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Book Review: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Sweetgrass "was the very first to bloom on the planet", according to Anishinaabe tradition, and serves as a permanent reminder of the creator

By palaktripathi
New Update
braiding sweetgrass

“I like to imagine that when Skywoman scattered her handful of seeds across Turtle Island, she was sowing sustenance for the body and also for the mind, emotion, and spirit: she was leaving us, teachers. The plants can tell us her story; we need to learn to listen”

Author Kimerer in Braiding Sweetgrass.

This line encapsulates what this book is trying to put out to the world. Sweetgrass "was the very first to bloom on the planet", according to Anishinaabe tradition, and serves as a permanent reminder of the creator known as Skywoman. It plays a sacred role and is a crucial part of what the author refers to as "global ecosystems,". This raises the hope that humans and the natural world might interact in a healthy way despite all the evidence to the contrary of our destructive influences.


As the reader wends their way through Braiding Sweetgrass, they will be introduced to the concept of Earth as a gift, meet three sisters, and learn about honourable harvesting. Furthermore, to the thanksgiving culture that needs to be incorporated into the daily life of humans as inhabitants of earth. This book was an absolute delight to read as every essay was a meditation on plants, wildlife, indigenous teachings, and our relationship to the earth.

Kimmerer takes on many roles in this book as she does in the real life of a scientist, professor, mother, native woman and so on. She blends scientific learning exceptionally well with an anecdote on humanity and how if we learn to love our earth, then the earth will definitely reciprocate. Kimmerer writes about how she introduces the idea of reciprocal love to her enthusiastic ecologists in her botany classes who have been experiencing what seems to be unrequited love for the planet. Their conceptions of existence are completely wrecked by the visceral notion that the thing, the being, they so intensely adore, actually loves them back.

Anthoxanthum hirtum - sweetgrass
Anthoxanthum hirtum - sweetgrass | Photo: Flickr


I recommend Braiding Sweetgrass to anyone who enjoys a good story- Kimmerer’s narrative is approachable, potent, and funny. And, she is simply a great storyteller. It evokes the emotion of reciprocity, for nature, the land, and the people. It echoes the very human construct of gift-giving and responsibility that is especially needed when dealing with the environment. This book also very well constructs a hopeful idea as to what the future holds for the earth and humanity if we start treating the planet gratefully.

Braiding Sweetgrass reminds me even if we feel hopeless or isolated from a very consumerist world, then we need to remind ourselves of the gift we have every day. As she beautifully captures in the book,

“The earth, that first among good mothers, gives us the gift that we cannot provide ourselves. I hadn’t realized that I had come to the lake and said feed me, but my empty heart was fed. I had a good mother. She gives what we need without being asked. I wonder if she gets tired, old Mother Earth. Or if she too is fed by the giving. ‘Thanks,’ I whispered, ‘for all of this.’”

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