Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer – A Review

By Bianca Dubois

This year, Canadians have had to reckon with the history of our country and the truth of its origins. In light of the recent discovery of children’s remains at residential schools, Canadians have been forced to turn the mirror on themselves and grapple with the realities of the country we love. As both the daughter of an immigrant and Metis, I have had difficulty reckoning with my identity and place within our shared history. My whole life, I have not had strong ties to Metis culture; however, I have hopes of changing that. Therefore, to feel connected to my roots, I have decided to read one book written by an Indigenous author every month. My goal is to review these books to inspire others to do the same. It has always been vital to support and listen to Indigenous voices, but now it is more than ever. 


The first book I chose to read was Braiding Sweetgrass. This book was an excellent read that changed my relationship with and my views on the world. Every time I sat down with this book, I was delighted with the new perspectives and wisdom that Kimmerer passed. In addition, I was enveloped by her poetic descriptions of the natural world full of wonder and whimsy, in addition to her immense gratitude to the Earth.


Kimmerer weaves her life experiences with Indigenous teachings, botany, and modern science to share new perspectives on our treatment of the Earth. It was surprising for me to learn how much Indigenous spirituality and science blend together. It was fascinating to see Kimmerer’s holistic view of environmental science. She uses her indigenous knowledge to support her research, protect the environment and respect the natural world. We also follow Kimmerer’s journey of reconnecting with her indigenous roots. Each section of the book deals with different societal and indigenous concepts, which she ties into indigenous teachings. In addition, we watch her learn the Potawatomi language and new skills such as basket weaving and living off the land. Kimmerer passes on her new knowledge to the reader and her students in her university courses to share this love and appreciation of nature with a new generation of botanists and environmental scientists. 


Throughout this read, I was introduced to the concepts of gratitude towards Earth, honourable harvest, and overconsumption within society. Kimmerer guides the reader to understand these concepts by showing us the importance of protecting the environment by treating it with respect and gratitude. Everything on Earth is a gift, leading to a certain amount of responsibility to protect the planet. Kimmerer makes it clear that our duty to maintain the natural world is vital. She shows the dangers we pose to the environment but does not let us wallow in fear and despair. Instead, she shares hope and her vision on how to keep our planet safe and plentiful for the generations to come. 


Although this book had some repetitive passages, I believe that the importance of the message within this book makes it a must-read. This book is beautifully written, and you can feel Kimmerer’s passion leaping off of the page. I would rate this book 5/5 because of the inspiring message, new perspectives, and gorgeous prose.