Six and Twenty learns of ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’


A beautiful August afternoon found the Six and Twenty Club on the backyard patio of Ms. Tanya Day.

President Cindy Petrich opened the meeting. Mrs. Mindy Henson read the minutes and Mrs. Steven King provided historical minutes of the club.

Mrs. Theresa Rembert presented a program on the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an esteemed botanist and ecologist who teaches Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York.

Mrs. Rembert chose the book because of the educational stories blending indigenous and scientific wisdom in the understanding of the natural world, as well as mythological stories, and philosophical beliefs of the Potowatomi people. Woven throughout the book were themes of gratitude, reciprocity, resilience, and a compelling need to give back to the natural world that has provided us with gifts of air, water, and nutrition.

Kimmerer had to “walk back to pick up” the language, culture, spiritual wisdom and intuitive knowledge of her ancestors. This she did because her grandfather, as a child, was taken from his family and sent to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, at which time he lost his language and cultural practices.

By the time the school closed its doors in 1918, over 10,000 indigenous children were educated there, learning the English language, customs and mores, at the cost of losing their tribal languages, cultural heritage and spiritual philosophy. Some benefited and were sent to work on farms and in factories as mechanics.

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s grandfather had a successful life working as a mechanic in the automobile industry and was a celebrated veteran from WWI.

The girls at the Carlisle School were taught cooking, sewing, and laundry skills and were sent to work for families in Philadelphia. The girls suffered the loss of having had equal status in their tribes.

The indigenous people did not see inferiority/superiority differences in genders.Women could become warriors, shamans, tribal leaders and even Chiefs if they had the skill and will to do so.

Many of the graduates returned to their reservations but often had difficulty fitting in.

Some of the students became famous. Jim Thorpe succeeded on the football field and won two gold medals in track and field at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

Following the presentation, club members enjoyed conversation on the patio that was shaded by a lovely tree befitting the theme of the book.

Mrs. Margie McMullen brought a stunning sweetgrass basket for the ladies to examine. Ms Day sent each member home with a gift package of treats including cookies made from a recipe of a dear friend.