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As you can see, I have almost completely given up blogging. The reason is simple: I loved blogging so much that I almost stopped working on my books, because books require long patience, private discipline, and a willingness to operate in great imaginative spaces. Blogging, on the other hand, is immediate, addictive, and intoxicating. It’s a contact sport. The way I practiced it was almost more essay and commentary than traditional blogging, and I think I was very good at it.

I have put the old archives up because they show my thinking at its most unmediated. They also show me responding to events in the world and my life – Katrina, the political events of the last decade, the untimely death of a dog, my writing, and a host of lesser and greater issues. They are a documenting of the times.

Read a few. See how they strike you. Perhaps you will find yourself among those readers who wish I would give up writing books and go back to blogging. Perhaps you will be among those who are relieved that I don’t.

Either way, thanks for engaging in this bit of literary spelunking.

The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget

An upcoming reading and presentation: South Dakota Festival of Books, Sept 22nd

I will be reading from my new book, Dancing with the Gods:  Reflections on Life and Art, at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings, South Dakota, on the 22nd of September, at 10 a.m. Dancing with the Gods is a series of thoughts and reflections on the inner life of the artist, written for anyone who practices an art form or wants to understand some of the often unseen joys and challenges of the creative life.  I might […]

Your Help Needed. It is time for this Sculpture to find a home.

“We are not apart from nature.  We are a part of nature.” As a writer, you have heard me say that my work has been a search for an authentic American spirituality, a place where the rich humanity of the Judeo Christian tradition met with the profound earth bound humility of Native American belief. Thirty years ago, as a sculptor, I committed to making one final image that would embody that spirituality. It was to be an echo of a […]

Dancing with the Gods: The book I wrote for those of you who dream of a life in the arts

Do you wonder who you are as an artist? Do you wonder if you can make it? What is it like if you do make it? What are the hidden joys and unseen difficulties that you will face? If this sounds like you, Dancing with the Gods is the book I wrote for you. It is me taking on my responsibility as an elder – a responsibility I learned from my Native American friends – and sharing what I think […]

I wanted to stay out of political discourse, but these are dangerous times…

TRUMP IS THE AMERICAN MORAL PETRI DISH FROM HELL I’ve been traveling a bit lately, and I see how defeated everyone is by Trump’s endless and egregious immorality. The second he comes up — and he comes up often — folks say, “I can’t even talk about him any more. It makes me sick to my stomach.” And his echo chamber of loud bullies parrots the inflammatory lies of Fox News and struts across the stage thumping their chests while […]

A beautiful photo that I just want to share

This showed up on my facebook page today.  I thought I would share it with you, partly because it is so beautiful and partly because I want all artists and young people who dream of being musicians, writers, painters, dancers — artists of any sort at all — to be aware of this new book of mine, Dancing with the Gods.  It was written to reveal some of the joys and challenges that a life in the arts offers.  I […]

An interview about “The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo” that I had completely forgotten

I came across this interview the other day and thought, “Damn, I like this. I was pretty much on my game that day.” So I thought I would share it. Perhaps it will lead some of you who only know “Neither Wolf nor Dog” to its sibling, “The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo.” The two are of a piece (along with the third sibling, “The Wolf at Twilight”). But “The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo” is unique in […]

Robert Plant, Rick Rubin, and other Upcoming and Recent Events

Folks often express frustration that I don’t publicize my appearances and readings more. It’s just not in my nature or temperament to do much promotion. It’s simply not a part of the literary life that appeals to me, so I let it fall to the side. But whenever I get out among my readers I absolutely love it and feel so fortunate to have created works that touch people. So I owe it to you who have been good to […]

Early peek at my new book, Dancing with the Gods: Reflections on Life and Art

My new book, Dancing with the Gods:  Reflections on Life and Art, will be released by the British publisher, Canongate, in a few weeks.  It had its genesis in my unlikely meeting with Robert Plant several years ago, and grew out of my belief that there comes a time when you have to share what it is you have learned on life’s  journey. Wolf nor Dog will have a special promotion of this book when it becomes available.  In the […]

Basketball, elders, young people, and guns

I am currently in Juneau, Alaska, watching four days of intense basketball competition between teams from small, isolated communities in the Alaskan panhandle.  This event, known locally as the Gold Medal tournament has been happening annually since 1946, the year I was born.  My friends, who are Tlingit and Athabascan, say that to them this is as big as the Superbowl and is a surrogate for what was once more deadly competition between communities.  Many things strike me here — […]

A deeply thoughtful assessment of Native Echoes: Listening to the Spirit of the Land

David Crumm, the long time editor of Read the Spirit and one of America’s most respected observers of American Religion has just published a wonderful piece on my quiet, poetic literary child, Native Echoes:  Listening to the Spirit of the Land. If you want to know why I care so deeply about this book, David’s words will help you understand. And if you’d like to purchase a copy, which I hope you do, you can buy autographed copies from wolfnordog.com.  […]

Supporting Mrs. Brown in her new role as a shooter/teacher

Dear Mrs. Brown, I’m pleased to see that Mr. Trump and the NRA have finally decided to take the long overdue step of having you carry heat in your classroom. As a grandparent of one of your students, I think this is a great idea, and I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my support and to make a few suggestions. I realize that you are a young teacher. Maybe your early thirties, I might guess. That means your […]

Thoughts about Voices in the Stones?

I just received a request from woman in a community that is using Voices in the Stones as its community reads selection.  She asked if I had any readers’ guide or questions they could use for discussion.  I decided that I would put that to you readers.  You know better than I what is significant for readers in that book.  So, please send me your thoughts: What are good subjects or questions for discussion groups who are reading Voices in […]

Good people, dead kids, and guns

We are better than this. We are better than a war between dead children and the constitution. We are better than our rage. We are better than our mutual recriminations. You know me. I know you. We meet on the street, in our stores. We exchange pleasantries. We enjoy each other. We like each other. We are Americans, the people foreign visitors say are so warm and friendly. We open our doors to others and stop on the streets to […]

In honor of my friends now in grip of a deep northern winter

I always liked the way I had described my experience driving in a winter storm in northern  North Dakota in The Wolf at Twilight.  For those who know, and for those of you who are curious, here is the chapter entitled A Glow in the Distance.  I hope it will encourage some of you who have not yet read the book to pick it up.  Winter is a central element, but its real purpose is to reveal the reality of […]

Another deep winter story from Native Echoes: Listening to the Spirit of the Land

I feel with you, my friends, my brothers and sisters from the north.  I see that the weather is not lifting, and I remember it in my bones.  I wrote about it then, when I was inside it.  There was a dark virtue and a frozen hysteria that will be part of me forever.  The reason I have published Native Echoes is to give voice to that knowledge that those on the outside can never know.  Here is a piece […]

Homage to a winter storm in the North Country

I see that my old home country of northern Minnesota is under another blizzard and winter storm warning.  Those of you from the north know what this means.  Those of you who have never experienced a blizzard on the plains or prairies have little sense of how unique and haunting such an experience can be.  In honor of this storm, I’ve decided to post a piece from my new book, Native Echoes.  It is about a drive into high prairie […]

Native Echoes now available on Kindle

Native Echoes, my quiet, most poetic work, is now available on Kindle through Amazon.  I’m sure it will be up on other ereaders soon, but all of that is far beyond both my understanding and control.  For now, those of you who have asked can buy it on Amazon, or, of course, you can buy the physical book from wolfnordog.com, Amazon, or your local independent bookstore. 

A special offer of signed copies of Voices in the Stones and Native Echoes

Many of you are familiar with my trilogy, Neither Wolf nor Dog, The Wolf at Twilight, and The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo. Fewer are familiar with Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way and Native Echoes: Listening to the Spirit of the Land. Voices in the Stones is my attempt to offer you some of what I have learned in my 30 years of working with Native peoples. Native Echoes is my quietest, most poetic […]

Robert Plant’s Foreword to the Canongate edition of Neither Wolf nor Dog

  The Voice of the Native Heart A Foreword by Robert Plant   It’s a dirty familiar history A story of broken treaties, giddy expansion, collision and relocation Of abuse, denial and unfair advantage As far from the Lone Ranger as one can imagine   For almost fifty years on journeys through the extremes of the New World I have wrestled with the questions And carried the weight of empire   For many years Kent Nerburn, too, Has been immersed […]

Robert Plant’s Foreword to the Canongate edition of Neither Wolf nor Dog

For those of you who doggedly remain signed up for this website, in a few days I will be printing the wonderful foreword Robert Plant wrote for the UK edition of Neither Wolf nor Dog, which was just published at the beginning of this month. It reads like song lyrics, which should be no surprise. And I would encourage you to check out some of Robert’s recent work. He is much more than Led Zeppelin and “Stairway to Heaven.” Have […]

“NATIVE ECHOES — Listening to the Spirit of the Land” is here!

Native Echoes: Listening to the Spirit of the Land is Kent Nerburn’s most poetic book. It blends Native American thinking with the best of western philosophical thinking.

The Hay Festival in Wales, The Black Hills film Festival in Rapid City, and Wisdom Ways in St. Paul

Ah, the season for talking, traveling, and generally coming out from under a rock has begun.  The first emergence will be at the Black Hills Film Festival in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the director and some of the cast will be present at a showing of the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog.  This will be an “old home” gathering.  I’ve seen Steven, the director, since the film came out, but none of the actors.  This is their time […]

An interview, a reading at Powell’s, and bit of this and a bit of that

I haven’t been writing much on this site lately.  For that, my apologies.  I tend to use my website for more reflective pieces, and lately it has been “promotion time” due to the release of my new book, Voices in the Stones, and Steven Simpson’s film adaptation of Neither Wolf nor Dog. I am no lover of promotion, either as a participatory experience or as a necessary component of the creative life.  I am a writer; I like to stay […]

Voices in the Stones makes its first steps into the world

When you work for one of the big publishers, they throw hard money at the promotion of a book when it is launched.  Smaller publishers rely on word of mouth and favorable winds at the book’s back.  Those favorable winds blow warm when reviews are good. I was quite unsure of Voices in the Stones when I wrote it.  It had multiple voices and I integrated some of my own experiences into it in a more overt way than I […]

Reading at Annie Bloom’s in Portland on January 25th.

I hope to see many of my Pacific Northwest friends at my reading from Voices in the Stones at Annie Bloom’s in Multnomah Village here in Portland next Wednesday at 7 p.m. This is my first public event in Portland in many years. Annie Bloom’s is a wonderful independent and an intimate venue. It would be great to see many of you.

Reading this Wednesday, January 25th, at Annie Bloom’s in Portland, Oregon

I hope to see many of my Pacific Northwest friends at my reading from Voices in the Stones at Annie Bloom’s in Multnomah Village here in Portland next Wednesday at 7 p.m. This is my first public event in Portland in many years. Annie Bloom’s is a wonderful independent and an intimate venue. It would be great to see many of you. http://www.annieblooms.com/event/kent-nerburn-presents-voices-stones-life-lessons-native-way

A delightful surprise: a blog in my inbox that has an image of one of my sculptures

Periodically, one of you readers will ask about my previous life as a sculptor.  Since I stopped sculpting in the late 80’s, long before cell phones and even digital cameras were invented, and since I had neither the finances nor the inclination to document my work (believing, as I did, that, like the guild craftsmen of the Middle Ages, I was working for the glory of God and not the recognition of Self), I have almost no photos of my […]

Voices in the Stones — my new book and a thoughtful review from a good man

David Crumm, who quietly serves as one of the true allies of people laboring in the fields of spiritual and religious endeavors, has written a cogent and timely review of my new book, Voices in the Stones. Should you wish to order it, you can go to wolfnordog.com for an autographed copy, or you can buy it from any of the usual suspects. But, first, read the review and see what you think:www.readthespirit.com

A DAY JUST LIKE TODAY — Thoughts on the Dakota Access Pipeline

Recently I was flying across the country on one of those rare cloudless days when you can watch the full bounty of the earth pass beneath you in all its geological and topographic beauty. I sat, mesmerized, as the ragged expanse of the Rockies gave way to the duns and tans of the rolling high plains. Cities and towns – small huddlings connected by a thin tracery of roadways — appeared for a moment and then, just as quickly, were […]


OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE A wise woman named Robyn Sand Anderson just posted this in the blog comments as a possible theme of unification for those of us trying to make common cause for a better world in the face of what just happened. I love it. If it were within my power, I would plant it here and make it grow. But I am but one person, and none can say why some seeds grow and some do not. […]

We need to move forward. Here are my first thoughts.

Listen to me. This is important. Trump won. We don’t know how; we don’t know why. Somewhere inside we thought his candidacy was just a dangerous game. But we were wrong. And in being wrong, we came to realize, for the first time in most of our lives, that politics is far more than just a great game played inside the imperfect but safe bowl of democracy. It is the organizing principle of human affairs, and without a sound political […]

Why your responses sometimes are not getting through

You would not believe the garbage that gets dumped into the “comments” section of a blog. There are messages in Russian and Chinese that run to several thousand words, tons of posts trying to get me to buy NFL jerseys or Michael Jordan shoes, gobbledygook that puts key words into unintelligible phrases for reasons I can’t understand, and streams of generic computer-generated comments claiming to love the post but actually having no reference to the post while trying to get […]

Would you support a kickstarter to republish A Haunting Reverence?

I’m thinking of doing a kickstarter to republish one of my favorite books, A Haunting Reverence.  It would be retitled Echoes of Forgotten Voices. This was “my quiet child” — my most poetic book, and probably my deepest.  It was a metaphoric look, through story and reflection, at the way the land influences our hearts and character. It was, and remains, the key book in my search for an authentic American spirituality that embraces our western spiritual traditions and the […]

Two upcoming events: September 23rd and October 1st.

