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Mother Essentials: Suzanne Greenlaw, Author, Scientist, & Mother

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Portrait courtesy of Suzanne Greenlaw

Multi-faceted is one word you might use to describe Suzanne Greenlaw. Other descriptors of the mother of two include Indigenous scientist, artist, consultant, and—most recently—children’s book author. A citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Suzanne lives in Orono, Maine, with her husband and two daughters, Musqon (8) and Alamossit (4). Her sweet family was the inspiration for The First Blade of Sweetgrass, a book she authored alongside her husband Gabriel Frey, a traditional Passamaquoddy basket maker, and released in August of this year.

We asked the multi-talented mama to share her Mother Essentials, which she says have shifted over the years. “Like many people, the Covid pandemic forced me to restructure my social environment. Instead of always being on the go, the last couple of years has helped me focus on myself and the things I find important,” explains Suzanne. “I appreciate human connections and relationships and want the products I buy to reflect these values. Supporting Indigenous-owned companies and small businesses is one way I do this.” Read her inspiring list, below!

Moccasins.Jamie Gentry’s moccasins quickly mold to the shape of your feet. I was fortunate to receive beaded moccasins from her. When I wear them, I’m reminded of the story that is held within the beaded image.” Hand-Made Moccasins, $200, Jamie Gentry.

Popcorn. “We grew our own popcorn this year. I wanted to find a plant that the girls would be interested from planting all the way to eating. I love popcorn with maple syrup and salt.”  

Drums. “Both of my children have their own drum. Watching them grow and play with their drums has been really sweet.” Puwyakoninut Creations by Natalie Dana Lolar Drums, order via Facebook.

Reading From Indigenous Authors. “Reading Native people’s literature feeds my own ideas and creativity. If people are interested in reading Indigenous literature, please seek out Indigenous authored books.” Firekeeper’s Daughter, written by Angeline Boulley, $17.47, Bookshop and Amazon; If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving, written by Chris Newell and illustrated by Winona Nelson, $8.25, Bookshop and Amazon.

Plantain Plant Medicines. “We harvest and use plant medicines in my house. With children’s bug bites and scraps, this salve is essential.” Heal-All Salve, $13.99, Avena Botanicals.

Misha + Puff Sweater. “With children and work, I have less time to knit and I rarely finish a knitting project. Misha + Puff’s beautiful sweaters allow me to continue to appreciate hand-knit clothing.” Misha + Puff Knitwear, prices vary, Misha + Puff.   

Child Pack Basket.Gabriel Frey, my husband, is a traditional Passamaquoddy basket maker. He harvests black ash trees to create these beautiful baskets. I love that our children wear pack baskets that carry our culture.” Hand-Made Pack Basket, $700, Gabriel Frey.

Body Work. “My husband is a massage therapist as well. I’ve learned from him the importance of taking care of my body’s mobility and overall health through different healing modalities.”  

Sarah Pike Pottery. “I value objects that were made with love and intention. Drinking my coffee from a Sarah Pike mug helps me to start my day in the same way.” Hand-Crafted Mug, $65, Sarah Pike Pottery.

Gluten-Free Cookbook. “I find a lot of comfort in cooking and recently acquired Aran Goyoaga’s new cookbook. These gluten-free recipes produce bread with an amazing texture.” Cannelle Et Vanille Bakes Simple: A New Way to Bake Gluten-Free, by Aran Goyoaga, $32.50, Bookshop and Amazon.

Bath Salts. “Baths are a self-care time for me when no family member can ask me a question unless it’s an emergency. These bath salts create a nice relaxing atmosphere.” Bath Salts, $14, Lakota Body Care Powered by Corn Maiden Designs.

Indigenous Foods. “There is a connection and comfort in eating foods that were produced by individuals or small companies. Corn and wild rice are traditional Indigenous foods that Native people continue to grow today.” Manoomin Wild Rice, $15, Native Harvest.

Manitobah Mukluks. “These boots are beautifully designed. They are rugged enough to last through the winter and it feels like I’m wearing slippers.” Waterproof Tamarack, $220, Manitobah Mukluks.

Geo Neptune Blanket. “Natural wool blankets are extremely warm and durable. I love to wrap myself up in this beautifully designed blanket by Geo Soctomah Neptune.” Remembrance Wool Blanket by Geo Neptune, $166.40, 8th Generation.

Laughter. “Academia can be isolating and lonely. Recently I’ve been growing a group of like-minded female academics to laugh with. Bringing laughter into a shared context helps to lighten the pressure.”  

For more Mother Essentials, peep our recent past columns with the founders of EADEM, Minimalista author Shira Gill, Domino’s Chief Content Officer Kate Berry, the two-mom duo behind Morrow Soft Goods, mega-influencer Nabela NoorAngela O’Brien of Cleobella, Nikki Osei-Barrett of District Motherhued, Blair Paysinger of Post 21, Idia Lanlokun of Ola & Mide, Karam Kim of Bluecut aprons, children’s authors Evan Sargent and Joanna HoEli Yonas of Toki Mats, Shaina Kerrigan of Molly J., Jenna Levine of LINNÉ botanicals, Eunice Byun of Material, and Sandra Lin of Kiwi Co.

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