only everyone felt that way about the earth, we would not now be in our present climate crisis. Love the storytelling tone to this book. So gentle and poignant.

Chrissie Diane, exactly! The mix of science and poetic language and indigenous fables is remarkable.

Chrissie This is an important my humble view.

In the chapter "An Offering"

The author states clearly her goal . First she speaks of complementary colors and how they look beautiful together, how they enhance each other. Similarly she is seeking the reciprocity of science and art, matter and spirit, indigenous knowledge and Western science. They each should be utilized as the complementary color to the other.

Have you never walked upon a clearing in the woods that is beautiful beyond words. I have a spot like this very near my home. Every time I pass it, it hits me all over again! and I think what is it that makes this spot so beautiful. Think if there should exists a formula?

The chapter: "Learning the Grammar of Animacy"

I agree, we must ensure that languages are not extinguished. Each hold special gems, Knowledge mission from other languages. Did you know that there is a word for "the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight"! You must too have seen a mushroom there that didn't exist the day before. This word exists . It is in the Potawatomi language. Another example: think of jokes. "What will happen to a joke if no one will hear it any more?"

So.... I think this is an important book.

Diane S ☔ I am not as far as you, I only finished the chapter with the Pecans. Loved this chapter, so interesting reading about how important they were for survival. We just take for granted these things, they are in a store and that is all we care about. This book makes us think about the importance of everyday things, things that often go unnoticed. Am compelled to keep reading and will continue when I get home from work later this afternoon.

message 26: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 05, 2014 04:34AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Diane, good.

I don't understand. Many people voted for a discussion of this book and now there is a general silence. Why am I always surprised? It was posted that we were not to vote for the book unless we seriously planned to read it. OK, the reading time is through January, but still.....

message 27: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
I didn't vote for it Chrissie, but it actually looks very interesting. I am hoping to read it, but I won't be able to start until January since I'm committed to a number of other books first.

message 28: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 05, 2014 05:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Greg, I think it is wonderful that you read the book too. You didn't vote for it. DON'T feel stressed. I do understand that December is a stress filled month.

Another thing I forgot to mention in my message 24. It is related to the chapter entitled "Learning the Grammar of Animacy". Languages are constructed so differently. Each can achieve what another cannot. I am thinking about how English separates humans from objects, how things are its. This reminds me of of Buber's philosophy, how one must never think of a person as a thing, as object, as an it. Maybe its is time we broaden this concept so that we can better relate to nature and the world around us too.

And the author had me laughing about how difficult it is to learn a new language. Boy, do I understand that.

Chrissie I keep forgetting things....

Diane, about pecans: Nature is amazing. We don't recognize how things fit together ....until the balance is broken. What I think she is trying to show us is how the more we know the more we appreciate and value what surrounds us, whe before we took for granted.

Chrissie I absolutely loved the chapter "Witch Hazel". What is it about? The aged and their special knowledge.... and Christmas. A beautiful chapter about Christmas and friends doing things for each other.

Cathie (catitude) I forgot the book at work today, so I'm not sure what the chapter is I am on now. I am past "we use the world as our litter box"; that statement was so profound to me, probably because I am a cat lover.

I am about 3/4 of the way through it. it is a very good read. I have friends who are native Canadians, so I have heard a bit of the folklore before, but I always love the way the stories are told.

I work for an agency that has NILO workers on staff (Native Inmate Liason Outreach) so I also am in touch with Native workers every day; we were discussing this book today and they are really impressed with it.

Diane S ☔ I just finished the strawberry chapter and this held special meaning for me. I live in a pre civil war house, when are family grew we built on, but it has a limestone foundation and we love the area. In the summer I have a herb garden, I love to cook, and a few years back wild strawberries appeared. Have no idea where they came from but now I let them just run around between the herbs. Now every time I see them I will seemthem as a gift.

Cathie (catitude) How very cool that the strawberries gifted themselves to you!

Chrissie Cathie, I envy your having work comrades that have the indigenous stories close to them. They live with the memories, we can just read about them. You ae much further than me.

The chapter "The Consolation of Water Lilies" brought tears to my eyes. Tears of remembrance. This chapter speaks to any mother who has raised their kids, loved them and then let them go.

I am amazed all the different topic that are covered. I laughed at the chapter with her pond cleaning and the dogs and the ducks and their stolen dog food. The book isn't just about ecology, it is about how we look at life.

OK, on the critical side. Every thing she points out is correct, but can people live this way? Our society has gone in the opposite direction. I am thinking is this a realistic alternative? Will what she says be accepted by business? How do you get the two closer? That is I think the main goal. How is it achieved? Well, books like this help.

Diane, the whole concept of seeing what we are given with other eyes, as gifts, is really one to remember. I am a little bit worried that I will close the book and go back to the ingrained way of seeing. How do you stop that? The book is necessary to keep us on track. I believe it an important book.

message 35: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 06, 2014 06:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Sometimes, as I read this I feel terribly sad, and here is why.