I am usually pretty derelict about posting my public appearances.  So here is some advance notice of two events. PDF. First, on the 23rd of September I will be at the South Dakota Book Festival in Brookings, South Dakota with director, Steven Simpson.  We will show his film of Neither Wolf nor Dog and hold a discussion afterward.  I will also be doing book signings on the 23rd and 24th.  I love that book festival because it is intimate and […]

Thoughts on the pipeline after Obama’s injunction

Regarding the injunction against the pipeline, I don’t wish to throw cold water on what is obviously a great (though probably temporary) victory. But casting this as an issue of tribal rights and sovereignty is a dangerous diversion from a deeper and ultimately more important issue: the health and future of the planet. While we should celebrate the actions of Obama and his justice department, we have to recognize that though the status of the tribes matters, the real issue […]

The Pipeline protests

I have been watching the pipeline protests with dismay.  Can there be a more stark example of the conflict between economic expediency and protecting the environment?  I am not naive enough to think that we don’t need energy, because our current consumption rate still requires the use of oil.  But neither am I naive enough to think that we can build a failure-proof pipeline under the Missouri River.  To think that we can is, at best, magical thinking, and, at […]

Thoughts worth pondering

Someone recently sent me this blog entry I had written about 1o years ago.  I had forgotten it completely.  But as I watch friends struggle with the passing of parents, I thought it might be worth reprinting.  May all of you who have gone through a similar experience draw some solace from it. Meditations on My Mother, failing I have just finished a visit with my mother. She lives in an assisted living high rise several hundred miles from here […]

Some personal thoughts on the passing of Dave Bald Eagle

There are people you meet in life — and they are not many — who have an air of true moral authority about them. This is something different from kindness, compassion, intelligence, or any other positive virtue. It is an aura, a presence, that allows them to command a room without speaking a word; it makes you feel that they have an understanding of the world that is both deeper and larger than yours. It is not that they have […]

Audio of Letters to My Son — a wonderful moment

Now here’s one of the true joys of the writing life, and one of my proudest quiet moments. The audio of Letters to My Son, read by my son Nik, for whom the book was written, is now available. http://www.audible.com/pd/Self-Development/Letters-to-My-Son-Audiobook/B01IFYEPFS?source_code=soc_twi_nr. Who would have thought, as I struggled to write that most honest book as I held my toddler son in my arms, that twenty years later he would record it for the world? Take a listen to the sample on […]

Another review of the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog. . .

I just received this in my in-box. Being compared to Easy Rider is no small compliment. I think this little gem is going to make its way in the world. EdinburghGuide » Reviews » Edinburgh Film Festival Film Review: Neither Wolf Nor Dog By Dylan Matthew Running time: 110mins Scottish director Steven Lewis Simpson is no stranger to either the source material for his latest feature nor the guerrilla film making techniques he’s deployed to bring it to life. Based […]

Early Alert: A showing of the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog

We are still ironing out the details, but I have made arrangements with the South Dakota Festival of the Book to show the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog at the festival in Brookings, South Dakota, on Friday, September 23rd at 1 p.m. This will be a low-key affair — a gathering of you who have cared about the book over the years and have wanted to see the film you have waited for so patiently. Here is what the […]

At long last, the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog

Not much to say here, except to reprint my facebook post: The film of Neither Wolf nor Dog premiered to wonderful acclaim at the Edinburgh Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Here is a reviewer’s response to the showing: http://www.edfestmag.com/neither-wolf-nor-dog/ Enjoy.  I certainly am.  Maybe a distributor will pick up the film here in the States.  We shall see.

Vote tally and a little Primer on Titles.

Well, folks, here it is:  45 votes for “Echoes of Forgotten Voices” and 75 votes for “Whispers of Forgotten Voices.”  That’s a pretty clear statement.  Personally, I leaned a little more toward “Echoes” and, at heart, I loved the original, “A Haunting Reverence.”  But this is vox populi. If you read the comments, there were cogent arguments in all directions.  As an author, I was whipsawed in all directions, and still am. But, here’s the truth:  Titles do matter, and […]

“Echoes of Forgotten Voices” or “Whispers of Forgotten Voices” — the contest

The polls close at midnight on the voting between “Echoes of Forgotten Voices” and “Whispers of Forgotten Voices” as the title of my new version of “A Haunting Reverence”. There are also a few third party candidates who are receiving votes. I just want you to know that I do not have superdelegates (meaning wife, friends, etc. who get to put in a vote at the end), I am not going to build a wall — a tremendous wall — […]

A little help needed. . .

Over the years many of you have asked, “What ever happened to A Haunting Reverence?  It was my favorite book of yours.”  Well, it went out of print, and I, too, have felt sad about its passing.  It was my quietest, most poetic, literary child and may have been the book that was closest to my heart. So I have decided to reissue it on my own. But the sad truth is that the title was wrong.  Though I loved […]

The editorial no newspaper would publish

As the Washington Post puts out its utterly bizarre, incomprehensible, and shamelessly self serving poll saying that 9 out of 10 Native people are okay with the term Redskins, I feel compelled to repost an editorial that I sent out to a number of papers a while ago.  It should come as no surprise that none was willing to publish it.  Perhaps you can pass it on, so we can get it seen on social media: Whooping it up with […]

Long Overdue posting of Inmate responses to my letter to them

Back in February I posted a letter I wrote to the inmates of a South Dakota women’s prison who were reading Neither Wolf nor Dog.  I wrote with a presumption and an intimacy that was perhaps unwarranted because it presumed to be able to speak to the minds and hearts of some people whose experience I could never hope to fully understand.  Still, it seemed worthwhile to step forward and say what was on my mind. When I shared the […]

An important but hidden story that needs to be heard

Amid all the political news filling the airwaves and print pages, a tragic and little known story has been unfolding in northern Canada. In a small Native town far outside of our cultural consciousness, over 100 people out of a population of 2000 have attempted suicide in the last few months. The oldest was 71, the youngest, 11. You can read about it here, as well as elsewhere: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/11/canada-first-nation-suicide-attempts-attawapiskat As you know, I’ve spent the better part of the last […]

An Event Well Worth Attending

Larry Long and I will be doing a unique concert/reading at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday, the 19th of February at 7 p.m.  I could say more, but the linked piece will tell you what you need to know. Hope to see you there. http://wisdomwayscenter.org/red-roads-and-blue-highways.html

An interesting series of responses, well worth your time.

I recently posted a letter I wrote to the inmates in a woman’s prison in South Dakota in response to a request from their book club leader who had chosen one of my books for their next read. I knew when I wrote the letter that it would contain some land mines for you, my long time readers, if I were to post it in my blog.  So that’s what I did.  Here are some of the questions that were […]

Letter to inmates at a South Dakota women’s prison.

I recently received an email from a woman who runs a book club at a South Dakota women’s prison.  She is having the members read The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo and was wondering if I’d write them a letter so the experience would have a personal feel.  Having done some work in prisons, and believing that you need to honor you readers for the gift they give you of their time and attention, I was happy to oblige. […]

Thoughts on a winter day in Portland

Snow in Portland, a strange and wondrous thing. I have been two years in a city now after 25 in the deep, lightless country, and I have gotten used to it. There is much to be said for urban life, but much is lost, as well. This odd and infrequent snow and the subsequent ice have been both a reminder and a revelation. Silence takes many shapes. In the deep Minnesota north it was a noisy silence, alive with the […]

An interesting exchange about Thanksgiving

I just received an interesting email from a man with whom I’ve done some corresponding.  It has to do with Thanksgiving.  I thought I’d pass along his note and my response.  I’d be curious to hear how this sits with others of you. Hello Kent, Thank you for your response. I do realize that you have a wide correspondence from readers of your books, so I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my message. I have been living […]

I hate guns

Okay. I have nothing to lose, so I’m going to go all the way out to the edge on this gun issue. In 2005 I watched as my friends at Red Lake were traumatized, killed, and besieged by reporters, then forgotten after a confused and alienated kid drove a car into the front of the school where I had worked, before pulling out an arsenal of guns and killing 7 people. I am, as I write this, on a plane […]

Speaking engagement in Deadwood, South Dakota

For anyone who is in the area, I will be speaking at the South Dakota Festival of the Book on the 26th of September in Deadwood, South Dakota. I love this festival. There is something familial about it. And Deadwood, if the Harleys have gone home, is a beautiful place in the fall. There truly is something spiritual about the Black Hills. As with most things American, if we listen to the voices of the people who were here before […]

William Vollmann’s “The Dying Grass” and my book on Chief Joseph

I am not good at self-promotion — perhaps the greatest affliction a contemporary author can possess. To me, the book is the thing, not the person who wrote it.  Far better to be the man behind the curtain than the prancing duke and dauphin, but the world is what it is. Having said that, I want to put in a word for my book, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce.  I am doing this because a gigantic […]

Neither Wolf nor Dog, the film, entry four: Dave Bald Eagle inhabits Dan

Let’s get something out of the way at the outset: Dave Bald Eagle, who plays Dan in Steven Simpson’s upcoming film of Neither Wolf nor Dog, is 95 years old. That, in itself, is amazing. But that is not what is amazing about his performance. What is truly amazing is how Dave inhabits Dan, and Dan inhabits him. In a way that is hard to explain, he and Dan become one. It is something the likes of which I have […]

Chief Joseph makes the New York Times ebook list

I don’t know how it happened, especially at this distance in time from the date of publication. But I just received word that my book, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce, is on the New York Times ebook best seller list for non-fiction. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. Like any author I like to see my books sell. It helps pay the bills. But in my case, my thinking is a bit different. […]

NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG, the film, entry three. The curious metamorphosis of Grover

Ah, yes, Grover. What an interesting transformation he has undergone. In writing Neither Wolf nor Dog, I changed Grover’s appearance from the actual Grover’s appearance to underscore the fact that not all contemporary Indian men have long braids or pony tails; that many wear their hair short and both look and dress like non-Native men. Especially in ranch country, the cowboy look of pearl-buttoned shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots is every bit as common as any other look for Native […]

NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG FILM, Entry Two — “Playing Kent”: The Challenge for Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is the actor who plays me in the film version of Neither Wolf nor Dog. He had perhaps the most difficult acting task of anyone involved in the project. First, he had the very real presence of me as the author to respond to and exorcize as he developed his character. Second, he had no cultural identity to fall back on. All the other actors had their Indian identities to draw from; Chris had only the vaguely drawn […]

NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG FILM — From book to movie, a long, strange trip. Entry One: the author and the filmmaker

A filmmaker has a difficult job when converting a book to a film. He or she was drawn to the book for a specific reason.  Perhaps it was the story, perhaps it was the characters; perhaps it was the descriptions of scenes and settings that made it come alive visually in his or her imagination.  Most likely it was a little bit of each.  But, somehow, the decision was made that “I think this would make a really good film.  […]

The Wolf at Twilight — the overlooked middle child of the “Dan” trilogy

I just want to say a kind word about The Wolf at Twilight.  It is less well-known and less frequently read than Neither Wolf nor Dog and The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo, but, in some ways, it is more important.  I was reminded of this when I saw a fresh review of this literary middle child of mine on Amazon, where a woman named Laura called it her favorite of the trilogy.  I was pleased to read that, […]

Fatback, now a Corpulent Corgi

[Note to the reader:  the photo accompanying this blog is not of the Corgi.  It is of my dog, Lucie, a veritable Einstein among hounds, as you can see.  She got wind of my post extolling the virtues of other dogs and felt sorely put upon, so I put her photo up to mollify her.  It, along with a milkbone, appears to have done the job.  Now, onward to the post. . .]   How did it happen?  How did […]

The Film of Neither Wolf nor Dog is shaking the tin cup

Some of you may have seen that Steven Simpson, the director of the film version of Neither Wolf nor Dog, is running another kickstarter to get funds to finish post production and begin some distribution. We need your help to get this baby polished up and ready for prime time. Here is the kickstarter page: www.kickstarter.com/projects/126766071/neither-wolf-nor-dog-movie. While you’re there, look at the trailer he’s put together. I think it is great. But I want to tell you a little about […]

Neither Wolf nor Dog chosen for 2015 Common Book at University of Minnesota

I have just been informed that Neither Wolf nor Dog has been selected as the 2015 Common Book for incoming freshmen in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.  It will be a core reading in their intensive First Year Inquiry course. This announcement comes just weeks before I travel to Alexandria, Minnesota, where Neither Wolf nor Dog is their Community Reads selection. The Wolf at Twilight has already been used as the Common Book […]

New England gigs? A flare into the night. . .

Hello all, I will be doing a short residency in the Boston area sometime in the last week of April or the first week of May.  If you are somewhere in New England, have some budget to work with, and would like me to come to your school/institution/establishment to give a reading/talk during that time, let me know.  I’d prefer relatively casual settings, but all that can be discussed.  

The Season turns. . .

  This has been sitting in my “draft” box for awhile.  Since I haven’t written much to you of late, I thought I’d shoot it out. I hope the holiday season went well for all of you.  It is such a knife edge to walk — there is the excitement and anticipation, the feelings of inadequacy, the desire to give meaningful gifts, and the sad (and, I would say, “real”) recognition that what was once “over the river and through […]

A few thoughts on the cast and characters of the film version of Neither Wolf nor Dog

For those of you who love the book Neither Wolf nor Dog and wonder how the film will compare, I have a few observations, starting with the caveat that I have no idea how the finished product will look or feel or play.  What I do know from my few days on location is that the three primary actors bring some fascinating dimensions to the characters. Chris Sweeney, the man who plays me, has a sharp edge to him that […]

A film update, a good public event, and a PBS profile

FILM UPDATE Unfortunately, there is little to report on the subject of the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog, as I know as little about it as you do.  Like a child that has left home, it calls in occasionally with sketchy updates, but mostly is involved of a life of its own.  And, like a parent, I have to let it go, hoping that it is making wise life decisions and will find a way to do some good […]

Dispatches from the film site and beyond

Today was the day we went to shoot at Wounded Knee. There Is something at Wounded Knee, and about Pine Ridge in general, that defies explanation. I have heard it is at Gettysburg as well, though I’ve never been there. It has to do with the presence of history so strong that it becomes a spiritual force. Is it the presence of unquiet spirits? Is it the simple presence of death and the abrupt loss of the force of life […]

Speaking in Minnesota in October

Hello all, After a short run out to Pine Ridge to peer in on the filming of Neither Wolf nor Dog, I will be returning to my old home state for several speaking engagements. On the 6th of October I will be speaking at the Better Brew Coffee House in Pine Island, Minnesota, at 7 p.m. On the 7th of October I will be speaking at the Cannon Falls public library at 6:30 p.m. Both presentations will be on The […]

Neither Wolf nor Dog film clattering, Joadlike, down the road to production

Well, this is going to be something to see.  Filming starts in a week or so in South Dakota. Let me tell you a little about my last experience with a film production.  I was called to meet with a director who was filming a Native-oriented film for HBO out in the beautiful hill country south of Rapid City, South Dakota.  As I drove in on the dirt road that led me to the location site, I was stunned to […]

A wretched but necessary excess

I hate to do this, but circumstances leave me no choice: I need to talk about Christmas and holiday gifts. I no longer live in Minnesota where my sisters conduct the sales of my books and personalized gifts. But I will be back there for some speaking engagements in the first part of October. So, if any of you want books personalized for the holiday season (or for any other reason), you should contact wolfnordog.com before the 1st of October […]

“The rest of the story” — How the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog came to be

And so it is that we move to the conclusion of our story, which is really just a beginning. I had forgotten that before Steven and I parted ways that morning on Pine Ridge, we met for coffee (tea, in his case) in Big Bat’s, the convenience store/restaurant that is the main gathering place in the town.  We compared notes about our experiences in Indian country, and he told me one thing that stayed with me.  If an actor didn’t […]

The story continues: How the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog came to be.

