- Jennifer Jewell
ROBIN WALL KIMMERER: ON GARDENING AND CITIZENSHIP
On this Fourth of July – I'm honored to be in conversation with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.”
Together we explore the interrelationship between gardening and citizenship - about which she states:
"I think that is our deepest longing - to belong to each other and to belong to this larger community of life
and for me this notion of tending the garden at all the scales we’ve been implying here is a powerful way to belong."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, botanist, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. As the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability, Robin is engaged in programs which introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge.
"What I came to understand is that traditional knowledge of plants was so much bigger -
so much richer than the scientific world view would allow because it brought in not only that which we can observe -empirical so-called scientific knowledge, but it also brought in history and story and spiritual teachings,
and mind-body emotion and spirit, so I came to understand that this was a much bigger
and powerful way of knowing that creates a different frame work for living in the world -
it’s not just about information and data
it’s about wisdom.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Many of you will be familiar with her acclaimed books: “Gathering Moss, A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses” AND “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants”.
A Gardener in the greatest senses of the word and, Robin spoke with us a little earlier this spring from the studio of WAER Syracuse Public Media to explore the interrelationships between gardening and the heart of citizenship in this world.
'Indigenous languages, lifeways, and relations with the land have all been subject to the violence of colonialism.
Maize herself has been a victim, and so have you, when a worldview which cultivated honorable relations
with the living earth has been overwritten with an ethic of exploitation, when our plant and animal relatives
no longer look at us with honor, but turn their faces away.
But there is a kernel of resurgence, if we are willing to learn.
The invitation to decolonize, rematriate, and renew the honorable harvest
extends beyond indigenous nations to everyone who eats.
Mother Corn claims us all as corn-children under the husk;
her teachings of reciprocity are for all.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer, from interview/recording
Emergence Magazine "Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System" (EM, 2018)
Robin’s work and heart in her books "Gathering Moss" and "Braiding Sweet Grass", as in all that she does as a mother, professor, and citizen are eloquent restorying – reframing, and rematriating (returning to its maternal source, first explained to me by Indigenous plantswoman and seed steward Rowen White)- of a compassionate, respectful, responsible, and reciprocal relationship to our are greater than human world & its wondrous diversity of creatures and beings.
Robin's words and shared wisdom provides us all with a "beautiful scaffolding" of greater understanding as to what and where we are citizens, what being a citizen and being a Gardener means - and where some of our best teachers can be found if we are willing to open up and listen to them.
You amy also enjoy Robin's essay Tallgrass in the journal The Clearing, hosted by Little Toller Books.
You can follow along with Robin's work at SUNY and at Facebook.
THINKING OUT LOUD this week..
Wow where to even start this week, huh? You know I like this level of conversation about our gardens – you do too, which is why you’re here. This metagardening, quantum gardening level of engagement lights a fire.
So I’ll keep it really simple by pulling out a phrase Robin Wall Kimmerer likes to use herself in relation to her gardening practice and that is this: "We should not only be raising our gardens, we should be raising a ruckus!”
A Ruckus on behalf of all that the world needs and all that we have to offer as gardeners.
So here’s my challenge to myself and to you if such a challenge resonates – to set a goal of expanding how and for what cause I share out my gardening love even more – maybe even a little differently? – will I plant a row for the local soup kitchen, will I save seeds to share at the local seed swap, will I write letters to the editor of local or national papers or online news sources about gardening/citizenship/right relationship to the land and the many peoples harmed in the colonization of this land these past 243 years, will I help to plant gardens in the community, will I paint or write poetry inspired by the garden or natural world and share that forward? I am not yet sure, but that’s the challenge – to take the gifts my garden brings to me and share them out more widely in one more even small way.
I hope to see you out there doing the same.
I cannot think of a better person to have speak to us on this 4th of July than Robin Wall Kimmerer. To share her world view and understanding of ours rights and responsibilities as citizens of this world are inspiring and igniting. Later in the conversation you’ll hear her strong belief in one of responsibilities as gardeners being that of sharing the gifts and knowledge that the garden offers to us with others.
WE Gardeners can and do level up and contribute to social, environmental, and cultural justice to improving and rethinking our larger cultural values and literacy.
SO from this gardener citizen to each of you – thank you. I can’t imagine a better group of beings with whom to change the world.
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