“The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t yet know.
But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together.” — Robin Wall Kimmerer
Within minutes of learning that Robin Kimmerer would be speaking at Colorado State University on October 3, three Colorado State University graduate students volunteered to do anything to help with the visit. To them, Kimmerer is more than a renowned plant ecologist and author – she is part of their life stories.
“Throughout my experience in the sciences, I did not have any Indigenous professors,” said Dominique M. Davíd-Chavez. “So, the first time I met a Potawatomi woman who was a university professor, mother, and scientist, it was very impactful.”
Davíd-Chavez, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources in the Warner College of Natural Resources, met Kimmerer at a Native Science Fellows Gathering in Montana four years ago. David-Chavez nominated Kimmerer as the inaugural speaker for the Kindling Conversations: Warner Distinguished Lecture Series because, she says, “she communicates the beauty and importance of this work with a grace that we will be honored and gifted to have here at CSU.” Kimmerer received multiple nominations.
“Dr. Kimmerer’s books Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass always remind me that our Indigenous ways of knowing and knowledge systems are also forms of science,” said Davíd-Chavez. “They are what science is when we are conscious of our relational and humble human form.”
Ryan Roberts, also a doctoral student in the HDNR department, knows Kimmerer from his first years in higher education when they developed a lasting bond.
“I received my undergraduate degree in New York where Robin teaches,” he said. “She was a strong mentor for me during my time there.”
Sharing stories about life
Kimmerer is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.
For the Kindling Conversations lecture, she will share her perspectives and understanding of the linkages between indigenous knowledge and philosophy, conservation of biodiversity, and ecological restoration. She’ll do it through stories about life.
David Enden, an MBA candidate in the Global Social Sustainable Enterprise program at CSU’s College of Business, once was a struggling student in New York and he credits Kimmerer for giving him the motivation to change course. He considers Kimmerer a friend today, and one who changed his life.
“There is so much to say about Robin beyond her academic accomplishments,” he said. “There are many individuals throughout our lives that make an impact, but she had the biggest impact on mine giving me purpose and knowledge to rise from a failing undergraduate to two master’s degrees from CSU.”
Kindle a spirit of community through knowledge
The goal of the Kindling Conversations series is to bring natural resources thought leaders to CSU and the community to generate meaningful conversations about natural resources, while maintaining a tone that is accessible to scientific and non-scientific audiences alike. The idea is to engage and to listen and to open up communication about natural resources research, work, and impact from every perspective. Kimmerer brings a unique perspective to the first lecture in the series.
Davíd-Chavez says it best when she thinks about what it means to be an Indigenous woman scientist.
“In order to see myself in science, I needed to know there was a place for our stories, for our experiences and for the relationships that we hold.”