So I’m on the Pine Ridge reservation for reasons I don’t remember.  To visit friends?  Traveling through? It doesn’t matter.  The fact is, I was there. Understand that the town of Pine Ridge is a pretty hardscrabble place — a gas station, a couple of stores, a Subway and a Taco John’s, and a coffee house that keeps me alive with the only espresso for miles around.  But it has no motels or accommodations, and it was getting time to […]

How the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog came to be — part one

It began almost 20 years ago when a Hollywood director had his assistant call me from a film location in South Dakota to find out if film rights to Neither Wolf nor Dog were available. I knew about as much about such things as you would if someone called you out of the blue and asked if the film rights to one of your high school papers were available. In short, I had no idea what that even meant. Well, […]

The film of Neither Wolf nor Dog needs you

I am not much for begging, and that is how this seems. But you must know that this is the moment that the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog can be made, and this moment will not come again. Why? Because there is something intangible in the spirit of a Native elder, raised in the old ways with the old language, that cannot be faked, manufactured, created, or approximated. It is something that has to do with a fundamental and […]

Finding the perfect “Dan” for the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog

There are many balancing acts involved in the filming of Neither Wolf nor Dog, but none more crucial and precarious than finding the right actor to play Dan.  Of course, his namesake, Chief Dan George, would have been great.  Floyd Westerman, too, had the combination of a distant, withdrawn wisdom and an irrepressible twinkle.  He and I had even talked about the role.  But, sadly, he passed.  The same is true of Gordon Tootoosis who would have brought a different […]

Finally, Neither Wolf nor Dog, the Movie

Well, it appears that it is finally going to happen. Steven Simpson, the director who has put so much of his time and heart, as well as his aesthetic sense, into the shaping of this film, is preparing to shoot Neither Wolf nor Dog this fall. The most exciting and fragile aspect of this project is the discovery of the perfect actor to play Dan. Steven and I anguished over this for many months, considering all options. But when we […]

Some Musings on Spiritual Geography

It is a strange and fascinating experience to be back in a land where the day is a neutral experience that serves as a benign backdrop for your human activities.  For so many years I have lived in a place where the day demands your attention, shapes your awareness, determines your state of mind, and often challenges your very skills at physical and emotional survival.   Now I am in a place where the day sets a gentle and bountiful table […]

With the sun at my back — Some thoughts on my 68th BIrthday

Today is my 68th birthday. Who would have thunk it? It speaks to the primary accomplishment of having continued to wake up every day. But it presents some interesting challenges. What to do with life at a time when your dynamic relevance is waning? How to give back to a society and culture that does not value the accreted wisdom of age? How to gracefully hand over the reins of authority and responsibility to a younger generation that deserves to […]

A New edition of Letters to My Son with three new chapters

Twenty years ago, when my son was five years old, I published my “literary firstborn”, Letters to My Son.  It  had a clarity and purity of heart I would never achieve again.  I love it dearly. In it, I wrote about falling in love, the mystery of death, partners and marriage, and a host of other topics that I believed my son should know about if I were to die before he reached adulthood.  Blessedly, that did not happen.  But […]

An update on the Hiawatha Asylum

One of the central elements of my most recent book, The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo, is the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians that was built at the turn of the last century in the small town of Canton, South Dakota.  I wanted to bring attention to this inhumane institution and do what I could to bring it back into the historical consciousness of America. At the same time, a group was forming in Canton to do what they […]

Alert for folks who listen to Minnesota Public Radio

Tonight, June 3rd, MPR will air my interview with Euan Kerr during All Things Considered.  He and I talk about The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo.  He is a great host, wonderfully wry, and well worth your time.  If you are unable to listen live, the conversation will be available soon in a web version.  I’ll post info on that when it becomes available. Also, I’m beginning to shape in my fall speaking schedule.  I’ll be in Minnesota during […]

TIme to kill the Redskins

You can feel it crumbling.  The support is gone.  But money fights to the end. I have been mystified and bothered for years by our cultural hypersensitivity to all racial and gender slurs with the glaring exception of the way we speak of Native America.  The “Redskins”, indeed! But you can feel the beast flailing.  It is roaring and raging and tearing up the earth.  But it is dying.  I hope you will play your part and help me play […]

Looking out the window…

As most of you know, I spend a lot of time watching. It is my stock and trade as a writer: quiet, anonymous observation that I then try to put into a broader context. While trying to enforce some semblance of order on my computer desktop, I happened upon this little snippet from a train journey a few months ago. I’m posting it because I like it and as a reminder to remain vigilant and active as our criminally ignored […]

Some random thoughts on life, change, moving, and writing from the point of view of a dog

My wife, Louise, and I (and our dear, gentle yellow lab, Lucie) are slowly moving our lives from Minnesota to Portland, Oregon. Moves are always challenging, and equal parts exciting and frightening. The accoutrements of an old identity are sloughed off and a new person emerges. This is easier when we are young because transformation, growth, and discovery are the stuff of which an interesting life is made. As we get older, however, the sense of loss begins to weigh […]

The Next Step on my Literary Journey

The door is closed on Dan and his friends.  The door is closed on the style, the door is closed on the story.  I can’t say exactly how I know this; I only know it is true.  It’s similar to the moment when, on a journey, your thoughts suddenly turn inexorably toward home.  You can fight it, you can deny it.  But you know the heart of the journey is over —  you have moved from the excitement of discovery […]

Some random thoughts on this new Pope

I was recently going back through my book on the prayer of St. Francis, “Make me an Instrument of your Peace.”  I was pleased at what I read.  I did well in that work, calling forth my better angels in service of a kinder vision of life than I often practice in my daily affairs.  And, in the course of rereading, it got me thinking about this new pope who has taken Francis’ name. I like this new man, and […]

Fire and Ice

My wife and I are currently spending a month in Portland (Oregon, not Maine, though I would love to be in Portland, Me, as well). There is an easy grace here, most noticeable in contrast to the almost hysterical frustration that is gripping  people during this deep and interminable winter in America’s northern and eastern climes.  The shoulders come down, the face muscles relax, the hair-trigger anger that comes to the fore when you step out into snow-laced ice and […]

“A good thing to do”

I’m not sure how — perhaps from my dad, perhaps from some time in European cities where it was a standard social act — I somehow picked up the habit of shaking hands with someone at the end of an encounter. I like it; it seems natural; and it literally gives a human touch to interactions that are often otherwise impersonal transactions. This came to my mind yesterday when a storekeeper took my hand with a look of surprise when […]

After The Girl Who Sang With The Buffalo: writing, the next steps

I said in my last post that I’d write something about what is going on in my writing life. For me, there is a natural inhalation and exhalation in the act of creating that must be honored. Each artist deals with this differently. Some live in short breaths, keeping multiple projects going at the same time. Others, like me, have a natural creative arc that invests deeply in one project, brings it to fruition, then needs a time of regathering […]

West then East

I’ll be in the Portland, Oregon area from mid-March to mid-April. Then, in early May I’ll be in New England for a week. Does anyone want to have me do a reading or a speaking visit to their book club, bookstore, school, library, or other civic venue? If so, send a note to knerburn@kentnerburn.com. We’ll see if something can be arranged.

What’s cooking…

Next post I’ll tell you about some interesting developments in my writing life. But, for now, this hard winter has gotten me thinking, and I want to get those thoughts off my chest. This winter has been a tough go, no matter where you live. I have found the harshness and extremes more than a little disconcerting, and nothing I read, see, or feel in my bones makes me think that this is simply a rough patch in the cycles […]

The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo is a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award

My latest literary child, The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo, has been chosen as a finalist for the 2014 Minnesota Book Award in the category of Memoir and Creative non-fiction. This is always an honor, because it means your home folks appreciate your work. I’m really warming to this book. As with every book, when it first came out I had no idea if it had the capacity to speak to readers. But something about this book is receiving […]

Sculpting in Wood and Words

I wanted to let you know that Northern Minnesota Public Television has just put out their hour long documentary on my work. It’s probably the most comprehensive description of my work anywhere. Click here to view. Have a wonderful holiday season.

Noteworthy items

First. This image has haunted me ever since I discovered it. My friend, Dean Leh, from Albuquerque managed to pull it off Google Earth and send it to me so I can share it with all of you. This is a close up of satellite photo of the ghostly images of the graves in the middle of the golf course in Canton, South Dakota, which was the site of the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians that figures so prominently in […]

A bit of news

It’s been a good opening for The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo. I did my first talks in Canton, South Dakota, the site of the asylum that is a central part of the book, and in several venues in Sioux Falls. As always, I got to meet long-time readers and new friends. In Canton, I met a man who had been present when the inmates were sent off from the asylum at the time of its closing – he […]

Dan and Grover talk about Indian Mascots

Just as my new book, The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo, is being released, an old issue that Dan and Grover discussed in The Wolf at Twilight is drawing national attention: the issue of Indian mascots. I’m making the chapter where this discussion takes place available on my website. Let’s work together to get this chapter sent to as many people as we can, especially into the hands of opinion and decision makers. I think we have a moment […]

The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo

My new book, The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo, is available now. For a limited time, autographed copies are available for $15.95 at wolfnordog.com). It is the third in the trilogy that began with Neither Wolf nor Dog and continued with The Wolf at Twilight. A writer never knows what he or she has until readers begin to respond, and the advance readers who have seen The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo have been uniformly positive in their […]

The Cab Driver story — an update and a possible speaking tour

Well, the saga continues.  My story about picking up the woman in the cab has, as of this morning, had over 1.6 million hits on one website (It’s all about women) and 850,000 on another (Zenmoments.org).  There is no telling how many other sites are passing it around, and how great the proliferation is. I’m left wondering what it is about the story that has captured the hearts of so many.  Part of it would seem to be the simple […]

an opportunity for my readers

“Hello, everyone. I’d like to alert you to what I hope will be a wonderful experience. Fred and Mary Ann Brussat have for years run the Spirituality and Practice website. It is, to my mind, the best clearinghouse for spiritual thinking available anywhere. I encourage all of you to look at it simply for that reason. Recently, they have accorded me the distinct privilege of putting together an e course around my writings. It will consider the major themes, major […]

Some thoughts on Neither Wolf nor Dog, The Wolf at Twilight, and Literary Categories

On April 17th, my latest work, The Wolf at Twilight:  An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows won the 2010 Minnesota Book Award in the category of memoir and creative non-fiction.  Next September, The Wolf at Twilight will be featured at the South Dakota Festival of the Book in the category of fiction.  Clearly there is some confusion and misunderstanding. Or is there? Can a work be at once a work of fiction and non-fiction, or […]

An Interview about The Wolf at Twilight. Read it, use it, pass it on.

Dear Readers, Here is an interview that I recently did on The Wolf at Twilight.  I think it will give you an insight into the book that is well worth having.  We have permission to use this interview in any way we like.  So I offer it up to any of you who wish to use it, publish it, excerpt it, or pass it on.  I encourage you to do so, not only because I would like the book to […]

First Review — The Wolf at Twilight and an abbreviated rant on Obama’s unfathomable behavior

I’m resisting writing a blog about Obama as health care’s Neville Chamberlain (”We have health care in our time”), primarily because I can’t believe a man so smart can be so naive as to let this one great chance at health care reform in America slip through his grasp. I have half-baked theories about his bi-racialism fostering an innate sense of compromise, and larger conspiratorial fears, fostered by my more wing-nut friends, about greater forces than we know forcing decisions […]

Has Obama Stopped Beating his Wife Yet?

As I sit watching the dream of health care reform disappear in the smoke of insane allegations, fear mongering, and flat out lying by the (mostly) Republican opponents, I shake my head in astonishment at the apparent political naivete of the Democrats. How can a party that was so forward-looking in its methods during the campaign, using the internet in ways that the Republicans couldn’t begin to fathom, find itself getting bludgeoned into political pulp by the very tactics that […]

Obama, Health Care, Viet Nam, and Sleepless Nights

I’ve had a tough time sleeping the last several weeks. And it’s been nothing personal. It’s been something national. It’s health care reform, and how it has been hijacked, and how the smartest politician we’ve seen in years is getting his ears boxed by some people who I simply cannot understand. I am now watching a group of young people make the fascinating move into adulthood. There are new marriages, new families, infants, toddlers, college — all the experiences that […]

The Wolf at Twilight — Let the Journey Begin

I have remained silent for a long time about The Wolf at Twilight, even to the point of being incommunicado both on this blogsite and in terms of public speaking. It has been that important to me. Why? This is a book that tries to use most of my skills to bring an important issue to light in a way that crosses out of the “genre” issue of Native American subjects, does not lose the readers who want to be […]

From Ghost to Bad Cat

So, I raise my head once, get a boatload of wonderful responses, and immediately show up on your doorstep again. I’m in need of some immediate help. I’d like to get to Sherman Alexie, Jim Harrison, and Leonard Peltier to see if any would give an endorsement for The Wolf at Twilight. The publisher has no real access, so I’m turning to my friends. Do any of you have current addresses or back door ways of getting to any of […]

A flare in the night and the first mention of A Wolf at Twilight

Well, well, well. Look who shows up. It has been a long time.I truly appreciate the emails I’ve gotten from folks wondering about my health and whereabouts. I could say that I switched computers and lost the capacity to use this blogging system (which would be half true) or I could say that I simply succumbed to blogger fatigue (which would also be half true). But, instead, I’ll go with the third half — a formula quite in keeping with […]

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Obama’s two unnoticed gifts

There are two little noticed aspects of Obama and his family that I think bode very well for America. The first is Michelle. She has, from the outset, been adamant that family came first. She demanded it of Barack, and I think it was a sine qua non of her willingness to embark upon this shared political journey. I believe she will carry this commitment into the White House. What this means is that we will have, for the first […]

Lazarus sits up and goes on and on . . .

