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Braiding Sweetgrass Blog | Part 1: Reciprocity and Communalism

by Jacob Smit on 2023-10-12T13:56:00-07:00 in Anthropology, Biology, Cultural Anthropology, Culture Studies, Education, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Indigenous Studies, Marine and Conservation Biology | 1 Comment


With this year’s common text, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day having just passed on October 9th, we wanted to continue the conversation and offer additional methods of exploring the themes being presented. Even more, we’d like to invite you to share your insights with us and your peers! 

Kimmerer presents a holistic approach of using all the resources available to us in both indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge––and the benefits of using both. At Seattle University, we aim to expand our perspectives on cultural identity, recognize voices that are unheard or silenced, and always question what’s presented as an absolute. Open-mindedness, advocacy, and inquisitiveness enrich our learning and lives as well as those around us.  

Please join our three-part blog series discussing several of the themes from Braiding Sweetgrass. Share your thoughts with us in-person at the Library and in the comment section below, or if these serve as internal prompts for you, your friends, or peers that is also a wonderful outcome. You will also find suggested titles for further reading below; these reflect the Library’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.  

We look forward to your contributions and thank you for reading! 


Braiding Sweetgrass Blog | Part One: Reciprocity and Communalism 

The theme of reciprocity and communalism in Braiding Sweetgrass explores human beings as part of a communal ecosystem with plants, animals, and the land. Kimmerer proposes that the natural world flourishes when we recognize a living network of constant giving and reciprocity––that when done respectfully human interaction and their use of nature can be a good thing. The problem is that humans often lack the awareness, care, or patience required to do so correctly. 

  • How do you understand the interconnectivity of all living things? 


When the lessons of the natural world are overlooked or when the learnings of indigenous peoples are forgotten, there is an incredible loss of wisdom and a broken bond that is mutually beneficial to both humans and the ecosystem we live in.   

  • In what ways do humans learn from the natural world? In return, how do we care for the natural world? 


Indigenous cultures value connections and interdependence among all living things. There is a respect and reverence for the natural world. Kimmerer frames this as seeing the earth as animate, serving to remind humans of the sacrifices, sustenance, medicine, and wisdom provided.  

  • Do the inequities and injustices you see in the world suggest that interdependence and learning to value connection can help shape patterns for living? 


Discover related titles in the current Library display inspired by Braiding Sweetgrass (LEML floor 3)

Pulling in elements of indigenous wisdom, ethnobotany, nature-bathing, native plants and ecology, nature-focused philosophy, indigenous culture and connection with the earth, as well as information about local indigenous communities, and fiction by indigenous authors––you're sure to find something you'll love.


Look for new books purchased for the Library collection supporting themes of cultural diversity, sustainability and more:   

- Living Resistance: An Indigenous Vision for Seeking Wholeness Every Day

- Sustainability and Health in Intelligent Buildings

- Sustainable Manufacturing Processes

- Weathering: the extraordinary stress of ordinary life in an unjust society 


Explore the Library’s online catalog under the following subject headings or combinations of headings: 

Indigenous peoples; Mexican Americans; Pakistani women; Black people; Coast Salish Indians 


Indigenous art 

Conservation; Conservation and Protection;  

Corporate culture  

Environmental education 

Environmental protection-religious aspects 

Food habits 

Land use 

Manufacturing and processes – environmental aspects 


Sustainability; sustainable development; sustainable urban development 


Human ecology 


Plants; edible plants; medicinal plants 

Cover photo by Jacob Smithers

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Posts: 42
Jacob Smit 2023-10-12T13:59:08-07:00

Not exactly in the same theme as the other titles shared, but those interested in the topic of indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge might also enjoy books such as:

The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui way of knowledge by Carlos Castaneda

Be Here Now by Ram Dass


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