Suzanne Greenlaw, Gabriel Frey, & Nancy Baker
Musqon is setting out with her grandmother to pick sweetgrass for baskets, and she’s really excited! Their family and ancestors have used these resources or generations, and Musqon must channel them when she has trouble identifying the sweetgrass from other plants. The story is lovely, and combines intergenerational ancestral Passamaquoddy-Maliseet knowledge with persistence and nature. In the back, we learn that Musqon is named after one of Suzanne & Gabriel’s daughters! This book is a beautiful celebration of intergenerational relationships and the learning that accompanies them.
In the spirit of the autumn harvest season, I grabbed The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen from University of Minnesota Press (any excuse to buy a new book, right?) from a bookshop and waited for a book that I thought would pair well. While this book is from a Sioux chef (fellow restaurant industry folks will lol at this like I do) and not the same traditional lands as The First Blade of Sweetgrass, the recipe I chose is filled with ingredients that I can forage on my land and make at home. Most of you know I’m interested in sustainable living, and foraging my own ingredients to make flour is pretty much the best way I can think of to spend an afternoon. I decided to make Autumn Harvest Cookies (p136) and I loved how many options there were to use different flours based on what is available and to change up the tastes.
In what is now Massachusetts, I reside on traditional lands of the Nipmuc, Pocumtuck, and Wabanaki Confederacy land. This book takes places on Wabanaki Confederacy land, and there is back matter after the story with a glossary and additional information about sweetgrass.
For more information about the book, check out this website!
Suzanne Greenlaw (Orono, ME) is Maliseet and a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. A PhD candidate in the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine, she works to restore Wabanaki stewardship practices across various land tenure systems throughout Maine.
Gabriel Frey (Orono, ME) is Passamaquoddy and a citizen of Passamaquoddy at Sipayik. He is an awarded-winning basket maker, artist, and cultural knowledge keeper. His mother and Suzanne and Gabriel’s two daughters, Musqon and Alamossit, helped inspire The First Blade of Sweetgrass.
Nancy Baker (Thomaston, ME) is a Maine artist, illustrator, and muralist whose landscapes, still lifes, and figurative works in oils and pastels are represented by Mars Hall Gallery in Tenants Harbor, Maine. While visiting the sweetgrass meadows of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park with Suzanne and Gabriel, authors of The First Blade of Sweetgrass, Nancy learned the ecology and cultural importance of sweetgrass and witnessed the majesty of the landscape in which it grows, qualities that she has worked to convey in her illustrations.