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KLIATTIn a collection of essays and poems, 35 writers from more than 25 tribes bring today's issues of Native American identity to the fore. The articulate compositions deal with thorny matters. Residence in the cities or on reservations shape those who choose one or the other and distress those who move back and forth between the two. Persons of mixed blood struggle to figure out where they belong. Government laws, treaties, agreements, policies, and court decisions touch Indian lives in the US and in Canada and continue to be a source of irritation. Indians search within Christian churches and Native spirituality traditions to find fulfilling faith. Issues of poverty, alcoholism, and unemployment continue to rankle. Education is often seen as something that pulls students away from their heritage. Conflicts continue within families and among tribal and regional groups. Tribes oppose the use of Indian mascots by non-Indians because they believe the larger culture is appropriating symbols to which they have no right. They observe that many Americans in the larger culture view Indians as people of the past and often seem to revere them in a mythological sense more than they care about them as living human beings. According to these authors, much effort in the Indian community goes into recovering culture and identity and to fighting the bad things that come so readily to mind. Some writers urge their fellows to focus less on assigning blame for negatives and more on how to enrich their lives through restoring traditional culture. Indian schools help identity by including language and cultural elements in their curriculum; education can be positive when used as a path to improvements of allkinds. Indian groups and individuals have learned to make use of storytelling, singing, poetry, language learning (including the sound recording of oral language), family connections, and gatherings such as pow wows. Some have learned to use technology and to work within institutions to further the Indian cause and image. Though all the writers have some sense of dislocation they find troubling, their excellent, readable essays also reflect pride in a rich culture waiting to be reclaimed more fully. They look forward to how the future can be made better. Many tell of experiencing richer lives when they reconnect with their roots. The harshness of the title is unfortunate because there is a lot that is positive in the book. Older teen readers, university students, and adults will appreciate these frank, contemporary pieces of writing. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Thunder's Mouth Press, 352p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Edna Boardman