I recently read Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, ethnobotanist and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

In it, Kimmerer writes about becoming indigenous. She writes, “For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.”

Since reading the book, I’ve sat with the question— What would it mean for me to “become indigenous?”

As a white woman whose ancestors all immigrated from Europe, this has been a paradigm-shifting question for me. I haven’t planted a garden since I was in the single-digits, and while I can identify the Maple and the Oak, I don’t know most plants around my house by name.

For better and for worse, I am the daughter of a pioneering culture, always looking out to the next horizon of change. My greatest passion is exploring my learning edge, and I am privileged to get paid to help others do this.

As someone who lives and works on land that was violently appropriated from the original peoples, I have serious questions about my right to use Kimmerer’s language and the word “indigenous.” As I haven’t asked her directly if she is okay with me using her language, I’m playing with the concept of “deep home” and of taking care of the land as if my life depended on it.

It’s likely that you’re a curious person, someone who doesn’t settle for mediocre, but who works hard to improve the circumstances of the people you serve. This is a wonderful thing.

But, in the pursuit of “What’s next?” we can lose sight of two things—the importance of local land and community and perspective on how to show up for the greatest change.

So, while you strive towards betterment, I invite you also to ask yourself the questions I’ve been playing with—How you can deepen the roots you have now? How can you cultivate your relationship to place, to home, to community?

By growing your roots, you’ll be resourced to show up for yourself in a much more present way. And, you’ll gain strength to show up for social change in ways that lead to greater transformation and bring joy to your heart.

To support this process, I invite you to do the following—

  • Grab a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Write down the following questions— What would it mean for me to work from a sense of deep home? What would it mean for me to take care of the land and my community as if my life depended on it?
  • Then, put on a timer for five minutes, and take this entire time (and more, if you want it!) to free-write on the question.

See what comes up. Your response may be completely different than mine, and that is okay. Allow the question to percolate in your unconscious, and notice what arises within you as you go through your days this week. Stay curious.

As I contemplate these question, I realize that rather than going far, I want to go deep.

I want to weave a strong net of community, to know my neighbors better—the people, four-leggeds, and plants, to create change from home.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with a friend who’s a woman of color about Braiding Sweetgrass and Kimerrer’s charge for us to “become indigenous.”

She told me that sometimes, she’d like to tell white activists, “Ask me how you can support me but do not come into my home to try to do my work for me. Make change in your home.”

This reminded me of how last year, I felt the pull to organize immigrants in a city near mine in support of a national strike of undocumented folks. But I was quickly reminded of the fact that no one from the community was inviting me to organize them and that this was not my role as a white woman from an hour north. I choose, instead, to nurture the immigrant solidarity group at my Quaker meeting and organize the mostly-white folks there to support the local undocumented community.

Sitting in worship at Quaker meeting last Sunday morning, I took in the profound sense of gratitude for what has become my spiritual and activist home, held in the container of a community that has been here long before me and will last long after I’m gone.

And, as I sat there, I committed to going on a nature walk at the community farm next to my home this summer and learning how to greet my plant neighbors by name.

If you know someone who cares passionately about social change or who feels a bit untethered in their life right now, please share this article with them. I’ll be grateful you did (and so will they!). Thank you!


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