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'Braiding Sweetgrass' author to speak

MacArthur Fellow and author Robin Wall Kimmerer, who wrote Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, will discuss her work on Friday, April 12, at SUNY Cortland.

Kimmerer, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, N.Y., and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, will lecture on “The Good Harvest” beginning at 4:30 p.m. in Corey Union Function Room (changed location).

The talk continues the campus’ annual yearlong series on the theme of “Food,” presented by the university’s Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC), an all-campus committee of faculty and staff appointed by the provost.


This year, the interdisciplinary series focuses on how sustenance is taken for granted until weather disasters, invasions, wars, supply chain issues or corporate greed place this urgent topic on America’s own dinner table. The 2023-24 “Food” series events are free and open to the public.

One feature of each year’s series is a common read book, with a goal to build community through literature. Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass eBook is available at no cost through the “Library” tab on MyRedDragon.

Braiding Sweetgrass offers a series of beautiful and thought-provoking essays in which Kimmerer brings together Indigenous wisdom and practices in Western botany to emphasize and embrace our reciprocity with the natural world.

Braiding Sweetgrass provides us with a new approach to food, showing us that the plants and animals that feed us are not just a source of bodily nourishment, but also our family and our teachers,” said Abigail Droge, assistant professor of English and a CICC “Food” series organizer. “Part of the joy of reading Braiding Sweetgrass  in Cortland is also that many of the interwoven narratives that make up the book take place locally in our Central New York landscape.”

The CICC organizers have also arranged three Braiding Sweetgrass Book Club readings and a panel discussion on using the work in education:

  • Book discussion. On Wednesday, Feb 21, students in Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, will discuss the “Picking Sweetgrass” book section. Chapters can easily be read out of sequence, so participants are welcome even if they haven’t attended previous sessions. The program will run from 7 to 8 p.m. in Corey Union, Room 209.
  • Panel discussion. A panel of current and future educators will share their ideas on how Braiding Sweetgrass can resonate in different teaching contexts, from college courses to high school classrooms to extracurricular clubs, on Friday, Feb 23. The panel will include Lynda Carroll, lecturer in anthropology; Joanna LoGerfo M ’23, a recent graduate who teaches English at a local high school; and Sigma Tau Delta Book Club members Jaclyn Trapani, Harley Meyers and Matthew Kessler. The presentation “Teaching Braiding Sweetgrass” will run from 4 to 5 p.m. in Old Main Colloquium.
  • Book discussion. On Wednesday, March 20, students in Sigma Tau Delta will analyze the “Braiding Sweetgrass” book section. The program will run from 7 to 8 p.m. in Corey Union, Room 209.
  • Book discussion. On Wednesday, April 10, the Sigma Tau Delta students will interpret the “Burning Sweetgrass” book section. The program will run from 7 to 8 p.m. in Corey Union, Room 209.

“There’s something for everyone, whether you’re interested in reading and discussing the book with friends or learning how you might incorporate the book in your own college or high school classrooms,” Droge said. “Most exciting of all, Kimmerer herself will be visiting campus.”

Kimmerer, who founded and directs the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at ESF, was named a 2022 MacArthur Fellow, which is awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to talented individuals in a variety of fields who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits.

For more information on this year’s common read, contact Droge at 607-753-4331; or this year’s CICC chair  Benjamin Wilson, associate professor and chair of the Economics Department, at 607-753-2436.

To submit an event for the “Food” series, volunteer to support this year’s activities and programming, or for more information, visit the “Food” website or contact Wilson.