I keep getting gentle prods from readers to write an occasional blog. It’s encouraging to know that there are still a few of you out there checking in periodically. As you can tell, I’ve gone cryogenic as a blogger — not completely dead, but in a state of semi-frozen literary suspension. Now and then someone pours hot water on me and I sit up and stare around. The prods from you readers are the hot water that prompts this post. […]

Snakes and Bears and the language of the Clintons.

Just a quick thought on some election language. We all know the obscenity of this incendiary “terrorist, Muslim” talk from McCain and Palin — mostly Palin, product of one of the strangest political gambits in modern history. But I would ask you to keep an eye to something else. Bill and Hillary Clinton are, ostensibly, supporting and working for Obama. But if you’re like me, you have sensed something tepid and almost subversive about that support. At first I thought […]

Our Better Angels: Some thoughts on “the cab ride.”

It’s three a.m. I should be in bed and I certainly shouldn’t be blogging, because one’s sense of proportion is never very trustworthy during “the hour of the wolf.” But I’m mulling over a fascinating chain of events and thinking about their significance, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. Last week several websites actually attributed my cab driving story to me. For those of you who don’t know, it is a story that I use in my […]

The Cab Ride and an offer . . .

A website out of the U.K., zenmoments.org, has recently posted the now well-traveled story of my experience as a cab driver, when I picked up an old woman who was on her way to a hospice. It has reached number one on a number of websites as a result. I am thrilled when my ordinary life offers up an extraordinary moment that brings some solace or insight or enjoyment to others, and such has been the good fortune of that […]

Dispatches from Denver — Pay no attention to ANYTHING behind the curtain

Here’s how it’s done: bring in concrete barriers and erect them in ways that form choke points, dead ends, and traffic diversions so that vehicles can only go where you want them to go when you want them to go there. Place traffic control police at every strategic corner. Set up heavy eight-foot tall mesh screens end-to-end to wall off selected areas, and have manned metal detector entry points wherever you want to control people’s entry and exit. Have different […]

Denver at one mile per hour: a convention dispatch

I am at the Democratic Convention in Denver, and it hasn’t been easy. No city can prepare for a one-time event like a convention and hope to do it right. The volunteers in their orange tee-shirts try to help, but the streets are clogged with vehicles, barricades disrupt normal traffic flow, and the sidewalks are hopelessly jammed with people who have no idea where they’re going and no idea how to get there. Think “leaving a professional sporting event” and […]

Swiftboating our candidates

At long last we know who the candidates are going to be. I, personally, hope that Obama chooses Hillary as his running mate despite the issues of electoral value and the unpredictability of Bill. As to John McCain, I am indifferent to his choice so long as the end result is a loss for the Republicans. This is not to say that I don’t respect John McCain. He has earned our respect by what he did for the country, even […]

An interesting exchange — give me your thoughts

I received this email from a man whose path crossed mine several years ago. He is an exceptional human being involved in exceptional work: several years ago he took off went to Gambia to do some doctoring for no reason other than it was a way to serve. His blogs and stories were the stuff of a modern day Schweitzer, though he would likely deny the similarity. Anyway, he sent me a response of one of his friends to my […]

On the Rez Watching Hillary

A number of folks have written to ask where I’ve gone. For a number of reasons I’ve chosen to stay quiet during the political season. I’ve needed my writing time for my books, and the political season is so seductive that I dare not write the first word or, like a reformed smoker deciding “just one can’t hurt,” I’ll fall off the wagon and find myself blogging every day about the political situation. So I’ve sworn off blogging while the […]

another interesting observation from the past: Leadership and Vision redux

In light of what is happening in the current Democratic dust-up between Obama and Clinton, someone reminded me of a blog entry I wrote in September of 2006. I read it and my jaw dropped. You could go back in my blog archives, but I think it deserves reprinting. Here it is. I believe it was entitled Looking for Leaders, Looking for Vision. I wish I could get it to Obama. Blog Entry — Sept 27, 2006 Politics is heating […]

An interview I rather like . . .

As long-time readers of this blog realize, northern Minnesota winters induce a cryogenic state. I have been using this period of prolonged darkness and below zero temperatures to do a lot of writing on two main projects as well as trying to assist those who are pushing forward on the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog. I’ll write more about those various projects as they congeal and take better shape. But I don’t want you to think I’ve disappeared into […]

Student responses to Neither Wolf nor Dog

A few weeks ago I received a wonderful selection of student responses to Neither Wolf nor Dog from Bill Davis, a teacher of philosophy and East Asian Studies at Blue Valley North High School in Stillwell, Oklahoma. The very fact that they have those courses speaks to the quality of education available to the students, and their papers on Neither Wolf nor Dog confirmed that quality. I can’t always carve out writing time to offer a worthy response to the […]

A Rare and Unusual Holiday Offer

Most of you know Neither Wolf nor Dog, my “literary child” that has drawn the most attention of any of my books over the years. Few of you know To Walk the Red Road, the collection of Red Lake tribal members’ memories that set in motion the events that resulted in the writing of Neither Wolf nor Dog. This is because To Walk the Red Road was done as a reservation project and was published only locally, and in very […]

on the rez

A good day. A good week. I’ve spent these last warm days of autumn on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with John Willis, a photographer and professor at Marlboro College in Vermont, and his wife, Pauline. John and I are collaborating on a book of his photographs. My charge — and it is as wonderful a charge as a writer can get — is to use my words to create a parallel text to John’s photographs. I am […]

Final thoughts on the Netherlands, Iceland, and stewardship of the land

I’m going to make a strange comment, and I ask you to hear me out before you slam the computer shut in astonishment: When I think back on the journey to the Netherlands and Iceland, I keep being haunted by the thought that the Netherlands is perhaps the greatest possible cultural manifestation of Christian values regarding the land, while Iceland is a perfect embodiment of pagan values regarding the land. Now, stay with me. The Christian charge regarding the earth […]

Returning to America –further thoughts

I have just received several emails from readers saying that their experience in coming into the United States was far different and far more friendly and accommodating than the one that passengers on my plane encountered. They suggest that maybe our entry was an aberration or specific to that particular airport. I truly hope so. I want to believe that the excitement that travelers from other countries feel as they enter into the United States is supported and reinforced by […]

This land is your land? Re-entering America.

Here is the embarrassment: I get off the plane in Amsterdam and see a sign asking me to choose door A or B depending on whether or not I have anything to declare. I do not, so I choose the “nothing to declare” door. I walk right out into the street where I am part of everyone else and no longer sequestered behind an imaginary boundary that separates the fliers from the non-fliers. I can just get in a car […]

Thoughts on the Netherlands, freedom, and social control

Travel is always good for one’s perspective. You see the world, and your own life, anew. My recent travels to the Netherlands (and Iceland) did just that. The Netherlands is small, resolved, and involved in the grand experiment of controlling and mastering the environment. There are new cities, recently constructed on reclaimed sea land, that attempt to create an optimum living environment for relatively high-density human population — new downtowns that are, essentially, outdoor malls, but with the aesthetic awareness […]

Amsterdam and NANAI

I’m back from the trip to the settled, resolved civility of the Netherlands and Belgium and my two day stopover in the surreal, almost lunar otherness of Iceland. Like any trip, it is hard to know where to begin. I could write about the astonishing juxtaposition of realities; I could write about each of the countries themselves; I could write about the people I met and the experiences I had. What I think I’d like to do is write a […]

More on Amsterdam.

This is in the “comments” section of the last post. I want to make sure all of you see it. It is from Leo van Kints, who is in charge of the Amsterdam event: Dear readers of Kent’s blogs. I would like to give some more information on Kent’s visit to the ‘Low Countries’. My name is Leo van Kints and I am Director of the Netherlands Association for North American Indians, NANAI. This organisation was founded in 1972 by […]

Amsterdam and Reykjavik

I seldom post information about my speaking engagements, etc. I probably should, and those of you who would like to keep up on them would probably be better served by visiting wolfnordog.com where there is constantly updated material in the “What’s New” section. But there is a fascinating venture (and “adventure”) coming up soon that I feel I should mention. I’ve been invited to Amsterdam to give a talk during the 35th annual meeting of the Netherlands Association for North […]

To Walk the Red Road: A note from a friend.

This is not something I do frequently, but I want to bring a note to your attention that you’d probably not notice otherwise, because it’s buried in the “comments” section. It’s from one of my favorite students back when we were putting together the “Red Road” books on the Red Lake reservation. Her name is Karen, and here’s her note: Hi There Nerb…I still remember when we were working on putting these books together. We all had no clue as […]

Finally Available! — To Walk the Red Road

Finally — for those of you who have asked over the years — I have gotten permission to reprint TO WALK THE RED ROAD: MEMORIES OF THE RED LAKE OJIBWE PEOPLE. This is the book of oral history and historical photographs that the students at Red Lake high school collected as part of a project that I directed on the reservation in the late 1980’s. It is the book that brought me to Dan’s attention and became the impetus for […]

A flood of Sadness, a Moment of Joy

I happened to be at our local airport when some of the local National Guard troops returned home from their service in Iraq. Ours is a small airport where the planes come only a few times a day and you stand in the terminal watching the arriving passengers walk down stairs from the plane onto the tarmac only a few feet from you. To see these young men and women step off the plane and rush into the arms of […]

Obama and the Indians

Last week my eighteen year old son, Nik, completely on his own initiative, took a bus down to Chicago (about 700 miles from here) to participate in Camp Obama, a two day training session for community organizers in the Obama campaign. I don’t think Nik knew exactly what he was getting into, and I don’t think he fit the profile of a potential organizer. But he met some interesting people, received training in organizing skills, and came home energized about […]

Falling Bridges and other thoughts

I drove by the fallen bridge in Minneapolis the other day. It was a strange and eerie feeling. There is something both suspended and final about seeing a bridge hanging in parts with vehicles overturned and crushed and stopped on impossible angles. You want the scene to continue until it settles into some kind of visual resolution. But it doesn’t. The cars remain there, parked sideways on a ramp of concrete jutting like a broken bone into the sky. The […]

Wolf nor Dog film

Just a quick informational note here for those of you who have asked: Progress is finally being made on the filming of Neither Wolf nor Dog. I wrote the screenplay a number of years ago under the able tutelage of director, John Irvin (Turtle Diary, Widow’s Peak, A Month by the Lake, etc.), but nothing came of the project at that time. Now the project is finally getting off the ground. My screenplay will be used, though I am sure […]

Dakota journey

Fifteen years ago I made a conscious decision to take a trip each year with my son, Nik. He was only three at the time. My reasoning was simple: if we made this an annual ritual, we would continue it when we reached the point where our life paths and outlooks diverged. I was right. But there was more. And I see it each time we go out together on one of our “little trips.” I mention this because he […]

Seeking the Light, Defying the Darkness

I received an interesting comment from a reader named Ruth in response to my posting about the president and the bridge. It went like this: “I value your passion and feel your frustration in regards to your view of our President. But please don’t let bitterness take root and choke out even a portion of the beauty that’s in your heart. He may simply be the subject of the moment (or even the summer) but there is no room for […]

Stay home, Mr. President

President Bush is coming to Minnesota. I do not want him here. He is coming to view the bridge disaster. What happened to this bridge is exactly what we are doing to the bridges of Baghdad as a matter of policy. And to the people on them.

nothing in particular — just reaching out

I haven’t written for awhile. Lots of reasons, but mostly that it’s summer and I’m trying to devote my writing energy to my books. I don’t know if it is the same for everyone. But, for me, the echoes of a schoolkid’s schedule still inform my work habits — at least on a seasonal basis. Summer simply is a hard time for me to work. When autumn comes I gear up; by winter I’m in full work mode; and when […]

Memorial Day

“Hey Nerburn, good to see you. I heard you got killed in Viet Nam.” It was a surprising greeting, but not unexpected. It took place in a small restaurant right near the Minnesota State Fair, and the man addressing me had been a high school classmate. We were all accustomed to such greetings, because many of us were killed in Viet Nam, and all of us were impacted by it. It was the cultural common denominator of males of our […]

Meditations on my mother, failing.

I have just finished a visit with my mother. She lives in an assisted living high rise several hundred miles from here in a pleasant neighborhood of parks, shops, and sufficient traffic and activity to be agreeable without being assaultive or overwhelming. She is 89. She can no longer walk, cannot see well, and needs assistance for almost all of her daily tasks. The cost of her living situation is astronomical — nearly criminal, one would say — except for […]

Some more thoughts on our Nation

I received a hearfelt note today from a man writing in response to my recent posting about Bush. This man, who lost a friend in the 9/11 bombings, was bothered by the tendency of many people, me included, to downplay the threat to our lives by the incursions of people who want do damage us and our country. This is more real for him than it is for most of us — he lost a good, kind, apolitical friend in […]

The Crime that is George Bush’s Presidency

I’ve been watching George Bush as he destroys my country. It has not been easy to do. Any of you who have read this blog for years now know that, except for a moment’s hope that he would serve rather than reign after his spanking in the mid-term elections, I have consistently cried out in a Jeremiah-like fashion against this man and his minions. And though it is not a very pleasant way to reemerge from my blogging silence, I […]

Homefires and Journeys

A reader asked where I’ve gone lately, after engaging in a dialogue with you all about the wisdom of continued blogging. The answer, I guess, is into a world of transitions. One of our children has just given us a first grandchild and is preparing to be the first to move away from the general area of Minnesota; another has left a long term relationship; a third has just moved into his first apartment; and a fourth is preparing to […]

A Survival Guide for Young Artists

A few posts ago I mentioned talking to classes of elementary and junior high aspiring writers. I said I’d post the outline of what it was I said. Well, in looking for those comments I came upon a presentation I gave several years ago called “A Survival Guide for Young Artists: Lessons Learned from Thirty Years in the Arts.” Upon rereading it I had one of those “Hey, this is really good!” moments. It seemed a shame to leave it […]

What a gift and what a surprise

I promised you a note about my work with the young people, but I’m going to let that wait. I feel I need to issue a great and warm “thank you” to the voices that have written back. It is so interesting — some of you I have met in person on occasion; with others I have communicated by email once or twice; some of you are familiar names from comments you have made either on this website or on […]

Slogging and blogging, and a vote for Robert Redford over Britney Spears

It has been good to hear from some of you about the wisdom of continued blogging. I was asking the question as a general issue — there is a proliferation of white noise in the blogosphere, and I was wondering if others were questioning where this all is heading — but folks quite rightly saw it as a bit of self-doubt on my part as to whether or not this is something that I, personally, want to continue to do. […]

moral outrage and peripatetic dogs

Here’s an issue for you, and I mean it seriously. You obviously need not respond, but it bears some reflection: I can write about the criminality of car companies avoiding responsibility for near fatal crashes, and I hear almost nothing. I can write about a war that is maiming young children and leaving them homeless, and I hear nary a peep. But write about a dog that runs free and the floodgates open. Why is this? Are we touched only […]

A tsunami of blogs

Hello, everyone. I’ve been incommunicado for some time now. I’ve been devoting my writing energy to, of all things, writing. As a result, the blogging has suffered. I’m beginning to have some serious reservations about the world of blogging, and I’m curious about your opinions. Any thoughts?

