BioLogos Book Club - Braiding Sweetgrass

This fall’s Book Club book is Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

The podcast episode will air on October 5, giving you plenty of time to read and discuss here!

We are giving away TEN copies, so you can enter here or here (or both!).
If you want to order one, if you order from the publisher, Milkweed, you can use the promocode LOGPROMO for free shipping on your entire order!


I’m looking forward to the podcast. Is she on it? I’ve been reading the late Richard Twiss’s book on “saving the gospel from the cowboys”. He’s a Native American as well.

I read listened to this book as an audiobook after you first mentioned it months ago. It was really good. I’ll probably go back through it. I also liked her gathering moss book too. I want to find out what’s the dream moss she mentioned. I forgot it.

Either way it’s a great book and I’m really looking forward to the podcast.


Just requested it from my library!


I found it as a ebook and audiobook for free through Hoopla Digital which is something most public libraries support.

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Unfortunately not! We are dying to get on her calendar somehow though!

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I read this book and enjoyed it. I could probably write an essay on it but, since no one wants to read an essay, here are a few comments.

My hope is that we newcomers to North America (ie. in the last ~400 years) would have the humility to repent of the wrongs done to the Indigenous Peoples, and work together, using the strengths of all people groups living here to help bring God’s kingdom here as in heaven.

With respect to environmental stewardship, I think indigenous peoples have much to teach us. Here is a statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Western science and technology, while appropriate to the present scale of degradation, is a limited conceptual and methodological tool - it is the “head and hands” of restoration implementation. Native spirituality is the “heart” that guides the head and hands…" (p. 336)

A proper view of the Christian’s God-given role as stewards of the earth could also be that heart.

The author writes:

Contrasting [science as a spiritual pursuit] is the scientific worldview, in which a culture uses the process of interpreting science in a cultural context that uses science and technology to reinforce reductionist, materialist economic and political agendas. I maintain that the destructive lens of the people… is not science itself, but the lens of the scientific worldview, the illusion of dominance and control, the separation of knowledge from responsibility. (p. 346)


If you can fit it in, Richard Twiss’s book “One Church Many Tribes” is well worth the time.
Sure miss that man.

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Here are some discussion questions to get you started:

What was your favorite story or concept from Braiding Sweetgrass, and how does it resonate with your own beliefs?

A major theme of Braiding Sweetgrass is the importance of reciprocity with the natural world. How can we practice reciprocity in our daily lives?

Throughout the book, author Robin Wall Kimmerer emphasizes the importance of listening to the land and learning from it. Where have you experienced this in your own life?

How might Christian groups approach listening to the natural world as a way to discern God’s wisdom and intentions for creation?

The chapter “The Honorable Harvest” resonated with me. The chapter is about harvesting from the natural world in a sustainable way. I think it is interesting to see how Indigenous Peoples are taught to respect the plants and animals that they harvest from the environment, and to think about the effects of the harvest not just upon themselves, but upon their descendants of seven generations. Perhaps, as Christians, we should prayerfully give thanks to God and ask Him for wisdom as we consume resources from the natural world. Sometimes it’s difficult for city-dwellers to see the connection to natural resources as they consume things that were bought from a store. But, we could ask for extra wisdom for that.

I’m not making judgments on people about specific things, as I too consume products without thinking enough about how they are produced. But I think we can work on developing an attitude of prayer and asking for wisdom when we consume things. For example, many of us in the western world can afford to pay a little more to buy goods with more environmentally responsible packaging. We can think about the food choices we make, and whether they are harvested sustainably. We can exercise self control and reuse things or repair things in some cases, rather than automatically throw things away.

I know the argument that individually our actions don’t make any difference, so why make sacrifices when others are not. But, my actions matter to God. I am a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, and not by works. I also pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as in heaven” and surely His kingdom involves me being a respectful steward of His creation.


