BRIAN RICE'S FINE BOOK: SEEING THE WORLD WITH ABORIGINAL EYES: A FOUR DIRECTIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN VALUES, CULTURES, AND RELATIONSHIPS ON TURTLE ISLAND [A REVIEW BY HUNTER GRAY] JULY 7 2006  [WITH COMMENTS]

AND DALE JACOBSON'S FINE POETRY  [REVIEW BY HUNTER GRAY] OCTOBER 28 2008

 

Review by Hunter Gray:

Brian Rice, Seeing the World With Aboriginal Eyes:  A Four Directional
Perspective on Human and non-Human Values, Cultures, and Relationships on
Turtle Island [Winnipeg:  Aboriginal Issues Press, 2005, 90 pages, notes and
references.]
Via http://www.umanitoba.ca/environment/aboriginal_issues_press/?p=index

This is a strong, timely, and welcome work.

Brian Rice, Mohawk and Finnish, and a well-traveled Native Studies
researcher and scholar at the University of Winnipeg, has quite capably
climbed a very high tree indeed.  And, from that vantage point, he has
looked carefully, reflectively, and analytically -- from and within a
traditional non-linear, circlic context -- at Humanity and Life
[collectively and individually] and the place of such in the Great Cosmos.

Looking high and digging deeply, this book is very carefully organized.  Its
structural river moves with deliberation as does any bona fide stream --
sensitively through the several levels of topical geography and topography.
[And, as it does so, the Sun shines brightly upon the water.]  Dr. Rice ably
and clearly delineates four highly complex dimensions that make up the
Totality.  Each of these is carefully examined and fully feathered out in
rich detail.

The first, "Eastern Door: The Seeing Path -- World of the Spirit",
encompasses the basic essence and nature of Cosmology and the inter-twined
currents of knowledge and belief emanating from the Spirit World via such
phenomena as Vision.  Various perspectives of understanding, realms of
existence, concepts of time and sacred places, creation accounts and
prophecies, vision and sound and song, spirit world, nature, and universe
are among the well and artfully woven strands in this seminal portion.

Aware of the challenges now involved in maintaining one's commitment to the
traditional culture, even on reserves and reservations, [which a great many
meet well indeed], Professor Rice also astutely comments that  "the recent
migration of Aboriginal people to urban centres has provided urban
Aboriginal youth with access to more traditional elders than they might have
while living in their original communities." [Page 3]  This began to be
noticed, I might add, by the late '60s and early '70s in the urban Indian
communities of the United States -- experiencing rapid growth via the
ill-starred "urban relocation" program of the Federal government.  Faced
close-up with the hostile and ugly pressures of "urban/industrial mainstream
America," many Natives in the cities became rapidly more cognizant of the
great importance of their traditional cultures.

He follows with "The Southern Door:  Ways of Relating" --  a focus on the
relationships of people and life with the worlds of Earth, Spirits, and Sky.
Drawing from tribal traditions, he notes that "Aboriginal peoples'
understanding of the world is directly related to their understanding of the
stars" [Page 39] and, among other things, details the traditional Anishnawbe
[Ojibwe] Moon Calendar. In this second section, among much more, he includes
a very interesting discussion of reincarnation [a belief found in many
tribal cultures] as well as Meso-American material.

"Western Door: Coming to Knowing" probes deeply into the Hero/Restorer, the
Peacemaker, the contemporary search for traditional and sacred knowledge and
insight, aboriginal folkways and mores [codes], and the nature of Aboriginal
consciousness.  [A key component, "The Vision Quest -- A Personal Act of
Sacrifice", struck an especial note of personal resonance with this
reviewer.

"The conscious, personal unconscious and the collective unconscious parts of
the psyche," he notes, "all play an integral part in forming the Aboriginal
consciousness; and they offer the Aboriginal person a way to be in harmony
and balance with the physical and metaphysical realms of existence." [Page
66]

Then the final section, "Northern Door:  Ways of Doing", brings this all
directly to Us:  the Red Road and attendant ethical and moral issues, the
Sacred Realm and becoming Whole, the shaman [highly trained medicine person]
as traditional specialist, and the trail into and within the vital
complexities of the person and his/her Life Journey.