A Valentine’s thought — who doesn’t like to be read to?

Well, it’s finally here: The Small Graces CD. It is a two disc set, recorded at a small studio here in the north woods. I have hand-signed each copy for sale through the website. I hope you’ll consider it as a Valentine gift for someone you care about. I’d like to tell you a little bit about this CD. I had wanted to make a CD of one of my smaller, more spiritual books, for years. They grow out of […]

Dogs and Dreams

Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that we lost our dog, Sadie, when she made an unfortunate decision to attack a truck — a decision that came out distinctly in the truck’s favor. It was a sad moment. The death of an animal always is. But, as with all deaths, the pain slowly subsides as life goes forward. Recently, we got another dog — another “pound hound” — who looks much like a less portly […]

The Small and the Great

Some days the world is large; some days the world is small. It all depends on where you place your vision. This is one of the most challenging aspects of human interaction and relationships. If you are one who finds meaning in focusing on the small and everyday, you very often seem naive and limited to those who watch the larger movements of the world around them. If you are one who focuses on the large picture, the shape of […]

Throw a bone into the woods and watch the dog chase it.

It is so sad. We need leadership, leadership, leadership in this country, especially now in the sunset days of our current confused and misdirected despot. But the Democrats are failing once again. Or, at least, so it would seem so early on in their moment in the congressional sun. For years the Republicans have realized that the way to deal with the fragmented, all-inclusive Democrats, so prone to infighting and multiple agendas, is to set a hard position on something […]

Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is … or do you?

This winter is very disconcerting to me. The very essence of living in northern Minnesota is what we who endure it call, with only half-jest, the “death spike” of early January, when the temperature routinely goes to -30 and seldom gets above 0 for weeks at a time. Cars break down, heating systems implode or explode, travelers die, the ice on the lakes thunders and groans as the frigid temperatures cause it to shift and contract. Horrible though it is […]

Norman Mailer and a Young Boy’s Request

I received an interesting email today. It was from a young man named Hayden who lives in Oregon. He is in the fifth grade and is doing a presentation on Chief Joseph. He wanted to know if I had any photos or stories or other materials I could give him. Such requests are a challenge, because you cannot fulfill them all, but you do not want to turn away good hearted people who see something of value in making contact […]

Thoughts on Children

In keeping with my decision to write about the goodness in the human heart during the holiday season, I offer you the following short passage excerpted and adapted from Calm Surrender, my book about forgiveness: We are the creators; we are the healers. The lives of our children are shaped by our hands. We do them no justice when we hide their eyes from the cruelty in the world, for they will find it soon enough, or it will find […]

Thoughts on Giving

For me, the holiday season is an opportunity to find the good place in my heart. I try to offer the kind word rather than the harsh one, the caring thought rather than the critical one. It is a chance for me to seek out and act from my best self — to walk the “red road” rather than the “black road,” as the Native Americans say. So I am going to use this season to offer you thoughts from […]

The Season of Family

We are now into the holiday season — a joyful time for many, a difficult time for others. This is the time when we are reminded that family matters most. If you have family with whom to share the season, you are truly blessed. If your life has taken you on a path where you have lost touch with family, the echo of emptiness rings loud and hollow in your life. I am among the blessed. My holidays have only […]

The Season of Family

We are now into the holiday season — a joyful time for many, a difficult time for others. This is the time when we are reminded that family matters most. If you have family with whom to share the season, you are truly blessed. If your life has taken you on a path where you have lost touch with family, the echo of emptiness rings loud and hollow in your life. I am among the blessed. My holidays have only […]

Holiday Gifts for Friends and Family

Dear Friends, In response to requests from many of you, I have, with the help of my family and the good people of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, put together what I feel are some very unique and meaningful gifts for you to share with family and friends. I did this for a reason. Giving has become harder for all of us. We have so much; we need so little. We struggle to find meaningful symbolic gifts or gifts that […]

Listening for a Voice

I have not heard one word come out of the Democrats’ mouths about helping to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Pointing to Bush’s failures is fine; he brought this upon himself by stifling dissent and operating as if his election gave him a divine mandate. But you cannot create a new vision for the country simply by applying correctives. This is a moment of challenge to the Democrats. Far too often they fall into the trap of responding […]

A question on meditation

Today I received an interesting question from a reader. He asked, “I’m curious as to whether you practice any kind of formal or informal meditation?” His question got me to thinking, because I don’t practice any formal system of meditation. But meditation and reflection are essential to my life. If I do not give myself over to them, I quickly lose my emotional and spiritual balance. I thought I’d share my answer to him with the rest of you. Hi […]

Angry fathers, part two: nurturing mothers

I’m responding to myself quickly, because a reader, Abigail (see the comment at the bottom of the last piece), provided a wise and caring corrective. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge her insight. When a father carries the anger in him of which I spoke, it is the mother who can and must be the healer. It is always better when both parents bring their unique kinds of warmth to the child-rearing task. But if it is […]

Angry Fathers and Bonsai Children

Recently I’ve had to deal with two angry men. There was nothing unusual about that; angry men are everywhere, and every man I know is angry at one time or another. But these two bothered me, because both are about to become fathers. What was disconcerting was that both are good men and both, by all appearances, are calm and measured people. But under scrutiny, that apparent calmness is not calmness at all; it is a sublimation of a deep […]

A Strange Thought on the Election

I would like to propose a very strange thought: that the country might be better off for this recent election, not because the Democrats won, but because George Bush is better suited to being a compromiser than a leader. Clearly, he is a principled man. But he is not a strong man. His certitude is brittle; he is simultaneously angry and anxious to be liked. The fingerprints of a boy trying to be a man are all over his manner […]

An Invitation

To those of you who have taken a break from my blogging (as I did for a long time), I’d like to invite you to come back and take a look. Among other things, I have begun the process of creating some ways for you folks to give gifts of my books (as well as a CD I’ve just recorded of Small Graces) to others. I’ll write more about this in the next few days. If any of you are […]

The Stick of Gum

It was just a small moment, but one well worthy of notice. I was in the supermarket. It was Sunday, and the place was mostly empty. The check out girl was distant and disinterested. I was preoccupied. The bagger at the end of the counter intoned a rote, “paper or plastic?” I mumbled some response while keeping my attention on the cover of some celebrity magazine. There was no human contact anywhere. All of a sudden, the customer in the […]

Adirondack meditation

As we slouch toward another election, full of anger and vitriol, I encourage any of you to look at the goings on in the Adirondacks Park, an amazing and administratively confusing combination of forest reserve, wilderness, and private land all protected by the New York State constitution. copyrighted image by Carl Heilman.  See and purchase Carl’s stunning work at carlheilman.com My wife, Louise, and I have just returned from a conference there, and I can say, without hesitation, that the […]

An airline, a boy, and country

None of us were happy campers. We were all victims of Northwest Airlines, a company we had all learned to hate after years of dealing with their cruel, arrogant, and greedy corporate ways. Each of us had our own story: fares between towns two hundred miles apart as high as fares from the U.S. to Europe; lost and damaged luggage that Northwest refused to pay for, and on and on. Now we were huddled together on a small van, being […]

The Passing of the Seasons; the Coming of the Snows

Driving from north to south or south to north has the unique characteristic of allowing you to move through time as well as space. In my case, I went from over a foot of snow in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the burnished red and gold of oaks and maples in southern Minnesota. It was like traveling from deep November to early, tawny October. One of the unique aspects of that experience is the change in vigilance that takes […]

Talks and Travels

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Houghton, Michigan, after a wonderful day speaking to classes and sharing the podium with Ojibwe elder, Eddie Benton Benai, in an evening session on the need to listen to the quieter voices of the indigenous peoples of this land. I had never been to the U.P., as the upper Michigan peninsula is known, except to drive through it years ago on the way to Sault Saint Marie and eastern Canada. It has stunned […]

CD of Small Graces

We are just putting the finishing touches on the CD of Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life. It contains two discs and has cello interludes composed and played by a friend and colleague of mine, Patrick Riley, who has performed with the Baltimore Symphony and has taught cello at the university level for years. I hope to have this available for sale in several weeks at the most, because so many of you have indicated that you would […]

A Strange Question about generations

This is a very strange question. But I’m curious: what do you think your generation’s contribution, for good or for ill, has been to the world? Perhaps this is an obsession only for those of us who came of age in the sixties, convinced we were changing the world, only to find that not only did we not change it as we had hoped, we planted as many bad seeds as good. But I think other generations must have some […]

THE HIDDEN BEAUTY OF EVERYDAY LIFE makes some friends and invites you over

Just as in child rearing, I tend to have a somewhat “hands off” attitude toward my books as they go out into the world. My greatest pleasure is in seeing them take on an identity, make friends, become travelers, and surround themselves with family. My only request of them is that they be of service to the world in some fashion. With books this starts by sending them out, introducing them to the right people, and seeing if they behave […]

Political Vision, Righteous Anger, and the Need for Compassion and Love

I have noticed a strange tendency ever since I expressed how upset I was with the false election of George Bush, who, to my mind, has fulfilled my fear of being the worst president in modern times. What I noticed is that the right wing (such an odd notion, that we as a country have a two-dimensional understanding of politics — left and right) attacks the minute it feels wronged, whereas the left grumbles and walks away. Each side truly […]

Looking for leaders, looking for vision

Politics is heating up around here, as I’m sure it is in your neck of the woods, too. Invariably, the claim is made that “we want to run a clean campaign.” But fear sells in America, and a politician who wants to win in America is in the business of selling. So he or she almost inevitably ends up trying to peddle fear about what his or her opponent proposes to do. Look for people who are visionary. I don’t […]

The Dakotas

For all of you who may never have been to the Dakotas, I’d like to sing their praises. I’ve just returned from Sioux Falls in South Dakota, and I’ve crisscrossed the state several times this year, stopping in Pine Ridge and Rosebud and visiting Rapid City, Spearfish, Sturgis, and the western Black Hills/Badlands country. As to North Dakota, I visit it frequently because it is a short 120 miles west of my home, and I drive to it and through […]

A Writer’s Conference and a Burger King

I’m sitting in my hotel in Sioux Falls at the South Dakota Festival of the Book. There are a fair amount of heavy hitters here, as well as a lot of lesser names and just plain ordinary folks. It is an interesting gathering, made more so by the odd collection of psyches and strange patterns of interaction that such a venue produces. By and large, writers are people who, if they are comfortable at all, are comfortable in front of […]

New Orleans and Nuremberg

Several years ago I was in Nuremberg, Germany — the city most Americans know as the site of the Nuremberg trials. And it is that. But it is something more. It is a city that was reduced to rubble by Allied bombing, then rebuilt, brick by brick, after the war, from photographs, civic documents, and every visual and documentary source possible. While the old character and feel of the city was kept in the rebuilding, its aging infrastructure and utilities […]

Autumn reverie

Bittersweet peace. That, for me, is what autumn always brings. Winter begins to whisper in the distant corners of the mind, but the magical stillness and rich indolence of these sun-blessed days overwhelm those whispers with their peace. The lake outside our home turns to glass; the placid waters magnify the brilliance of the sunsets. Of all the seasons, this is the one I would not give up. This has been a good summer. My son, Nik, has been home […]

CD of Small Graces coming soon

I have just finished the recording of the CD of Small Graces, and I am excited. I had the wonderful good fortune to have a friend and colleague, Dr. Patrick Riley, compose and perform cello interludes between sections. Pat is a man of immense talent with a background that includes playing with the Baltimore Symphony. His quiet, thoughtful cello meditations add a reflective ambience to a book that already has a serene and thoughtful tone. Actually, I was quite surprised […]

Meditation on Katrina a year later

As the anniversary of hurricane Katrina’s devastation passes over us, the pain and horror of the event returns. For most of us, it had receded into the background, muted to the point of non-existence by the pressures and concerns of daily life. But the images of the Gulf Coast a year later remind us that the horror has only receded from memory. For those in the Gulf Coast it is alive and present, like the echo of a scream. We […]

New book: The Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life

My most recent book, The Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life, has had a quiet birth. It came closely on the heels of Chief Joseph and has been somewhat lost in the thunder of such a large and tumultuous undertaking. With this blog entry, I’m hoping to begin the process of moving this quiet new creation from the status of newborn to literary toddler. Hidden Beauty is, indeed, the third in the trilogy that began with Simple Truths and progressed through […]

A few shots of South Dakota

I know I’ve been on a summer hiatus, and I thank you all for coming back periodically. I thought, in lieu of writing something new, I’d take the lazy summertime route of offering you a photo that my son, Nik, took while we were on our journey to the Badlands and Pine Ridge. There are stories aplenty — mostly good — and I hope to share a few with you in the coming weeks. But for now I hope this […]

The vote is in . . .

