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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer delivers keynote at UWL Event

Robert Wall Kimmerer signing books. Photo by Hephzibah Ohihoin

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse hosted author Robin Wall Kimmerer to speak on our relationship with the natural world on Thursday, March 21. The event ran from 7-8:30 p.m. and was held in the Bluffs Ballroom in the Student Union. 

 The sold-out event was titled “Land, Love, Language: Healing our relationship with the natural world.” The keynote address was presented by The Prairie Springs Distinguished Lecture Series and touched on themes such as ecology, the indigenous and western relationship to the land, language and more.  

The event started out with the recognition of the winners of the 2024 Prairie Springs Environmental Leadership Awards. Geographic Information Scientist, Dr Niti Mishra won the instructional award while UWL Fourth-year Student Blythe Pollard won the award for students.  

Kimmerer is the author of the infamous book, Braiding Sweetgrass and describes herself as a mother, scientist, decorated professor and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation on her website.  

Kimmerer talked about the relationship between language and land, comparing words and phrases in her native tongue to the English equivalents related to land and its properties. She urged the audience to remember that words matter.  

“What if instead of talking about natural resources we talked about earthly gifts, doesn’t that change everything? From those things to which we are entitled, to those things for which we are grateful,” said Kimmerer.  

Kimmerer also asked that the audience look into the kind of relationship they had with the earth, seeking instead to find out what the earth asks of us rather than looking for what we can take.  

“It’s not the land that’s broken,” said Kimmerer.  “It is our relationship to land that’s broken.”  

She ended the keynote address with a quote by the late clan mother Audrey Shenandoah that read– “Our job is to seek justice, justice not only for ourselves but justice for all creation.” 

The event also included a book signing and had several booths that sold indigenous apparel, jewelry and crafts.   

Siena Mnechlfeld who attended the event explained how she saw everything she came here for and more. Mnechlfeld had not finished the book yet she came in with an open mind and was not disappointed.  

Meredith Mink, another audience member, had a lot of praise for the keynote address.   

“What I really loved about it is how she wove her culture and the love for the land she has developed.”  Mink continued, “She’s been able to weave that together into this love story and that’s really how her book reads, it’s a love story. I’ve enjoyed every single moment of reading it as much as I enjoyed her talk this evening.”  

This event was sponsored by: Prairie Springs [The Paul Fleckenstein Trust], UWL Sustainability and Environmental Studies, SUFAC Distinguished Lecture Series, Visiting Scholars Grant, UWL Green Fund, English Department, College Feminists, Multicultural Student Services, Graduate & Extended Learning, Center for Transformative Justice, College of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities, Geography & Environmental Sciences Department, Murphy Library, Philosophy Department, Race Gender & Sexuality Studies Department, Recreation Management & Recreational Therapy Department and Students for Sustainability. 

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Hephzibah Ohihoin
Hephzibah Ohihoin, General Assignment Reporter
Year at UWL:  First PGPs: She/Her Hometown: Sabongida-Ora, Edo State, Nigeria. Major: English Minor: Legal Studies and Creative Writing Other Campus Involvement: Xi Alpha Ministry, Cru, ALANA, Pre-Law Organization and BSU Future Plans after Graduation: Law School Favorite activity in La Crosse: Playing badminton and pickleball
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