I’ve only just started reading this, but already a few things have stood out to me. One is the view of humans as the “younger brother” of Earth. That is fascinating to me that, despite not having the tools to measure the Earth’s general age, these Indigenous people still understood that the other living things had been on Earth longer than they had and deserved respect. It’s a posture of humility that has often been lacking in Western culture…

…which leads to the idea of a “gift economy.” It’s interesting to contrast this idea with the Christian idea of “dominion” as mentioned in Genesis. Unfortunately, our idea of dominion has historically been co-opted by colonialism, capitalism, and general greed. Maybe with more gratitude and humility, we can come to see dominion differently.


What’s interesting to me is the way I hear the dominion aspect of Christianity talked about. I hear it way more often now than I did as a kid and teen, and most of it comes from discussions about animals rights and veganism vs the commercialization of corpses for consumption. I often now get told “ god put animals on this planet for us to eat “.

As a kid growing up though i was not taught that. I’ve always been taught stewardship. That part of our role as Christians is to tend to the planet that Adam’s role was to protect and manage the garden. Not just Eve in it. That if Adam would have been doing his job of being out in the garden he would caught the snake and drove it away. But that he was lazy and was not working in the garden and that’s why it says thorns developed. Since Adam neglected to care for it now it would be a burden just to walk across it. ( now I understand that’s not in the Bible exactly but that’s what I was taught.

I grew up around native Americans. Went to tons of powwows and celebrations as a kid. Some of my dad’s friends were native Americans, mostly Creek and Mohawk. Creeks are local but the Mohawks came done from New York. They came over quite a bit and hunted on our property. My parents were a bit in the hippie scene. Would drive across America camping and smoking lol. We lived on a farm growing up with mostly horses. My school even had a pasture we could release our horses in and hang up the saddles because a handful of us literally rode horses to
School in the morning. My step grandmother was a big traveler. I’m not sure what all she’s done but I’ve seen pictures of her in her 30s in Egypt, at the Amazon river, in Peru, Russia and so on. She use to collect rocks from every place she went. She was big into gardening and had wildflower gardens for cooking with, to feed ducks, chickens, turkeys and turtles with and so for pollinators. My grandfather use to grow mushrooms. He worked at a mushroom farm for years before i was born.

I remember as a kid once being told how bison were almost driven to extinction by the settlers. The man, P, was Native American telling us and he also mentioned that the natives knew better than to over hunt because his people knew at one time their ancestors hunted animals to extinction. He told me it was bears that ate peaches they killed off and hairy elephants. I know that he was a bit wrong since peaches were not around 10,000 years ago in USA. I wonder if somehow he meant giant ground sloths or saber tooth cats. I don’t know if native Americans really had stories of mega fauna like mammoths that was passed down thousands of years, or if he learned about it later on. But he told me that natives knew making bison go extinct would be bad because of what happened to mammoths.

But I definitely wish that more people would be more respectful of nature. I wish technology could be used to have a primitive living effect on the environment.

Many think that the decline of respect for nature developed strongly with the American diet and grocery stores. As people stopped growing and hunting to live and instead purchased slaughtered flesh, it made them worry less about enough greenery around them.


That’s interesting – I’ve been thinking about that lately because I just finished reading “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond, and he talks about how most animal species are not suitable for domestication – certain people groups around the world got lucky because they were located near some of the few populations of animals that could be domesticated. The Americas produced very few domestic animals – mainly just turkeys, dogs, and llamas and alpacas which were limited in geography. If there had been more suitable species in the Americas and Native Americans had developed resistance to more diseases through domestication, history could have played out very differently. We don’t know whether the early Clovis hunters were responsible for that, but it’s one of those butterfly effect things – you never know how one extinction can affect your descendants, and we still don’t.

That’s interesting too about the stories – it would be quite something if that had been passed down that many years – I guess it’s not impossible. If that’s true, it’s yet another facet of Indigenous wisdom we should pay attention to.

I’ve never been to sire because he also talked about stories of a great flood. I was under the impression those stories developed after settlers. But it’s hard to know since they were not using written language as much like how we use written language to keep up with everything. If it’s not in a book it’s not true mentality.

If you want to do a group with your friends, you can get a free discussion guide here:

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Osage Orange? Those seem to have been spread by getting eaten by the New World elephantids.

Given that a megafauna die-off seems to come soon after human arrival almost everywhere other than Africa, it seems likely that humans were the main cause there.


