From the Reading of Books, Uncategorized

“And so there are gaps, these blanknesses, and they are there because they are in us as well, in the civilization we have made. What, for example, were the conditions of the tribes of the interior in 1600? What was the culture of the Pequots like before King Philip’s War? What of the Cherokee before 1830? We can supply fragmentary answers at best but the worst is that so few Americans still care whether these questions might have answers. They will only see and lament our present-day condition – a divided and deeply troubled nation, streaked with racial, sectional, and class antagonisms, uncertain of its global position, morally enfeebled. The roots of all this lie buried in our past, and despite the disheartening losses of which I speak, it is our first imperative to try to trace what we can.”

– from Frederick W. Turner III’s introduction to The Portable North American Indian Reader, page 7, Penguin Books The Viking Portable Library, New York, New York, 1974.

I am re-reading The Portable North American Indian Reader  which I first read in 1990 after a recommendation by a coworker.  We both worked at The Outreach Homeless Project, which had a day-room for homeless people where they could take a shower, use our address for mail, get clean clothes, and bags of food. We also had a group home residence for people who were both homeless and diagnosed with mental illness. Tom, my coworker, though a white man like myself, was into all things associated with the North American Indian.  He turned me onto The Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm, which I also read again this week. I went to Tom’s house once after work, learning that he lived pretty close to where I did. He had built a sweat lodge in his yard.  It is my misfortune that we lost track of each other 23 years ago. It is also my misfortune that we lost track of a way of life tens of thousands of years in the making over the course of less then four hundred years.  Also mis-fortunately, English is probably not the best way to learn of these stories, but it will have to do for the time being. One day, maybe over a campfire in the middle of nowhere after a long day of hunting, fishing, and gathering, some of us will hear and see these tales in the spirit that they were meant to be passed on.


A quote I keep on reading over again & again this week