Braiding Sweetgrass

by

Robin Wall Kimmerer

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Skywoman is an important figure in the Haudenosaunee creation myth, and Braiding Sweetgrass opens with her story. In this tale, Skywoman falls from her home the Skyworld to earth, where she is caught by a flock of geese and then helped by the other animals, who work with her to create a new land known as Turtle Island (as it is first created on the back of a turtle). There Skywoman dances the land into being, plants seeds and creates a garden, and later gives birth to a daughter. Kimmerer uses Skywoman’s story to illustrate how a culture’s mythology can shape their relationship to the land itself. She compares Skywoman to Eve from Judeo-Christian mythology: Skywoman is welcomed by the animals and plants a garden to be a home for her future children, while Eve is exiled from her own garden and told to subdue the harsh world beyond Eden. In contrast to Eve’s story, then, the myth of Skywoman suggests that human beings belong to this land and should celebrate its gifts while also treating it with respect, gratitude, and humility.

Skywoman Quotes in Braiding Sweetgrass

The Braiding Sweetgrass quotes below are all either spoken by Skywoman or refer to Skywoman . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
).
Chapter 1 Quotes

One story leads to the generous embrace of the living world, the other to banishment. One woman is our ancestral gardener, a cocreator of the good green world that would be the home of her descendants. The other was an exile, just passing through an alien world on a rough road to her real home in heaven.

And then they met—the offspring of Skywoman and the children of Eve—and the land around us bears the scars of that meeting, the echoes of our stories.

Related Characters: Robin Wall Kimmerer (speaker), Skywoman
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Braiding Sweetgrass LitChart as a printable PDF.
Braiding Sweetgrass PDF

Skywoman Character Timeline in Braiding Sweetgrass

The timeline below shows where the character Skywoman appears in Braiding Sweetgrass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
The narrative describes a creation story: Skywoman falls through a hole in the Skyworld and plummets downwards. Below her is only darkness... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
Skywoman then opens a bundle that she was holding when she fell: it’s full of plants... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
Kimmerer says that she has a painting of Skywoman hanging in her laboratory. She is a professor of botany and ecology, and one day... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
Kimmerer compares the story of Skywoman to another creation myth: Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. While Skywoman created... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
Kimmerer explains that the Skywoman story is part of a group of teachings called “the Original Instructions.” These are not... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
Skywoman was also pregnant when she fell to earth, so she worked to make the world... (full context)
Chapter 3
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
Returning to the story of Skywoman, Kimmerer tells of how Skywoman’s daughter died giving birth to her twins, and when they... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
...it was easier to see the world as a gift, like the geese who caught Skywoman as she was falling or who arrived every year to offer themselves as food for... (full context)
Chapter 12
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...it makes her feel like a good mother. Kimmerer then returns to the story of Skywoman, explaining that when Skywoman buried her own daughter in the ground, certain plants grew up... (full context)
Chapter 15
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...respect it: by harvesting it with restraint and gratitude. Sweetgrass was the first plant that Skywoman planted on Turtle Island, she says, and it continues to exhibit cycles of reciprocity, as... (full context)
Chapter 18
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...never been before. Feeling lonely in this unfamiliar place, she thinks about the story of Skywoman, remembering that Skywoman was herself an immigrant to Turtle Island. Further considering the Creation story,... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...and make her feel welcomed and at home. The story then returns to Nanabozho: like Skywoman, Nanabozho was an immigrant, recognizing that his new home wasn’t the “new world,” but something... (full context)
Chapter 22
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...he steadily wins more and more rounds of the game, Tom tells a story of Skywoman’s twin grandsons, who struggled with each other over the fate of the world. Finally they... (full context)
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
Animacy and Value Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...of life, like the people and animals in the story of the peach pits and Skywoman’s grandsons. Suddenly Robin’s trowel strikes something hard in the soil. She cleans it off and... (full context)
Chapter 31
Reciprocity and Communalism Theme Icon
Gifts, Gratitude, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Motherhood and Teaching Theme Icon
The Indigenous Past and Future Theme Icon
...melting and the grass is already turning green—and begins to tell him the story of Skywoman, starting with the first words of the book: “She fell like a maple seed, pirouetting... (full context)