Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 1998, pp. 283.
This collection of writings by aboriginal authors, all of whom are academics from a wide range of disciplines, is rescued from what could have been a succession of fragments, few of them of relevance to anyone reader, by each author's scholarly clarity. Moreover, the multiand interdisciplinary quality of the book, manifested within and between each contribution, reinforces a unifying theme: the holistic world view shared by the authors, one that continually seeks to break through boundaries, including those of particular disciplines.
The book's interest and value, however, are not contained in anyone theme. There are themes within themes here, difficult to separate or place in any special relationship one to another. The theme of suppression of a North American Indian world view finds expression in the offerings of Jace Weaver, John Snider (both writing about how history is created and taught), and Michael Holloman (observing the acceptance of aboriginal art conforming to cultural stereotypes and the rejection of artistic depictions of the realities of colonial relations). In Viola Cordova's chapter which asks "is there such a thing as North American Indian philosophy?" and continuing through to Leroy Meyer and Tony Ramirez's careful analysis of the various ways of accessing it, both the process of the act of understanding and its content are approached. Michael Hart (on sharing circles) and Lena White (on Native language instruction), in describing some specific applications of the world view, further reveal portions of its content.
These are only some of the more obvious themes. Those of complexity, contradiction, paradox, and interrelationships (to name but a few) are also present, particularly through storytelling-the power and dynamism of which Doug West reminds us in his Prologue. Some of the collection's authors model this tradition by telling parts of their own stories, by sharing the stories of others (both are movingly exemplified in Sylvia O'Meara's Epilogue), and by commenting on stories, as in Lola Hill's analysis of the novels of Louise Erdrich. Storytelling overcomes the pull of the very reductionism the world view claims to renounce. Because the meaning of a story is as much in the listener as in the teller, many other themes and meanings emerge. The reader of this book is asked to sit in the circle, and listen, and reflect.