In his conclusion, Brian Rice writes, "In recent years there has been a
change that has been taking place.  From the 1960s until today, there are
those looking inside themselves to connect with the
universal conscious.  They are not only Aboriginal peoples, but others as
well who are seeking answers through ancient teachings.  They are on a
search to know themselves better and to have a better relationship with the
world they live in.  To do this they have had to change the way they
previously saw their place in the world.  With patience, prayer and
meditation, they are only now beginning to understand in part what it is
like to "See the World With Aboriginal Eyes."  [Page 85]

As his thorough and reflective and interpretative river wends its always
fascinating way, Professor Rice draws heavily from his own rich store of
experiential and observational wealth covering a number of tribal nations
and cultures -- laced with an appropriate array of cross-cultural examples
from other settings.  His work is complemented by numerous citations from
other authoritative persons.

Two other books in this genre, each from the 1970s, come to mind:

In his God is Red: A Native View of Religion, Vine Deloria Jr. provides an
excellent and occasionally impassioned Native critique of Christianity.  And
in another quite worthwhile book, American Indian
Religion and Christianity, Fr. Carl Starkloff, S.J., quite convincingly
traces many parallels [and some differences] between the basics of the
Native theologies and Christianity.

And from his high-up Aboriginal perch in the tree, Brian Rice very capably
and astutely surveys and then systematically explores the intricacies of the
Entirety:  dichotomies and duality, things seen and unseen, challenges,
unity and harmony -- and the meaning of purposeful and positive life for
society and the individual.

He is clearly cognizant and fully committed to that fundamental Native
ideal: i.e., serving one's community rather than serving one's self.

This fine and full work, clearly organized and lucidly written, can be
profitably read by both Natives and non-Natives.  And, in addition to the
general field of Native studies,  it is also well suited for courses in
anthropology, religious studies, philosophy, psychology, and sociology of
religion.

Hunter Gray. [Retired full professor and former departmental chair, American
Indian Studies, University of North Dakota.  Address: 2000 Sandy Lane,
Pocatello, Idaho 83204
hunterbadbear@hunterbear.org  ]


HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

COMMENTS:
 
Enjoyed your book review.  Quite comprehensive and lively.
 
JS [John Salter]
________________________________________________________________________
Good Morning, Hunter:

Thanks for the substantive review of this book. I'll be sure to get it. In
addition to the other similar works you cite, your review of Rice's book
reminds me of Robert Allen Warrior's Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian
Intellectual Traditions. While not a "four-directional perspective," Warrior is
still high enough in the tree to compare the writings of Vine Deloria, Jr. and
John Joseph Mathews. Again, thanks for sharing your wonderful critique.

MariJo Moore (Cherokee) has just released a new work -- Eating Fire, Tasting
Blood: An Anthology of the American Indian Holocaust (Thunder Mouth Press).
I'm happy to say my essay is included -- "From Wasouk to Shoah and Back: A
Mi'kmaq Honor Song." Thanks again, Hunter, for looking over the early manuscript
draft. Your comments helped me to strengthen the essay.

Alice M. Azure
Maryville, IL 62062
 
____________________________________________________________________________
 

FROM HUNTER:

Dear Alice:

Thanks for the good words -- and congratulations on getting your quite important
piece into book print! Fine news for sure. You are an excellent thinker and
writer.

Best, H

________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

Dear Mr. Salter,
I continue to learn from you  even in my old age (smile).
Hope that you are relatively well.
Regards to the family.
WWW,
Mary Ann [Mary Ann Hall Winters]
 
__________________________________________________________________________________
 
Thanks, Hunter, We have sent it out to those on our list that will find Dr. Rice's book very interesting...RWG  [Bob Gately]

cowboysonmars.com is coming back to earth at the speed of light...Welcome aboard !

_______________________________________________________________________

Nia:wen Kowa Hunter Gray,

For reviewing the book and putting it on the Website.

Brian Rice

__________________________________________________________________

DALE JACOBSON'S FINE POETRY  [REVIEW BY HUNTER GRAY]  OCTOBER 28 2008

Dale Jacobson, my old somewhat reclusive but always activist companero at the University of North Dakota and much more, has climbed high yet again.

The creative process has always seemed to me to be a universally lonely trail. One of my clearest memories of my father, a gifted fine artist, involves his painting while sitting in the midst of our oft-wild and turbulent household, eyes half closed and most of him at that point in an entirely removed dimension -- while another part of him transposed that which he saw and felt onto canvas. But his good works always had, in the final analysis, a directive point, humanist in ethos drawn from his long associations with important components of the human family. And he was always cognizant of the omnipresent context and ultimate primacy of the natural world and Cosmos.

As I see it, this also holds true, with whatever individual variants, for good poetry, good literature, good journalism.

Our several closely related discussion lists are fortunate to have solid examples of all of these.