And there is no clearcut winner.  I was surprised to find that there were cogent and heartfelt cases made for each of the proposed options.  But, in the last analysis, I decided, for this first project, to go with Small Graces.  Personally, I was leaning toward the compilation — and if this Small Graces project works, I will definitely consider the compilation — but two simple observations touched me and swayed my mind.  The first was by a woman who […]

Audio book decision; feedback needed

Hello, everyone. The summer hiatus has been both deeper and more extensive than I had expected. From a sweat lodge on the Pine Ridge reservation to the streets of the Latin Quarter in Paris, this has been a season to remember. I feel more than fortunate — I feel blessed. Perhaps the greatest joy was traveling through South Dakota with my son, Nik. The decision I made when he was a toddler to take a trip alone with him every […]

Chief Joseph article in the June issue of Native Peoples magazine

From the 2006 May/June Table of Contents of Native Peoples magazine: ON THE COVER: Few Americans have ever matched the dignity, courage and wisdom possessed by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce people of Idaho, as seen in this image taken in 1877. Photo by Frank Jay Haynes. Chief Joseph: A Man of His People. The trials and tribulations of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce are legendary, as are his accomplishments and dignity in the face of adversity. A […]

Comments on

I’ve installed a triple dose of comment spam protection so the comments feature is now flipped on. It’s a defensive strategy designed to prevent the automated spammer scripts, not the one-comment-at-a-time spammers. We’ll soon see! I’ve also turned on the comments for Kent’s blog entry from last week, The Site’s New Look, so feel free to leave him a comment there, or test it out by commenting here.

The Site’s New Look

Just a bit of info for those of you who are curious. I’ve decided to change the look and function of the site a bit to make it easier for folks to use. My hope, very shortly, is to be able to sell autographed copies of my books through the site, to have a way for you to listen to me reading short sections from each of the books, to have some further information for those of you who might […]


I’m working with Kent to revamp the site. Switching over to the WordPress weblog platform is the first task and once that’s complete, we’ll start customizing things… the look and feel/theme. The pages of the old website are still available: Excerpts Links Bookstore

Art, tragedy, my son, and the death of a dog

I don’t normally do this kind of thing, because I feel that the innards of my family and life are not fair subjects for a blog. But we have recently had an event in our lives that I think holds some lessons worth sharing, simply because it is so common yet so difficult. The other day our dog, Sadie, was hit and killed by a car. She was an unusually sweet dog, and we loved her dearly. I was the […]

My favorite review of Chief Joseph

There have been many good reviews of Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce. This is my favorite, because the reviewer understood what the book was about. THE REVIEW:

Something to Ponder

While doing some research on another topic, I came across the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed on December 10, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The U.S. was a willing signatory and supporter. Article 25 reads as follows: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to […]

Spiritual ramblings on the Gospel of Judas

I am fascinated by the recent discovery of a supposed Gospel of Judas. Whether it is authentic remains to be seen. But the reality that it brings forth regarding Christian truth is something that I have contemplated for years. Thirty years ago, when I was still deeply involved in creating religious sculpture, I decided to do a sculpture of Judas. People asked me why. The reason, I said, is very simple. He is the true Christ figure in the Gospels. […]

“The Conversation” — an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life

After the long, difficult challenge of writing Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce, I wanted to do something that stretched the imagination in a different way. So when my other publisher approached me with a proposition to write a smaller, more homiletic book as a companion work to Simple Truths and Small Graces, I jumped at the opportunity. The result is The Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life. It appeals to a different audience than did Chief Joseph, […]

Some overall thoughts on travel

My short trip to the South has left me thinking about travel, which is one of the great privileges and pleasures of being alive at this time in history. We are on the cusp of a homogenizing of world culture driven by the relentless penetration of corporations into the farthest reaches of the earth. Anyone who traveled thirty or forty years ago, and travels again now, knows that the individual character of places is being dampened by the presence of […]

Jesus, the South, and a little bit of theology

My entry on my quick visit to the South hit a few buttons. The responses ranged from the appreciative, “Y’all come back now, you hear?” to a somewhat scorching indictment of the South (by a Southerner)as a racist land of artificial smiles, intolerant Christianity, and beer-swilling good ol’ boys. For the record, I will come back now, you hear? And for now, I’ll leave aside the artificial smiles and beer swilling good ol’ boys, because it is the intolerant Christianity […]

Intimations of the South

This blog’s been pretty quiet lately. I’ve been out in the sunlight shaking off the dust from four years in the bunker with Chief Joseph. It’s nice to stretch and dance. One of those dances was last week in Nashville, where I spoke to a father-son dinner at a very exclusive boys school. The very notion of speaking or thinking about something other than Chief Joseph was at once terrifying and exhilarating. Things went very well, despite an arduous 13 […]

A New Book, New Voice, New Vision

For me, though not for all writers, the creative life has to be like a symphony program: major works have to alternate with minor works (or, at least, smaller works), and different instruments (in the form of different literary voices) have to come to the fore. Joseph was a major work — the most monumental I’ve ever undertaken. It required absolute fidelity to facts and the historical record, while moving a story forward without undue license in prose description and […]

Hiatus interruptus

This blogging thing can be like writing thank-you notes — a simple exercise in civility that becomes onerous if you put it off too long. As I mentioned long ago, there is a phenomenon known as “blogger fatigue,” and it afflicts every blogger at one point or another, especially those of us who want to use our blogs to do more than recount the ordinary events of our ordinary days. As you’ve seen, I tend to go on a bit […]

Some thoughts on the Season

As Christmas approaches, a standard subject of conversation among friends I meet on the street is what we are each doing for the holidays. Far too often I hear people I care for deeply saying something to the effect that they are not going to see their families because they don’t get along with a brother or sister or some other relative. This saddens me, because it seems such a false righteousness. For most of us, the commercial bludgeoning combined […]

On being a Step Parent

I recently received a note from a friend of mine who is embarking on the difficult journey of stepparenthood. I knew her when she was just a girl — she was the close friend of a girl to whom I was a stepparent at the time. I was younger in those days, and I don’t think I did the job very well. I couldn’t figure out the dynamic and, having come from a traditional family setting, couldn’t enter into the […]

A few thoughts on reviewers and critics

One of the most interesting aspects of being in any creative field is watching the reviews of your work come in. Last weekend saw the arrival of two new sets of observations on Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce. The reviewer for Seattle’s Elliott Bay bookstore, one of America’s premier independent booksellers, called it “…a commanding work that paints the legend of this misrepresented chief with fresh and startling brushstrokes.” The reviewer from the Washington Times, the […]

Christmas gifts

I just received an email from a reader who asked me to say a few words about each of my books because she wanted to buy some for gifts and thought I’d be the right person to give her advice. It seemed like something that many readers might like, so I’m doing it as a post. Native American Wisdom A selection of salient quotes from important Native speakers and thinkers on issues such as The Ways of the Land, the […]


The critical response to Joseph is good thus far. I thought the History Channel interview went well, though who among us likes to see ourself on TV? I will be curious to see the C-Span talk. I was, as I am fond of saying, “cutting through tall grass,” and I have no idea if it came off as interesting or diffuse. But I assure you that the Q and A is interesting. Think, “Book TV meets Jerry Springer.” Enough said. […]

late alert — “The boy who cried, ‘History Channel!’”

Well, this is late. But for those who are interested, I will be on History Center on the History Channel tomorrow — Sunday — at 6:30 Mountain, 7:30 Central, 8:30 Eastern and Pacific times. These are, unfortunately, A.M. times. Sorry to be so late on notification, but I just got home and found this out myself. Hope a few of you can see it.

History Channel snafu

I believe it was one of Richard Nixon’s press secretaries who made the legendary comment, “Previous truths are now inoperative.” Well, previous truths about my History Channel appearance are now inoperative. Apparently the scheduling was changed — such things happen on interview shows. I will try to let you know when the show will air. If you are so inclined, you can go to historychannel.com and navigate your way through their schedule to see what they list for History Center […]

Please Help

Now is the time when I have to call on you, my readers, for the help that keeps me going as a writer. I asked a while ago to hear from any of you who would be interested in helping promote Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce. I passed all of your kind offers of assistance on to HarperSanFrancisco, my publisher. Whether they contacted any of you, I don’t know. Behind the corporate face it is just […]

Reading at Birchbark Books

Next week I go out again for a stretch — the most intriguing being a chance to speak to a gathering put together by Birchbark Books in Minneapolis — Louise Erdrich’s bookstore. What good and interesting folks, and Louise first among equals. She was truly a generous soul to take the time to read Joseph and write a kind and meaningful endorsement of it. (The reading takes place at 6:30 pm at Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church, 2020 West […]

What a couple of weeks

It began with limo rides and the assembly-line interview process in the various hallowed halls of the New York media, and ended in a monastery in St. John’s, Minnesota. In between there were college convocations, radio shows, and classrooms full of students. All in all, a whirlwind tour — not the sort of thing that I normally favor. But this one was great. When things happen fast, you don’t have time to brood over weak performances or puff up over […]

Kent on WNYC and the History Channel

If you live in New York City, or you get up early on Sunday mornings, here are several chances to hear me talk about Chief Joseph — both the man and the book: On Wednesday, November 2nd, at 1:30 in the afternoon, eastern time, I’ll be live on the Leonard Lopate show on NPR affiliate WNYC in New York City. On Sunday, the 13th of November, I will be on “History Center” on the History Channel. It airs at 8:30 […]

Speaking from the heart

I recently had an article published in Iskitpe, the publication of the Nez Perce Trail Foundation. I thought you might find it interesting. And please note that Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce should be in bookstores now. I hope many of you will get it, read it, share the story of Joseph and the Nez Perce trail, and get the book into the hands of history teachers who can help make this part of the necessary […]

A Strange Request

I’ve got a bit of a mystery, and I’m hoping some of you readers can help me solve it. This month, by far the largest number of readers, behind the United States, are logging in from Saudi Arabia. Who are you, and what has brought you to this website? Drop me a line. Any of the rest of you are welcome to do so, too. I always love to hear from readers, and try to write back, if only a […]

Introduction to Chief Joseph continued

The following is a continuation of the Introduction to my forthcoming book, Chief Joseph and the flight of the Nez Perce. The actual book copy may differ slightly. Please read this as a continuation of the October 15th entry.

Upcoming events

This is taken from a press release by HarperSanFrancisco announcing events regarding Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce. I will also be speaking at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, on November 7th as part of their Native American Week activities: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Julie Mitchell, 415.477.4406 julie.mitchell@harpercollins.com “The truth is powerful, and Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce gets right at truth. Nerburn has written about a man of humility and grandeur, whose […]

“Chief Joseph” begins its life

Within the month, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce hits the bookstores. Those of you who have read this blog have followed with me to some extent as the book has taken shape. You’ve seen the struggles over title; you’ve sensed the difficulties and frustrations that have beset me during the writing process. It has, indeed, not been an easy project. But, at long last, the literary child is born. I thought you might enjoy reading a […]

A Tale of Two Museums — The Holocaust Museum and the Museum of the American Indian

Many thoughts rise to the surface after a trip to D.C. But from them all, I’m going to pick only one: the experience of going to the new Museum of the American Indian and then to the Holocaust Museum. Let me start with the Holocaust Museum. It is a brilliant, chilling, unrelenting narrative of the crimes of the German people during World War Two. I choose my words carefully when I say “German people” rather than “Nazi regime,” for this […]

Title of the New Book

Thanks, everybody, for writing in with your thoughts on the title of the new book. Here is the general drift of what I’ve been receiving: By and large, more people prefer Sacred Moments than prefer Illuminations. Those who don’t like Sacred Moments are about evenly divided by those who think it is too precious — sounding like a line of figurines — and those who think it smacks too much of traditional religion. Those who don’t like Illuminations see it […]

Fair Warning

At the request of a number of people, I’m going to begin sending out a general notification each time I make a blog entry. I’ll probably just send a general alert, allowing you to go to the entry at your leisure if you so desire. I hope this meets with your approval.

Help choose a title

No politics in this; just a heartfelt request for an honest opinion, especially from those of you who have a warm spot for Small Graces. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve turned my attention to another small book that will serve as the third in a series that includes Simple Truths and Small Graces. There is some discussion within the publishing house about what to use as a title. Here, then, is the question: Would you be more inclined to buy […]

Politics and a life of the spirit

Not long ago, when I first made a comment about the Katrina disaster, I received an email from a reader who said,”I am emotionally moved by your writings,” and then went on to make some very kind comments about how I stated “the profoundest truths in the simplest ways.” These were, of course, welcome sentiments — the sort all writers love to hear. But then he finished his email with, “Stay out of politics. I love you.” An odd sentiment, […]

Watch carefully, listen closely

There are two phrases, in rampant use in American society, that speak of lack of character and moral conviction. 1.) “Mistakes have been made.” 2.) “I just want to put it behind me and get on with my life.” The first is a favorite of politicians; the second, of pro athletes. The moral flaws of each are obvious. “Mistakes have been made” makes mistakes into the noun. No one made them, they simply happened. A person of character and conviction […]

Better than the cavalry

By boats, trucks, and buses, they are coming. From Maine, Idaho, and Texas, they are coming. Bringing food, water, blankets. Above all, they are bringing hope. What our government was unable or unwilling to do (which it is, remains to be seen) our people are now doing on their own. It is a sight to warm the heart. As a people, we Americans are, and always have been, kind, generous, and open hearted. In times of need, we do not […]

More hard truth on Katrina

Here, I’m afraid, is the hard truth, and it is not pretty. We did not immediately go in to save the Katrina victims because the government was caught between a military action and a disaster relief action. My father spent much of his life in disaster relief for the Red Cross, and I know whereof I speak. A relief effort is essentially the establishing of order in a situation of fear and chaos. People are desperate; they will fight for […]

Where is our President?

As I watch the unfolding of the horror of Katrina’s aftermath, the thought keeps growing, “Where is our country?” I don’t mean this in any abstract philosophical sense; I mean it quite practically: Where are our leaders who are so badly needed at this moment? It is no secret that I don’t like this administration — and I make no apologies for this to the readers who cover their literary ears when I begin to speak about politics — because […]

A Hard Comment

Katrina is a tragedy of unimagined scale here in the United States, and it has galvanized us as a people. But as I watch the t.v. coverage of the devastation, I cannot help but thinking that what nature has done to New Orleans and our gulf coast is exactly what our president and his policies have done to Baghdad and Iraq. And we wonder why the Iraqi people are not welcoming us with open arms.

Start of a Fall Resurgence?

