Hierochloe odorata

The Sweetgrass in the image for the Microcosms website was growing in a North Country backyard in upstate New York.

Its name in Mohawk (Kanien’keha) is Óhonte Wenserákon

In an entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia, this plant with its distinctive red color at the base of its long fragrant leaves used for making baskets, healing and smudging is defined in the following way: “For Indigenous peoples in North America, sweetgrass is revered as a sacred plant. 

For many it is a cultural keystone species, reflecting a group’s cultural identity and embodying their values and beliefs.”

The best work by far on Sweetgrass and its relation to indigenous plant knowledge is Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She is also an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Because of her academic background and graduate work in Botany, her perspective combines hard science with Native American traditions, a difficult task to be sure. As she puts it, “Getting scientists to consider the validity of indigenous knowledge is like swimming upstream in cold, cold water.” Nevertheless, her book is itself a kind of weaving: “This braid is woven from three strands: indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most. It is an intertwining of science, spirit, and story—old stories and new ones that can be medicine for our broken relationship with earth.”


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