We have some fine poets in our corral. Sam Friedman has quite recently issued yet another book, Making the World Anew. It can be obtained for $25 (plus any shipping fees) from Amazon, or Hamilton Books or from sam4wp@netscape.net .

Alice M. Azure has recently put forth, In Mi'kmaq Country: Selected Poems & Stories, Albatross Press [Chicago and Guelph.] It is 78 pages of poetry and prose, plus an Introduction by Professor Terry Straus, Chicago; and Notes; and a page of interesting photos.[$15.00] Available from Alice via Speelya@aol.com

And now, Dale Jacobson of Minnesota and North Dakota, has come with another splendid collection of his works: Metamorphoses of the Sleeping Beast. It's an attractive book with sixty plus poems -- all of this finely tuned and honed radical stuff -- plus a full and nicely done introduction by Scott King of Northfield, MN. Available from Red Dragonfly Press, Box 406, Red Wing, MN 55066. [$14.95] Dale's e address is dalejacobson@earthlink.net .

The book is divided into several quite interrelated sections: Talking with the Keeper of Nightmares, Hands Lifted in the Sun, Lost and Found Among Women, Punctual Eternities.

In the first, Nightmares, this caught my own oft-blacklisted Ishmaelite eye immediately: Upon Not Being Invited To Read On That "Common Ground" -- and this promise therein:

"But one day I'll walk through those
great doors: arrive in the middle of
some fancy fable like a trespasser
in my own back yard -- and among
those academics carry a dead bleeding
rabbit and thump it down with the sound
of a mute thing falling hard upon
my own long-loved unforgiving ground --
the way the poor learn despair -- and say:

"Until you see its gentle huge eyes glow
black and fierce, and its shape rise
like a ragged nightmare bird
from the center of Lake Marshall
with moonlight like phosphorous burning
on its wings, whatever you say
about this ground: is a goddamned lie."

Hands Lifted contains intricately done reflections on unique and positive human beings with whom Dale has had much contact. They range, among others, from Lilly Francis, a part-Choctaw psychic from Pearl River County, MS and a great English teacher at UND and a great human being -- to the radical poet, Tom McGrath, a long-time associate of Dale's; and to another close friend of his, the Left writer Meridel LeSueur. [And well, yes, I'm honored to be in there as well.]

Lost and Found Among Women contains its own unique, fine nuggets:

After A Phone Call
- Therese

"Far from her voice that arrives
like a vegetable vine
of traveling blossoms - like
the squash we raise
close to the earth - I study
the moon over the prairie,
the same moon that casts
its light upon that distant city
and brightens the road between -
a blazing patch on this floor -
while the same light shines
in her eyes there: one hour."

Punctual Eternities continues Dale's radical perspective: is rooted in Nature, reflective, optimistic. Its final piece, Songs Of The Seasons, carries this as the conclusion:

"Mourning doves, crows and sparrows:
winds of song make public the brooding soil.
And we open doors, speak and build
what light we can, dreamers of the earth's dream:

metamorphoses of the sleeping beast."

Dale Jacobson's work sensitively delineates and feathers out the vitally human dimensions of individuals, communities, issues, struggle, hope. He provides Life and Optimism -- in addition to Insight and Courage. Without becoming entangled in spider webs of intricate "ideology," he consistently remains a visionary radical in the best American and Human traditions. His is the "oak wood fire" that burns long indeed -- into the future and far beyond.

I miss the days when he and I -- and sometimes a few others -- would get together at Hardees's in Grand Forks, ND to talk about radical creative works, what the hell was going wrong at the University of North Dakota, and the myriad of racial and class injustices in the Northern Plains and far beyond.

We always left those sessions committed to Keep Fighting.

Yours,

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
Eastern Idaho

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

FROM DALE JACOBSON:

Thank you Hunter for the wonderful commentary on my book!  I deeply
appreciate what you say, the remembrance of your father, words for
Sam's book and Alive Azure, and specifically mention of Lilly and
of course yourself.  I too like the poem for my home town and
the cranky promise, as you put it, at the end.  Maybe I'll do that
yet, though the poem already does. 

Lisa is planning to join us to watch the election results.  I know
both of us will be thinking of you and everyone there.  Thank you
much again.  I like much the comparison to oak fire, the purest
burning wood (though elm is also good) I even burned. 
I miss our visits.  Who knows, maybe Therese and I will
get the ambition to visit you there yet.  I hope you know how
much I am very happy to have this!

all my best, Dale

 

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

Check out our massive social justice website:  www.hunterbear.org

Honored with The Elder Recognition Award by Wordcraft Circle of Native
Writers and Storytellers:
http://www.hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

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