Winter is the time for storytelling. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a unique storyteller; she’s a professor of environmental biology and a member of the Potawatomi Nation. Her bestselling book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants combines scientific facts with the wisdom of the naturalist that resonate as true and honest. I’ve only read the first chapter and I’ve come away thinking why didn’t somebody tell me this before?
Skywoman Falling is the creation story of the Iroquoian-speaking people of North America. It’s a lovely, empowering story and interesting to compare with the Adam and Eve creation story that Western Civilization has long told.
Skywoman fell through a hole in the sky to an earth that was all water. As she took her long flight through the atmosphere the animals watched and prepared to catch her. She carried nothing with her but a handful of seeds and plants she had grasped as she fell. Swans cushioned her landing with their feathers and a turtle offered his back for her to stand on. Some animals gave their lives diving to the bottom of the water to bring up soil. She danced on the shell. The more she danced the more land she created. Then she planted her seeds to begin the lifelong give and take between humans and the land.
“Children hearing the Skywoman story from birth know in their bones the responsibility that flows between humans and the earth.”
Eve has a different story, but also with a garden. She was banished from Eden for eating the forbidden fruit and ordered to pay for her sin by toiling in this world until death released her from the wilderness. Her story gives far different instructions that look suspiciously like those of a ruling class seeking control.
Skywoman was the first immigrant to our land. We are all immigrants. So, how are we to become natives?
“For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.”
The author says plants are our oldest teachers. They live under and above the earth making food from light and water and then they give it away. She awakens us to this simple fact in a sweeping, scientific and sacred way.
Here is an interview with Kimmerer on her belief that ‘people can’t understand the world as a gift unless someone shows them how.’