It could be. I have no idea. I always presumed he was thinking of pawpaws or apricots if he was getting a real but mistranslated tale that spanned thousands of years.

People definitely seem to have played a role in mega fauna extinction but it may not necessarily have just been strictly them. I’ve heard some arguments that with the ice age kicking and the end of the glacial period interrupting migrations and causing numbers to dwindle. With far less of the population left the cherry on top may have been hunting by the indigenous tribes then.


That was Diamond’s assumption as well. Predators (humans) and prey evolved alongside each other in Africa, and so the animals adapted to humans’ tactics. But in places like Australia and the Americas, the animals were more easily hunted because they didn’t evolve with humans. I wonder to what degree humans at the time understood that – maybe it did force them to start looking at the world from a different perspective.


Sadly, in this fallen world, we humans have hunted many species of animals to extinction. I expect this is the case with Indigenous peoples as well. For example, I’m not sure if this: Buffalo jump - Wikipedia was a sustainable way to hunt Buffalo. The technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, have made this more dramatic. How many species of fish have been wiped out by industrial-scale overfishing? How many flightless birds?

I am hopeful that awareness of using resources sustainably is growing. We have much to learn from Indigenous Peoples on that.

I think basically everyone has done the same things. From wars, slavery, animal extinctions to good things like caring for nature, the sick and so on. One of the biggest differences in why at that time native Americans were more in tune with nature is because of where they were with technology. They did not have significant agricultural development. They were still in a hunter gatherer stage of civilization. One reason is that they did not have animals to use as beasts of labor. They could not use bulls to pull tillers. So had to handpick it all. They did not have horses to ride and so they did not have a real way to easily go 14 miles in a day carrying goods. They were more restricted to using things like canoes to bring stuff downriver. So as Europe was heading into the industrial era ( which happened post American colonization) the indigenous tribes were hunter gathers being attacked by Europeans.

They were not less intelligent by any means. Their wisdom and technology was just way more centered on nature and working with it than exploiting it. They were living off the land in a way very different from how Europeans were. We see less and less cultural wisdom handed down with everyone really. If you start to use crops and farming as a main food source, you’ll have less of a need to teach the next generation about native plants , harvesting and how to hunt sustainably. As we learned more about pesticides, we had less of a reason to grow in a way that have plants a better chance at surviving insects. As we developed more and more housing technology like ACs and running water we passed in less information about widow placement, ceiling heights and building the frame in an way to maximize air movement to keep it cooler longer.

Look at water gardens. Even many with garden ponds don’t know how to create a healthy harmonized ecosystem between fish number and size vs the size of the pond and how many plants you need because we have pumps and filters that overturns entire ponds a few times a hour.

But native Americans then were more focused on what we call sustainable living because they did not have the option to thrive if they approached it the way we did in Europe. Since they also spent the last several thousands years here they also learned the in’s and outs of that land. But if you went back in European history before farming, you would learn that those living in Europe then also were way more sustainable. Likewise, as a byproduct of what happened along with assimilation into a more western world most native Americans now know very little about foraging. I have a friend and she’s native and she’s not outdoorsy at all. Her idea of a hike is us getting coffee and walking for like 20 minutes. She’s big into gaming. She even recently told me one of the games she got, I forget what it is. But it took like several years and around $500,000,000 ( million ) dollars to make. It made over a billion dollars in the opening weeks of being released. Her cousin is a local ecologist. She’s half white and half Native American. She goes to pow wows in their attire and dances. She is fairly fluent in their creek language. She loves to camp and go foraging. She had pictures of her EO Wilson.

The author of the book is not your typical indigenous woman. She’s a botanist. That’s where her natural understanding comes from. She’s a botanist who is also doing something really cool by verifying some of the ingenious methods to working with nature.

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These are interesting stories of how some of your friend’s indigenous heritage fits into modern society.

One note I would make: some North American First Nations had agriculture prior to European contact. See this article on the Huron-Wendat Wendat (Huron) | The Canadian Encyclopedia in my area, southern Ontario. They sustainably farmed corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters) as well as fishing and hunting.