The people who need to read this don't. They will say this is all undo-able, wishful thinking. Get real. But why can't things be different? Why is it that the ideas of the indigenous peoples have not been able to get their voice heard? This worries me. I guess you have to start somewhere and just be satisfied at small improvements? You can't give up before you start. I guess. Still, I feel sad.

Later in the book.

The author says this in the chapter Mishkos Kenowagwen: The Teachings of Grass iv. methods

Getting scientists to consider the validity of indigeous knowledge is like swimming upstream in cold, cold water.

I was happy to see that she and her pupil Laurie did succeed. The scientists listened. Victory won. :0) This cheers me up. So maybe there is hope?

Diane S ☔ I know there is a big back to earth movement in my town. The local arboretum in conjunction with the Woman's club tagged old trees in our area, telling what kind of tree it was, what it provided, who used in and what it saved. One of the trees is in my front yard. It is an important book and I am reading it slowly and sometimes re-reading parts. Just finished the chapter Aster and Goldenrod, which I loved. So glad she found a way to balance the ways of her people with the scientific ways in which she was trained. Sad that so many languages are lost due to greed.

Chrissie Diane, it covers so many important issues! More and more people are beginning to understand that native languages must not be allowed to die out. Gaelic is used by some in Brittany; this is strongly encouraged and more and more often it is taught in schools. Signs are in both languages. Why do you say lost due to greed? I am just thinking that people are unaware of their value.

Diane S ☔ I am speaking just in relation to this book and the indigenous people. We wanted their land, not just some of it but eventually almost all of it. We broke treaties, used the might of the government to break up tribes and families and eventually their language and much of their culture was lost.

Cathie (catitude) Yep Diane, we have done that here in Canada too, hangs head in shame.

message 40: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 06, 2014 09:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Diane, OK, I understand. I thought you were referring specifically to the indigenous people's loss of language. You are making the general statement about what has been done to these people. Of course, that I follow completely.

The nations on the other side of the pond are not guilt-free either.

Cathie (catitude) Chrissie, I think Diane's point is specific to the loss of language; dominant culture decided English was the preferred language, so schools, jobs, everything was done in that language; children were discouraged from speaking Objiway, or Cree, or any other native language, and many families were (and still are) being forced into English assimilation.

Chrissie Being forced into total English assimilation is totally wrong and unjust, but I tying language loss to greed is what threw me.

message 43: by Diane S ☔ (last edited Dec 06, 2014 09:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane S ☔ Both of you are right, in the general and in the specific. Either way much of their culture and language was lost. It is sad any way you look at it. But greed here was part of the cause. If settlers and the government hadn't wanted all the land, what happened might possibly have left some of their culture and language intact. Isn't wanting more and not sharing greed?

message 44: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 06, 2014 10:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie And if the languages are lost permanently it is humanity that looses. One can reason the same way with animal extinction. Diversity is essential.

message 45: by Chinook (new) - added it

Chinook | 543 comments 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.

Diane S ☔ I found that surprising too, Chinook. I am now on the maple syrup part, and I wish I could see the old way of tapping a tree, much work but so rewarding when something you eat comes from your own hands and effort. Like gardening and herbs.

Chrissie Chinook, lovely that you have picked it us too. I also was surprised at the fluidity of the lines. I love how she can mix both the language of science and spirit.

Nature is amazing, but so little of it do we understand. Thank goodness there is today a growing awareness of the value of diversity.

The book is very easy to read. It is amazing all the topics it covers - from life philosophy to nature to scientific thinking. Love, raising kids, hobbies, schools. What a fantastic mother this author is. That is ahead of you. There is also a beautiful chapter on one year's Christmas celebration.

There is a beautiful chapter on "three sisters" - beans, squash and corn. She mixes science and beauty and philosophy. I love her examples.

Think if you could have her as a teacher!

Diane I am wondering if ALL maple trees can be used to make syrup or just "sugar maples". I have a maple outside one window, not that I want to start making maple syrup. Just curious. The buds in the spring are gorgeous. People usually only talk about their beautiful autumn leaves.

message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

I love how passionate everybody who is reading this is about it. I am now tempted to join having not been interested but it's £10 on kindle (more paperback) and my library doesn't stock it. Please keep enjoying and discussing!

It terms of language, I listened to a BBC radio 4 programme about Burma. They have lost hundreds of languages but are starting to try and focus on protecting the ones they have left. Most of the languages are not written down so once the last speaker dies there is nothing left. Aan anthropologist is trying to make recordings of some of the old languages to preserve them if they can't be saved.

message 49: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 07, 2014 04:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie I hope you can get a hold of the book, Heather. It is bad when one is forced to buy, but you know that if you buy a Kindle and don't like it you can return it. You must return it within a week from purchase.

Cathie (catitude) i didn't know that about Kindle. We have Kobo here in Canada.

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