Buffs One Read, a campus program that aims to build community through the shared reading of one book, has selected a new title for the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 program: Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Wisdom of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The non-fiction book of essays by Kimmerer, a scientist, professor and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, was selected from a short list that included a range of genres, including fiction and poetry.
A committee of students, faculty and staff spent several months reviewing the shortlist before selecting Braiding Sweetgrass as the One Read title. Published in 2013 and a New York Times bestseller, the book weaves scientific and indigenous knowledge to make the case that living on the earth is a reciprocal relationship in which other beings such as asters, turtles and sweetgrass are our companions, teachers and fellow travelers.
"It speaks to environmental justice in a hopeful way,” said Tobin von der Nuell, associate professor in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric and a selection committee member. “The book would best be used as a whole read, but faculty can still use bits and pieces for classroom work. From its positive position of encouraging us to think about our relationship with the earth, animals, plants ("reciprocity"), Braiding Sweetgrass absolutely supports critical thinking and, indirectly, personal action."
Organizers of the Buffs One Read program hope that faculty will include the text in their teaching this fall. University Libraries will release Canvas content that provides course integration and learning activity possibilities soon. Campus collaborators, including New Student and Family Programs and the University Libraries, are planning programming and events for the coming year.
The Boulder Faculty Assembly (BFA) welcomes the selection of Braiding Sweetgrass, as the book unites key areas of focus on campus, specifically the importance and relevance of Indigenous knowledge within the academy (represented at CU by the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies), and the urgent importance of ecological and sustainability issues in the face of climate change, said Tiffany Beechy, BFA Chair and Associate Professor of English.
“The common curriculum that is being developed for our campus, incidentally, has identified ‘sustainable futures’ as the hallmark of a CU education,” Beechy said. “The BFA recommends that faculty use the One Read selection not only in their classrooms but within their departments as a way to think about their changing disciplines.”
Climate change and environmental justice is the theme for the 2022-23 Buffs One Read program and also a major research and communications initiative for the campus. Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano is holding a series of climate research-themed outreach events this year in Colorado, Washington D.C. and London, which will culminate in the United Nations Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit at CU Boulder in December.
Fiona Nugent, a student on the book selection committee, said she believes that Braiding Sweetgrass will appeal to students and faculty across a wide range of disciplines.
“It will expand readers’ minds culturally and ideologically, and it will make them more aware of their place and role on this planet, and hopefully more mindful and conscientious of their choices,” Nugent said.
"I absolutely love this book and find it so incredibly inviting to a variety of audiences,” said Shantel Martinez Director, First-Generation Programs and Enrichment at the Center for Inclusion and Social Change. “I think it helps create bridges between social sciences and the hard sciences, while also engulfing the reader into an Indigenous perspective about environmental justice. I also believe this could be a wonderful book for the larger Boulder community to take part as well – there really is something for everyone.”
Buffs One Read is a joint initiative of the University Libraries, New Student and Family Programs, Boulder Faculty Assembly, Academic Affairs, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, Division of Student Affairs, the College of Media, Communication and Information and the School of Education.