14 March 2022

"Braiding Sweetgrass"

"Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants is a 2013 nonfiction book by Potawatomi professor Robin Wall Kimmerer, about the role of Indigenous knowledge as an alternative or complementary approach to Western mainstream scientific methodologies... The book received largely positive reviews, appearing on several bestseller lists. Robin Wall Kimmerer is known for her scholarship on traditional ecological knowledge, ethnobotany, and moss ecology."
More about the book at the link.  For those in a hurry [and for me if/when I re-read], these are what I viewed as the best chapters:  "Witch Hazel" (re elderly women), "A Mother's Work" (restoring a pond), "Epiphany in Beans" (gardening), "Sitting in a Circle" (teaching students ethnobotany), "Collateral Damage" (re roadkill), and "Umbilicaria" (lichens).

The "three sisters" of Native American food are corn, beans and squash, which can be interplanted and grow together well, the beans using the corn for scaffolding. returning nitrogen to the soil, and providing protein.  Squash provide nutritional carotenes and cover/shade the ground to retain moisture.  And this re harvest:
"... the littlest kids peek under prickly leaves looking for squash blossoms.  We carefully spoon a batter of cheese and cornmeal into the orange throat of each flower, close it up, and fry it until it's crisp.  They disappear from the plate as fast as we can make them."
Re the "Honorable Harvest" -
"The guidelines for the Honorable Harvest are not written down, or even consistently spoken of as a whole - they are reinforced in small acts of daily life.  But if you were to list them, they might look something like this..."
Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself.  Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking.  Abide by the answer.
Never take the first.  Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half.  Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully.  Never waste what you have taken.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.  
Discussing a conservation biologist who goes out to the road on some rainy nights to carry salamanders across to safety:  "Aldo Leopold had it right: naturalists live in a world of wounds that only they can see."

Re how we should approach our environmental problems:  
"I believe the answer is contained within our teachings of "One Bowl and One Spoon," which holds that the gifts of the earth are all in one bowl, all to be shared from a single spoon.  This is the vision of the economy of the commons, wherein resources fundamental to our well-being, like water and land and forests, are commonly held rather than commodified.  Properly managed, the commons approach maintains abundance, not scarcity.  These contemporary economic alternatives strongly echo the Indigenous worldview in which the earth exists not as private property, but as a commons, to be tended with respect and reciprocity for the benefit of all."

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