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

By Jessica Searcy Kmetty

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. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth and learn to give our own gifts in return. – Book Description from

I listen to a ton of Audiobooks and this one was recommended to me by Audible based on prior purchases. My best guess is that they noticed I like smart women who have a personal journey to share! I was interested to learn more about the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and her take on the world through her book.

I am partial to audio autobiographies that are read by the author. There is something impactful about hearing someone’s story out of their own mouth, with their inflections and pauses and emphasis. I feel that the audiobook gave another layer of life to this book and I would recommend listening to this version if you have the opportunity.

With Braiding Sweetgrass, I was most intrigued by the subtitle: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. I am learning to appreciate a wide variety of viewpoints, so reading a broad spectrum of ideas is important to me. This seemed to fit the bill.

The premise of the book is that there are things we can learn about how to care for each other and the world from the earth and plants. In many ways these are things our ancestors may have known but we have forgotten (or never learned these teachings). Some of those concepts include:

  • Frame your decisions in the context of how those decisions will impact the world and people who will be around many generations from now.
  • When you think of all life forms as beings, not as he/she/it, then it changes how you interact. Anytime anything/anyone has been reduced to an “it” they have been diminished.
  • Leave places better off than how you found them. Endeavor to do your part to restore the world/community around you.
  • There is beauty and value in tradition.

I would absolutely recommend the book to anyone with an open mind and heart to hear different perspectives and for those who are nature-lovers at heart. It’s a beautiful story and a personal journey, so it may appeal to those who enjoy autobiographies as well.

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Published for the blog on February 27, 2020 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.