Could this be an indication of my recovery from blog fatigue? Let’s hope so. I want to get back in touch with you readers, and I feel I’ve let you down a bit with my relative disappearance from cyberspace. Here’s some update: Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce should be going to print as we speak. I’ve seen a number of preliminary designs and review copies, but they aren’t the final form. It should be a handsome […]

Thoughts on Visiting my Mother

I recently went down from my home here in the north woods to visit my mother in Minneapolis. She is well into her eighties, and a person of very powerful intellect. She was of what I call “the lost generation” for women — the “be a dutiful wife and good housekeeper” bunch who raised children in the 50’s. My mother would have been a wonderful radical had the circumstances been different. As it was, she was a courageous woman within […]

Praise for Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce

Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce has been a long time in the writing — almost four years at last count. I’ve had my ups and downs, but those have mostly been in terms of the in-the-seat writing experience. The actual process of travel, research, and learning has been among the most amazing and rewarding of my life. I have essentially lived inside another world since August of 1991. It has been lonely — one of the […]

The interment of Moses

Well, it’s summer, and the living is easy. This is the time when people read fluff books and do their best to turn their primary attentions to leisure. So I decided to assist in your summer entertainment. For about the last eight or nine years my books have carried what I call “The Moses Picture.” It’s a photo of me that I took in my living room using a 35mm camera with a shutter delay. One of my publishers was […]


As Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce moves into production (click the image for a larger view), the people at HarperSanFrancisco want to get information out to groups, organizations, newspapers, newsletters, colleges, high school multi-cultural studies programs, etc., etc. If you represent any of these or any other organization that might be able to assist in getting the book before the public, please email me your name, address, and email. Obviously this will not be disseminated. HSF […]

A Day at Red Lake

Any place that houses dark memories — the scene of a crime, the site of an accident — has a strange timbre when it returns to normal. There is a residue of the scream that echoed so loudly over the place not long before. Such was the case on Red Lake when I went to visit several times in the past weeks. You must understand that Red Lake is not a town in the way you might imagine. The reservation […]

Well, well, well. Look who’s back.

Yes, I’ve returned. From Europe, from Chief Joseph, from a fire in my son’s bedroom, from a frigid northern Minnesota winter, and from a long hiatus from blog-writing. It’s spring, and life is good. The Joseph book, now titled, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy,is in the editing stage. I’ve spoken before about this phase of writing and how I enjoy it. You see the book start to congeal and […]

Back in the Saddle

Hello all you faithful blog-checkers. I’m back from Europe, making my way through the piles of mail and email and addressing the various domestic malfunctions that beset a home and a life when you leave it unmonitored for two months. I’ll write a real entry in a day or so. Check back.

The Pope’s Passing

Dying is not a Catholic event, it is a human event. And in his dying, this pope showed us a great human spirit. He allowed us to witness his passing, confident that his faith would allow him to do it with grace and acceptance. Whether we are better for what he did during his life is something people will long debate. But there can be no doubt that we are better for what he did in his death. Each of […]

A Weary Heart

It has been a hard week. I still hurt for my community. Small town living, for those of you who don’t know it, is a strange experience. Even in a city the size of ours — maybe 10,000 folks — over the years you get to recognize almost everybody. Some you know, many you don’t. Many you know about, and many know about you. You carry on your life pretending to know only about a tenth of the people about […]

The Red Lake Shootings — The Media Recedes

The media frenzy is subsiding. They heard the explosion, came running, found little to photograph and few with whom to speak, and now are moving on. Somewhere another explosion is being heard. And now, ever so slowly, Red Lake is left to the long task of healing. You have done the right thing, Red Lake. You have closed your doors. This was not an issue requiring national scrutiny, like a war carried on in all our names. This is a […]

CNN’s “Inside the Blogs”

A blogger named Trey Jackson captures news video clips for his blog called Jackson’s Junction. Earlier today, he posted about a segment from ‘Inside the Blogs’ — a regular feature of CNN’s Inside Politics — in which they checked around the blogosphere for reactions to, among other stories, the Red Lake shootings. Kent’s blog is one of those mentioned towards the end of segment, starting at the 2 minute 45 second mark. “An interesting blog that’s quick to note here, […]

A Message to Journalists about the Red Lake Tragedy

And so it begins. The grieving people at Red Lake have closed the town and shut out the media, and the reporters and camera people are now stuck in a small northern Minnesota town desperate for copy. It is an unseemly reality, but it is part of the lethal truth of an omnivorous news culture. One of these reporters — a man well-aware of the avaricious nature of the media beast — saw my commentary in one of the papers […]

Breaking my own rules

I know that many of you signed up on the assumption that you would receive no more than one email notification per week about new posts to my weblog. Normally, I try to honor that (well, maybe writing one post every month is more than honoring it). But these are unusual times. I think I have something important to contribute about a tragic and difficult situation, so I’m taking the liberty of imposing upon you more often. I hope you […]

Kent’s “radio diary” on WBUR’s On Point

On Point is a public radio live evening news program, produced by WBUR in Boston. Kent recorded a “radio diary” as part of tonight’s show on the Red Lake tragedy. “In the radio diary, Kent Nerburn shares a piece of advice to all Americans who are watching news coverage of the Native American tribe he knows so intimately.” Kent’s radio diary, a reading of his They are all our children blog post, is towards the end of the show at […]

Silent City, Silent Cries

There are places where the world holds its breath and has a strange cast of spirit. We’ve all encountered them — prisons, concentration camps, the Bear’s Paw surrender site where I’ve just spent so many hours in my research on the Nez Perce. They are hallowed in some dark fashion by the events that have transpired there. Red Lake has a place that the elders know, called “Silent City.” It is just a field in a vast expanse of bracken […]

Media links

Kent’s They are all our children post has been published in several print and online publications, including the Mpls Star Tribune, the Des Moines Register, the Pacific News Service, and the San Jose Mercury News.

The Circle — A Story from the Heart of Red Lake

Dear Friends, This is a rare and strange opportunity for me to do something of value in a time of crisis. As most of you know, Red Lake is the reservation where I have spent my time. That school was where I worked with my students. The teacher who is being quoted about getting her children on the floor took my old job. That might be my old classroom. This tragedy strikes right to my heart. I am very concerned […]

Red Lake Redux: They are all our children

I know I just wrote on this, but it is bothering me deeply. So I penned off an editorial to the New York Times. I doubt they will use it, but I thought I would share it with you. And if any of you have local papers that would like to use it, feel free to pass it on to them. I recognize that it would need editing to suit local conditions. They are all our children I awoke this […]

Red Lake shootings

I got up early today, hoping to answer a few inquiries from those of you who have asked about the Chief Joseph book. Then I open my email and find that the reservation where I first began my journey into Native American issues has been the scene of a school massacre. I know that school. I know the teachers. I may even have known some of the kids, or, at least, their parents. A quick online check and the outlines […]

The joy of civility

I’m sitting in Oxford — a bastion of civility that has roots running back at least 700 years. There is something about this town that relaxes me more than almost any other. I love mainland Europe, but so much of it seems to be on the ropes, as it were. It is as if the true glory of its civilization, though different in each country and each city, and impossible to pinpoint in time, is nonetheless a remembered experience. Various […]

Bon Voyage and New Beginnings

Well, my friends, Joseph has been put to bed. This has certainly qualified as the proverbial “long, strange trip.” But, as with all books, there is a feeling of deep accomplishment and excitement when the final product finally begins to take form. I think it was Leonardo DaVinci who said that the longevity of any creature is a direct function of its gestation period. If that’s the case, this Joseph book (which, we now believe, will probably be called just […]

Groundhog Author Makes an Appearance

I thought I should pop my head up to see if anyone sees my shadow. Actually, it’s a miracle I popped my head up at all. The editing of Joseph is slow, though rewarding. I love the effect of tweaking a sentence to get the rhythm right or of replacing a word with another that makes a phrase sing. It is, however, an arduous and time-consuming process. First you have someone go through the manuscript for obvious inconsistencies and passages […]

Some Thoughts for Teachers

Joseph is done. Well, almost done. I’ve finished the journey in terms of having completed a satisfactory manuscript. Now it’s time to reread, correct, check facts, fill in blank spots, make sure things flow, get tenses right, elaborate and compress where necessary, and generally get the manuscript dressed up for the dance. This is an interesting stage. It’s like getting a house ready to sell: it’s too late to change the structure or the fundamental soundness, but you can make […]

Deep Winter and the Emergence of Joseph

There is really very little to say when the mercury hits -38 (and that’s fahrenheit for those of you in centigrade countries). The mind, like the body, stills, and focus or hysteria is there for the taking. There have been years when this annual cold spike has immobilized me. But this year it has induced concentrated effort. What this concentration has wrought is a finishing up of the Joseph book. There’s still much to do, but the story has been […]

A Problematic Entry

I really don’t quite trust what I am about to do here, but I’m going to do it. A few of you — a very few — know Road Angels, my 2002 book about travels down the West Coast. In it I tried something very different from my other books, both in tone and in content. I wanted to take a look at the American dream at the turn of the century; to paint a series of pictures of people […]

Contacting me

I’ve been told by some of you that you can’t figure out how to make comments on the website. This is unfortunate, and I’d like to explain the situation. Due to astonishing amounts of spam, I’ve had to shut down the “comments” section. Somehow, the masters of cyberjunk have figured out how to randomly attach to websites, and through links or whatever, can increase the amount of junk you receive in exponential increments. If I open the “comments” section, your […]

The Year Ahead

Twenty below, but beautiful. To those of you in the Singapore or Albuquerque this must seem insane. All I can say is that the poor Malaysian exchange students I see wandering the university campus in swaddled confusion would surely concur. But for those of us who have grown up with this, it is simply extreme, not insane. However, it certainly enforces a unique mindset upon us while we are in its thrall. I just want to let you know what […]


May you have the chance to love another, to serve another, to help another grow. May you find beauty in life without blinding yourself to the darkness where sadness and need hold sway. May you heal the wounds that you have caused and forgive those wounds that you have received. May you touch another life in a way that changes it for the better. This is Christmas, the one time of year when we turn our hearts toward the act […]

And So the Season Approaches

A funny time, Christmas. Like the winters of old, it seems to have been more significant in days gone by. It’s as if there has been a second generation of diminution of meaning about the holiday. The first, of course, was when it moved from a celebration of Jesus’ birth to a “Santa and sleigh” holiday, though in that incarnation it remained and remains a metaphoric reflection of its original intent. But this second generation diminution into a marketing fest […]

The Power of Service

The other day I received a spate of emails from Singapore and Malaysia. Apparently my story of taking the dying woman to the hospice (in Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace) has been published in an article or on a website somewhere in Southeast Asia. The response, as is always the case in regard to this story, has been overwhelmingly warm and appreciative. There are certain anecdotes that have proven over the years to have the capacity to touch […]


There has been a great deal of interest lately regarding what makes Neither Wolf nor Dog work. Much of this has been generated by class discussions and assignments at high schools and universities. I’d be curious as to what you as readers think. If any of you wants to offer a thought, send it to me via the website contact and I’ll post salient parts. It would be nice to know if you’re a native or non-native reader. This could […]

A Bit of a Rant, or Maybe a Sermon

I’ve received several responses to my post-election comments, and I want to follow up a bit. I made those observations — which I truly believe — with full knowledge that there is a certain portion of my readership that either does not wish to find political engagement in my writings, or holds to the belief that self discovery and self realization are basis for any meaningful political change. To the first, I must say that all our decisions and actions […]

Neither Wolf nor Dog continues its work

It has been an interesting week. I spent a day at Michigan State University, speaking with and visiting students. They had been reading Neither Wolf nor Dog for some of their classes. It is always a learning experience for me to find out what others take from my books. In the case of Neither Wolf nor Dog, it is especially interesting, because when I speak about that book, I am not always “preaching to the converted.” Native students bring a […]

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I’m not feeling very good about our country right now. And like many of the other politically walking wounded, I sense a dark force at work. For those of you who don’t share this view, I’m sure this sounds dire and melodramatic. But, in my heart, I sense something very bad taking place, and it makes me afraid. I could pour out my feelings in this weblog. But there is no need. A better man than I has expressed it […]

Listening over my shoulder

Last week I was in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where Neither Wolf nor Dog was the first annual selection for their “Community Reads” program. Their hope was to get 3000 people in the community to read and discuss the book. I was invited down to give several presentations. It was a fine event and I was deeply moved, as well as energized, by the community’s interest in the book and subjects it raised. What I believe it did, at least for […]

An interesting interview

I was recently contacted by a man named David Walls who wanted to interview me for a website called LocalDC.com. He sent me a series of questions, and I thought you might like to look over our shoulders as we carried on the email exchange. Here it is: Can you tell us a little about your background. I was born and raised near Minneapolis. Perhaps the most formative experience of my childhood was going out with my father, who worked […]

Sharing a dilemma

Hello everybody. You are, once again, witness to the rare occurrence of a Kent sighting in the underbrush of blogdom. In the next month I have a number of public appearances scheduled. I thought I’d make mention of two of them in case any of you happen to be in either area. The first will be in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, on the 25th of October. The city was kind enough to honor Neither Wolf nor Dog by choosing it as […]

Cruel earth, gentle sky

There is a quiet in the air today. I love fall — it has a pensiveness that speaks of great distances. There is a shedding and a forgetting, as well as a preparation. All speaks to past and future, while offering a gentle, enveloping presence. It is a good time to write. This fall, however, is also a hard time to write. There seems to be a national vindictiveness in the air, and it makes me angry and frustrated. Yet […]

Small Graces follow-up

Good morning, everyone. I told you I would post a few of the responses I received as to why readers appreciated/liked Small Graces. As I noted in an earlier blog post, you did not see them when they were posted because I had to cull them out of hundreds of inexcusable spamming posts for online casinos, viagra, and mortgage refinancings. These are a few snippets from what I received: . . . caught my eye – it was such a […]

A short explanation

I just received an email from a reader gently berating me for not writing more in my weblog. She also wondered why I was not receiving responses to my request for thoughts on Small Graces. A few words of explanation are in order. I have indeed been remiss in keeping up the weblog, and I hope you all understand that summer, work, etc., have taken precedence. I will try to write more as the autumn progresses. As to the Small […]

Small Graces thoughts

Thanks, everybody, for your comments on Small Graces. I have learned a great deal. It seems that one of the key notions that keeps surfacing is “gratitude.” I never thought “gratitude” was a central theme of the book, but as I reread it I see that there is a constant attitude of thankfulness at its heart. This makes sense, and, more than that, it illuminates something fundamental for me. I am not, never have been, and never will be a […]

Help Needed from Small Graces fans

Well, ever so slowly, the whirlwind of this amazing summer is settling down, and life is beginning to return to normal. To have gone from walking the hill towns of Tuscany to walking the hills of Idaho is quite a stretch. The mind and imagination reel from the sights seen and sensations experienced. But now I have a very real issue that, once again, requires your help. (Well, not all of you, but those of you who are devotees of […]

Italy, Idaho, and home

A long hiatus. It’s been a fascinating summer — one of the kind that seems to exist only in dreams. First, Italy with my family, then back out to Nez Perce country in eastern Oregon and Idaho by myself. Like many such experiences, these are too close and too complex to unpack easily. I can say without hesitation that it is a long emotional — not to mention, cultural — stretch between Italy and Idaho. But now I’m home and […]

Tyler’s headstone is in!

