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

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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 observing or interacting with nature. No declarations of political loyalty are required, just a response to a repeated question: "Can we agree to be grateful for all that is given? He was like one of those little withered seeds you find in the bottom of a seed packet, the one who never touched the earth.

Updated with a new introduction from Robin Wall Kimmerer, the hardcover special edition of Braiding Sweetgrass, reissued in honor of the fortieth anniversary of Milkweed Editions, celebrates the book as an object of meaning that will last the ages. It is the root of our relatedness to the world, our seeing ourselves as not separate, but part of a web of relations that includes the green world, the animal world, the world of streams and lakes and ocean, of clouds and rain, sunlight and starlight, and that our relationship to each of them is, or should be, an intimate, person-to-person relationship. e. in the context of reductionist/materialist control, "the illusion of dominance and control, the separation of knowledge from responsibility"). She uses the example of Plantain, an English plant that came over with the colonists, and soon was found all over the northeast. Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings--asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass--offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices.

Kimmerer is known for her scholarship on traditional ecological knowledge, ethnobotany, and moss ecology. Anyone who enjoys being outdoors and thinks we can do more to respect the natural world would enjoy this book. I think about Standing Rock, and how those who have already lived through unimaginable apocalypse are still resisting, praying, reminding others that water is life. It was heartbreaking to realize my nearly total disconnection from the earth, and painful to see the world again, slowly and in pieces. And to end on a note of hope—because this really is a book of hope and potential restoration: Respiration—the source of energy that lets us farm and dance and speak.

Her respect and gratitude for all aspects of nature comes through loud and clear and so does our responsibility to reciprocate what nature provides. They ranged from memoir-ish to straight ecology to the visceral history of consumerism and consequential disrespect for Earth and her resources, but what they had in common was a refrain of reciprocity with plant and element beings. In increasingly dark times, we honor the experience that more than 350,000 readers in North America have cherished about the book--gentle, simple, tactile, beautiful, even sacred--and offer an edition that will inspire readers to gift it again and again, spreading the word about scientific knowledge, indigenous wisdom, and the teachings of plants. The Mind of Plants' offers an accessible account of the idea of 'the plant mind' by bringing together short essays and poems on plants and their interactions with humans. I thought, though I didn't have the words for it, that it was the flag of what Kimmerer names as the Maple Nation.

If you've never heard of the Indian Removal Act Braiding Sweetgrass may do some good by providing a third-hand account of some of its consequences, but for the most part it's just an aggravating waste of time. From the story of the three sisters (corns, beans and squash) to restoring a culturally significant lake to teaching about how humans and sweetgrass need each other - this book has it all.

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