“As we express our gratitude for the earth’s gifts, can we live in such a way that the earth can be grateful to us?”
Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer poses the question in a written statement, adding an idea that is central to his work: “Reciprocity is the root of relationship; all fulfillment is reciprocal.
Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated teacher, and registered member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is also the author of two books: Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses and Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, which propelled her to widespread success.
Her upcoming visit to Santa Fe won’t be her first, but it is her first at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she will speak Aug. 31. She will make a public presentation in the IAIA gymnasium. Performing Arts and Fitness Center from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by a book signing in collaboration with Collected Works Bookstore.
General admission for the Aug. 31 event is sold out — except for a batch of tickets reserved for IAIA students — but the college will livestream Kimmerer’s speech, and those who get their names on the waiting list are invited to watch on a screen in another room at the IAIA. You can sign up to join the waitlist for the event in person or watch the stream on the IAIA website or IAIA Facebook page.
On September 1, Kimmerer will visit the Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill for outdoor conversations on Braiding Sweetgrass themes. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and includes a morning gathering in the space’s ethnobotanical garden, where Kimmerer and a panel of local practitioners will share the experiences, values, and traditional knowledge that inform their relationships with plants, followed by a question-and-answer session. . Accessible parking and seating will be available, and program details, including COVID protocol, will be emailed to registered attendees.
There will also be an outdoor story exhibit featuring student essays responding to Braiding Sweetgrass, and registered attendees are encouraged to submit their own stories for inclusion. (Further details and waitlist registration are available here.)
Kimmerer was unavailable for interviews prior to her visit, but she hopes her audience will gain “a renewed sense of how humans can be medicine for the earth, living as if we are eco-citizens who give back. of the earth, not just consumers,” she writes.
“The extent of the damage we have done to the living world is so great that simply protecting the remains is insufficient,” writes Kimmerer. “We need to heal the wounds we have inflicted by restoring the land and the cultural values that shape our responsibility to the land.
Dr. Thomas Antonio, professor of ethnobotany at the IAIA, teaches sweetgrass braiding every semester. He shared a collection of student essays with SFR, in response to the book. They are full of stories that show a deep resonance between Kimmerer’s work and the students’ own experiences with the natural world.
“My students love the book, as do I,” says Antonio. “As a Ph.D. a botanist, she’s able to take that western science education and blend it effortlessly with traditional knowledge – it’s just a thing of beauty.
Although nearly a decade has passed since Braiding Sweetgrass was published, it’s more relevant than ever, says Antonio. “Some chapters are so hard to read because it’s so painful to tell what happened in certain areas,” he says, “but it always ends with a theme of healing and hope.”
Kimmerer’s work has taken on special meaning for Antonio and his students during the pandemic. They weren’t able to take field trips, but reading Braiding Sweetgrass gave her students a sense of connection to the natural world.
“It was a blessing to have those words written that made you feel like you were there with the plants,” says Antonio. He remembers being told by students that Kimmerer’s lyricism gave them a sense of presence with the natural phenomena she describes.
Kimmerer is scheduled to meet with IAIA students and faculty on Wednesday before his public address.
“During dialogue with readers and listeners of this very diverse audience, I felt a deep desire to connect with the living world,” writes Kimmerer. “There is a desire to get to know plants well again, to feel part of the ecological community and to claim our role as givers to the earth, not just takers. I can sense people longing for a kinship with the land that extractive economies have tried to erase. People remember what it might be like to have an honorable relationship with the land.
Kimmerer’s visit is sponsored by the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Paul Eitner and Denise Roy in association with the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, the Santa Fe Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico and d ‘others.