Covenant of Reciprocity
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a plant ecologist, a professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, as well as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. Her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants was published in 2013, as was this artist’s book edition that paired selections from the book with prints: a basket, river and rocks, sweetgrass, and a bee in a flower. A member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation whose grandfather attended a residential school, she began to learn the Anishinaabe language of her people as an adult. Minidewak (“they give from the heart”) refers to a ceremonial tradition of gift-giving, an expression of generosity and gratitude with its roots in nature’s cycle of plenty and scarcity. Kimmerer understands the minidewak as a living symbol of community, wherein “the well-being of one is linked to the well-being of all:”
We are all bound by a covenant of reciprocity. Plant breath for animal breath, winter and summer, predator and prey, grass and fire, night and day, living and dying. Our elders say that ceremony is the way we can remember to remember. In the dance of the giveaway, remember that the earth is a gift we must pass on just as it came to us. When we forget, the dances we’ll need will be for mourning, for the passing of polar bears, the silence of cranes, for the death of rivers, and the memory of snow.
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Minidewak: Readings from Braiding Sweetgrass
[Minneapolis, Minnesota]: Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 2013
Images courtesy of Robin Wall Kimmerer
Purchased with funds from the Helen F. Faust Women Writers Acquisition and Travel Fund, 2018.
Those with full access to Penn State Library’s resources can access the e-book of Braiding Sweetgrass here: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/pensu/detail.action?docID=1212658
To listen to an interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer that originally aired in 2016, go here: https://onbeing.org/programs/robin-wall-kimmerer-the-intelligence-in-all-kinds-of-life-jul2018/.