It’s happened. What a fine bit of human sharing, come together around a family’s simple need. In a world where the large forces often seem brutish and beyond our control, it is the small gestures that sometimes speak most eloquently. Marvel, for a moment, at the profound ordinariness of this all, then consider what we, together, have done. For those of you who have not been following this or have come late to the party, go back and read “Candles […]

A long-sought moment

There comes a moment in any creative project, whether writing, painting, composing, or anything else, when the work suddenly comes alive in your hands. What was a mass of disconnected materials mystically congeals and takes on a life of its own. You become almost an observer rather than a creator — you are a midwife to a new birth. It is for this moment that all creators live. Instead of cogitating and anguishing, you rush around in a kind of […]

A little help from my friends

This is a bit of a whim on my part, but it makes sense. I’ve been thinking about the project that I will undertake after I finish the Joseph book. And it occurs to me that I might want to ask you, my readers, what you would like me to write about. If you have any suggestions, let me know. I can’t promise anything, obviously, but it will help guide my thinking. Send me any thoughts under the “comments” section […]

back again

Well, I’ve certainly left you sitting on dead air for awhile. My apologies. There have been several reasons — none dire, but all real. First, I’ve been waiting for definitive word on the headstone. Carrie (the woman’s name — she has allowed me to use it) has had several surgeries and has thus far not sent me the email note to all of you that I’m hoping to publish here. She has, however, purchased the headstone, and it should be […]


Sorry about the dead website for the last several weeks. I’ve been busy on a number of fronts. There will soon be new news on the gravesite and headstone — a wonderful project that is coming to a wonderful conclusion. I also have been in Oklahoma and Kansas doing some Nez Perce research, and will soon be going to Alamosa, Colorado to speak at a college. All this is uninteresting without details, but you’ll have to wait until I have […]

I don’t usually do this . . .

Like most of you, I get a fair number of forwarded emails from friends who think that the content is something I should see. Occasionally they are humorous; mostly, they are political. I look upon them as the cyber-equivalent of bumper stickers and usually give them a quick skim. Sometimes, however, something catches my attention and holds it. This link, sent to me by a reader friend near Seattle, is a prime example. There is something so real, so unselfconscious […]

Sorry I haven’t written

Sorry I have been so remiss in writing. I’ve been waiting to hear from the family on the headstone. We have collected about $800, which will get us a flat stone with a laminated picture of Tyler and a votive candle holder. I’ve turned the project over to the family. But their life is one of seemingly endless sorrow and bad luck. The oldest son has been in the hospital with a stroke/diabetic complications, the woman herself has just had […]

Tyler’s Headstone, continued

Hello, everybody. Since I’ve last written, we have received many donations to the headstone fund. It has been a wonderfully gratifying experience. The family of the boy has been overwhelmed and overjoyed. Their misfortune in life continues, with the woman of whom I wrote now needing several surgeries, and not having, shall we say, the most bountiful benefit package in the world from our great American flagship, WalMart. So this beautiful moment of the headstone is a joy that shines […]

A Tearful Success

Well, the campaign for the headstone has been a wonderful success. The Unitarians, bless their ever-questioning souls, came through with unexpected generosity. The woman and I spoke together at the service. I told the story of how I got involved. She showed pictures of the young boy and told the story of the gravesite and how the cemetery board had made her take down her decorations. Then I brought up the dream of the headstone and how they could be […]

A Big Day

Today is a big day in a small way. I’ll be speaking at a Unitarian church, which, in itself, is nothing unusual. But today I’m going to try to accomplish something that has been weighing on me for several years. Those of you who have read Calm Surrender will remember the chapter, Candles on the Grave. In that piece I tell the story of a woman who holds a vigil at the grave of a child. Since the writing of […]

Why I Write –2

Good morning, everyone. It’s somewhere south of thirty below zero, not to get above -25 today. A hard time, quite beyond quaint and romantic. I woke up on this cold morning to the following message: Good morning Kent Nerburn, I pastor a small church in the suburbs of Milwaukee. One of my members, Doris, died on Tuesday and her funeral is tomorrow afternoon. On her bedside table, her daughter found your book “Small Graces” that she had been reading. She […]

A touching note

I just received this in an email. I pass it along because one does not often hear messages of such pure heart. It was written by someone who has the wisdom of 83 years on this earth. We would all do well to listen. Enjoy. > > Dear Bertha, > > I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting in the yard and admiring > the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more > time […]

The January Dagger

I just want to assure everyone that I haven’t disappeared . . .Well, in a way I have. We’ve been going through what I call the “January dagger” here in northern Minnesota. The temperature has been consistently below zero, hitting in the 20 to 30 below range on most nights, and creeping up toward single digits below on most days. Such temperatures do something slightly strange to one’s priorities and mental balance. It’s not that they are unbearable, so much […]

Why I write

This morning a reader sent me word that she had come across my writings through a columnist in the Madison Magazine in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m always curious about such things, so I dug the article out through a web search. It’s titled Unanswered prayers. The section quoted is taken from either Letters To My Son or Simple Truths. These are the kinds of surprises that keep a person writing. To the outside world the writing life looks glamorous. But on […]

New Year’s resolution

As the new year comes around and we are all awash in resolutions of self betterment, I’d like to propose two simple resolutions that we all can take to heart. They come from the Old Testament book of Micah and from the philosopher, Confucius. Micah asked, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Confucius counseled his followers to “bring peace to the old, have trust […]

Winter Musing

The great darkness of a northern winter has settled over our far corner of Minnesota. It always fascinates me to watch the world through thin light and a palette of greys and blues. It evokes a meditative distance even as the cold enforces a feeling of immediacy. I don’t think it is possible to overemphasize the power of the land and the weather to shape our characters, and it is this, more than any cultural affinity that draws me to […]

A Christmas message

Happy approaching holidays, everybody. The other day I was contacted by some people regarding Letters to My Son, my literary firstborn, published over a decade ago. I began paging through it to see how it felt after all these years. In the process, I came across the chapter entitled “The Miracle of Giving,” and it struck me that it would be a good piece to place in the weblog as a kind of Christmas greeting to all of you who […]

Joseph update and excerpt

Just a little update for a few of you who have asked. The book on Chief Joseph is coming along. My editor and I have had a bit of a time of it. He has wanted me to write a book for the New York Times crowd; I’ve wanted to write a book that shows the native people that I have a sensitivity to the issues that so infuriate them about white authors. These are two very different visions. I […]

A writer’s voice

When I was in high school I remember coming across a quote by Walt Whitman. The quote, as best I remember it, went something like this: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” That quote fascinated me when I first heard it, and it fascinates me still, because it put a positive cast on one of the strange, little noticed occupational hazards of writers and other creators. If you would truly […]

Victims or whiners?

It’s very gratifying to hear the responses regarding the dilemma of the teacher with the students who think it’s time for Indians to “get over it.” There is no doubt that the need to move forward is real, but we are all bearers of the burdens of the past. Somehow, we need to find a way to honor the truth that our past bequeaths us while keeping a strong vision for the future. It is no different for cultures than […]

Helping students

I recently received some correspondence from a second year teacher in a well-respected high school in a fairly wealthy, fairly white town. Her email read, in part, ” My 21st Century Elective English class finishes [Neither Wolf nor Dog] this week, and they’ve grown increasingly cynical and negative–especially toward Dan’s “ranting on white people who’ve never hurt him” (their words). I wanted them to read your particular work once their personal narratives revealed how close-minded and narrow many of their […]

Random thoughts

Something a little self-serving tonight. I’d like to ask your help. The other day I had to meet with a woman who was interested in enlisting me for a writing project. She mentioned that she had gone to Amazon.com and read the readers’ reviews of my books. I check those out periodically, and assume that potential readers do, too. But I had never drawn the very obvious conclusion that publishers and others who might have interest in my work also […]

Leonard Peltier

I recently received a comment on one of my submissions in which the writer spoke about the plight of Leonard Peltier. In all honesty, at first I thought the note was a generic submission generated by some arcane software technology that picks out a key word from cyberspace and homes in on every site that uses it. But this, it turns out, was far from the case. The comment was written by a real person, a deeply caring person, who, […]

Insight, or oversimplification?

The other day a friend asked me why I seemed more attuned to Native American spirituality than to Christianity. It seemed a false dichotomy, and I was tempted to launch into a labored clarification. Instead, without thinking, I blurted out, “Because I feel more responsible to my past than I do to my future.” Food for thought.

4 A.M. Zombies

Some of my male friends and I have a standing joke. It goes like this: “I was up last night at 4 A.M., wandering around, bored out of my skull.” “You should have just called any of the rest of us. We were all up, too.” It seems to be a malady/affliction of middle aged men, neither understood nor shared by our happily sleeping wives. I call us the 4 o’clock zombies. It’s easy to say that we’re the victims […]


I have just seen a miracle. Our friend — the woman I wrote of in an earlier entry, who was so devastated in an auto accident — one day fought her way through the physical devastation, and by an act of will and spiritual force, came back to the world of the living. Medical technology had done its job of holding her physical self together so that her spirit would have a place to dwell. And, lo, one day she […]

A fascinating exchange regarding Neither Wolf nor Dog

I thought you all might like to see an exchange I just had with a reader regarding Neither Wolf nor Dog. I’m removing the reader’s last name out of courtesy. But I found it a most fascinating exchange and thought it should be shared with all readers.

America’s fault line

Two stories from the blackout: A store owner in Detroit set up barbecue grills and spent the day grilling all the meat in his store and giving it away to the hungry and elderly in his neighborhood. Northwest Airlines refused to assist its customers stranded by the blackout in finding and paying for hotel rooms.

God’s surprises

No anecdotes or homilies tonight. Just some random thoughts. If there is a challenge before us during these times, it is to find a place between cynicism, where we know what’s wrong with everybody, and ideology, where we know what’s right for everybody. And to make this a place of more than empty tolerance, where the equal acceptance of all actions and points of view is seen as a positive moral value. The plain fact is that there simply are […]

A small gesture

I’m in one of those delightful and all-too-infrequent author moments when I’m inside the work and being carried along by it, rather than dragging it behind me or pushing it up a hill, Sisyphus style, like some excruciatingly heavy stone. So I don’t want to take too much time away from this magical stretch on my Joseph book to post to my weblog, but I do want you to know I’m still here and plugging away. I’ll content myself with […]

HS students & Letters to My Son

A while back I received a selection of letters written by high school students as a response to their reading of Letters to My Son. I thought you all might find them interesting and valuable. They are followed by the response I wrote to them as a group.


Last evening we had some friends over — a couple who teach history at the local university, and a man who, in some measure, is responsible for my decision to begin writing. He is 78 or 79, elfin in appearance, but with a penetrating look that speaks of depths of experience and understanding that I cannot begin to fathom. He was a child of the holocaust — an Austrian jew who, as a child, was taken by his mother to […]

“Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

I just returned from the local clinic — some routine bloodwork. As I drove in our driveway I saw my son’s sling for his broken wrist draped across a chair. And, of course, our friend in the ICU is always on my mind. Three folks, three different circumstances. Just three out of a hundred I could search out in my immediate circle of acquaintances, all needing medical care, none able to pay for it on their own if they didn’t […]

cyber cadre

I’m stunned, humbled, and astonished by the response I’ve gotten to this new website format. It probably helps that I’m actually putting some materials on it for a change. But it’s more than that. It’s the outpouring of heartfelt comments from so many people so quickly. I’m not sure how I’m going to keep up, or how I can manage this while keeping the inner solitude necessary to inhabit the spaces in the imagination where a writer necessarily must live. […]

Two touches

The other day I received two very different notes from readers. One, a kind and thoughtful touch from a man who appreciated my candor in revealing the person beneath the veneer of “author;” the other, a heartfelt but vicious attack by a Nez Perce woman who raised the well-known, but never well-answered, issue of whether white people should write about Indians. I know I touched a nerve in her, and she touched a nerve in me. I struggle with this […]

A sobering reminder

I spent Saturday and part of Sunday on a vigil at the bedside of a friend who was severely injured in an auto rollover accident (may there be a special hell for the people who produce and defend SUVs in the face of the overwhelming evidence that they are lethal machines). She may or may not make it, and, either way, in the wake of this horrible accident, two children, ages six and eight, are now for all times inhabited […]

Joseph project

In the strange, fleeting way that is northern Minnesota, the first hints of fall are already in the air. This morning I saw my first leaf beginning to turn from summer green to autumn yellow. It is a bittersweet moment, because it portends a quiet, restful passage into fall, while reminding us that our summers here are short almost beyond understanding. You can’t even grasp the totality of the experience before intimations of change are in the air. But, even […]


Hello everybody, I’ve been struggling toward cyber literacy so I can actually keep some measure of communication with you all. This is my first real attempt — a blog. It is, in effect, a test. So take it as that, and hope that more substantial offerings will follow.


We are in the middle of revamping the web site. As you can see, we’ve added a weblog to the home page, with the option of attaching comments to any weblog entry. And the subscription box on the right provides a way to subscribe to the weblog — easy to get on it, easy to get off. More additions to the site coming soon, including weblog posts from Kent. And shortly after that, we’ll send out the first edition of […]

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