Braiding Sweetgrass author Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks in the Chapel on Sept. 25.
Professor and author Robin Wall Kimmerer offered students, faculty, and community members gathered in the Chapel a profound testimony regarding the decolonization of the environmentalist movement. The author of the national bestseller Braiding Sweetgrass came to College Hill to deliver this year’s Plant Lecture.

As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, Kimmerer has long called upon the integration of Native American principles and methods into the environmental protection movement.

Kimmerer acknowledges the need for an intersectional approach regarding the teaching of environmental studies in higher education. Her ultimate goal is for higher-learning institutions, such as Hamilton, to integrate both Western and Native perspectives in their promotion of environmentalism and sustainability, both in and outside the classroom. 

“We should be fighting for knowledge diversity so we can go forward,” she said. 

One aspect of this intersectionality she emphasizes is strengthening the relationship between people and the Earth. Kimmerer suggests that the relationship among people, the Earth, and all other living and nonliving beings is a sort of symbiotic relationship, one from which all entities benefit from each other’s existence. 

“What can we give? What does the Earth ask of us?” Kimmerer asked.

Hamilton has been a proponent of sustainability and has established several goals to contribute to the climate protection movement. For example, the College has issued a carbon neutrality goal by the year 2030, moving up from the original goal of 2050, and also publishes an annual Sustainability Action Plan. 

This year, Hamilton emphasized creating an on-campus awareness of sustainability, promoting it via efforts such as managing food waste, and increasing the education of sustainable practices through its open curriculum.  Through the open curriculum, students are able to take classes across different subjects that address the topic of sustainability, including sciences, the arts, and humanities. Hamilton  also offers an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program, where students learn to understand the causes, consequences, and potential solutions of environmental challenges. 

This emphasis on promoting sustainable practices through the open curriculum aligns with Kimmerer’s first step to decolonizing environmental education, which is an individual recognizing and utilizing their own gifts to help contribute to sustainability efforts. 

Kimmerer provided the Hamilton community with valuable insights into the sustainability movement and the many steps that need to be taken to ensure the integration of all perspectives. Individuals left the lecture with a newfound sense of hope and eagerness to take action to help promote the goals she outlined on campus and beyond. 

“I love my world so much, so I will devote my life to fixing it as much as I can,” Kimmerer said. 

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