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 Ways of Learning, The Ways of the Heart, and The Ways of Leading Others. It also has some interesting quotes that reflect Native thinkers’ opinions of the direction of our culture and civilization. I co-edited this with my wife, Louise Mengelkoch. It is a wonderful primer for people interested in the best of Native thought presented in aphorisms and short observations.
Soul of an Indian
Here I took the writings of one of the men I discovered while doing Native American Wisdom — Ohiyesa, or Charles Alexander Eastman — and tried to present it almost as a “gospel” of his thinking. I consider him one of the most insightful and spiritually clear thinkers of any Native person who has ever put pen to paper. As I wrote in my notes about the book, he was someone to whom I would entrust my country or my son. Enough said.
Wisdom of the Native Americans
This book contains the complete versions of Native American Wisdom, Soul of an Indian, and a book now out of print entitled Wisdom of the Great Chiefs. Wisdom of the Great Chiefs contained three extended speeches — one from Red Jacket given at the time of first contact with the European, in which the true confidence and clarity of the Indian at the time of contact is eloquently revealed; Chief Joseph’s speech in Washington D.C. in 1878 in which he lays out the sad trajectory of his people from before contact to their exile in Indian Territory after their flight and capture; and the most trustworthy version of the very problematic but very beloved speech of Chief Seattle that is so widely quoted and well-known to contemporary audiences.
A Haunting Reverence
The most poetic and interior book I ever wrote. A spiritual geography about the power of the land to shape the spirit of those who live on it. Highly praised by Robert Bly and now, sadly, out of print.
Neither Wolf nor Dog
My story of travels with an Indian elder across the Dakotas that is quickly becoming a standard in high school and college curricula across the nation and a classic in the field of Indian studies.
Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace
An extended meditation on the famous prayer of St. Francis, in which I use anecdotes from my life and the lives of others to illuminate the spiritual heart of that magnificent prayer.
Letters to My Son
Another book that has become a classic in its own way. My thoughts on the most important issues in life — falling in love, death and dying, The miracle of giving, The gift of the elders, etc. This book was my “firstborn” (other than the collection of Native American Wisdom), meant as a bequest to my son if I should die before he reached adulthood. It has a purity of heart that only first works ever have.
A more succinct and spiritually focused version of Letters To My Son, with fewer anecdotes and applicability to all ages and both sexes. It is really a book of spiritual meditations on life’s most significant issues.
A meditation on the ordinary events of an ordinary day, trying to let the spiritual dimension of life shine through. My most domestic and familial-feeling book.
A book that is almost out of print, in which I wrestle with the difficult issue of forgiveness. Unfortunately named to sound like a book of acquiescence to fate, it is really a book about the need for a strong, clear, muscular response to the inequities in the world. It is filled with anecdotes and stories that illuminate the struggle that we face when asked to live a life of forgiveness in a world that sometimes offers up seemingly unforgiveable events.
Another book that is effectively out of print. Quite unlike anything else I have ever written. It was intended as a look at America as embodied in the West Coast at the end of the 20th century. I called it a book about what happens when people reach “the end of hope and the beginning of dream.” Reads like a novel; chronicles my return to the West and a journey I took down the coast from our northern border to Big Sur, and all places in between. Sadly misinterpreted as a “white male mid-life crisis” book, it was actually an impressionist painting of America’s West Coast and the nature of the American dream cloaked in the narrative of a journey.
Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce
You’ve all heard enough about this by now. A story we all need to know, in the same way we all need to know about our Japanese internment camps during WWII. Told as a story, not a history, and as close to accurate as 4 years of study, research, and conversations with the Nez Perce could make it.Posted on: November 29, 2005knerburn