Mabel McKay's baskets cannot be separated from her Dreams, for it is through them that she learned to weave and to heal. A world-renowned Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman, Mabel spent her life teaching others about the culture she helped to keep alive and the Dream world in which she lived. But to understand Mabel's life, one must understand the way the spirit speaks through the Dream, the way the spirit heals, and the way the spirit demands to be heard. In this wise book, Greg Sarris weaves together stories from Mabel's life with an account of how he tried, and she resisted, telling her story straight - the white people's way. Greg finds his own story through his search for Mabel's, and in doing so shows how stories have lives of their own. To understand stories, one must learn about the culture in which they live. Weaving the Dream initiates the reader into Pomo culture and the ruptures it has faced during this century - the damage missionizing has done, the demise of native villages like Lolsel, and some of the last dances in the Roundhouses. Yet it bears witness to the continuation of the Acorn and Strawberry Festivals and the survival of Dreaming. It also offers an appreciation for the canning, fruit picking, clothes washing, and other work that sustains minority communities during the worst adversity, and an understanding of how a woman who worked most of her life in a cannery can also be a great healer and an artist whose baskets are collected by the Smithsonian. In Mabel's life as an Indian weaver and healer, the supernatural was in fact perfectly natural, and in Sarris's Weaving the Dream any distinction between material and spiritual, between mundane and magical, disappears. What remains is a timeless way of healing and of making art, and an ancient, yet still vital, way of being in the world.
In his endeavor to write about McKay, the celebrated Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman, Sarris English, UCLA has been able to find his own identity. Part American Indian, Filipino, and Jewish, he was adopted at birth and is now chief of the Coast Miwok tribe. His bonding with this extraordinary individual and his growth during their relationship is described throughout the book. Sarris's catharsis is reflected on the last page: "I squatted in front of her and repeated my questions. `Why did you do it for me?' She looked me in the eye and said, plain as day, `Because you kept coming back."' McKay's life, simple yet spiritual, is as quintessential as the baskets she wove. Her stories are poignantly collected and captured in this biography. Recommended for public libraries.-Vicki L. Toy Smith, Univ. of Nevada, Reno
Part American Indian, Filipino, and Jewish, Greg Sarris was adopted at birth and raised in both Indian and white families. He is Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies at Sonoma State University. His books include Keeping Slug Woman Alive: Essays Toward a Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts (California, 1993), Watermelon Nights (1998), Grand Avenue (1994), and The Sound of Rattles and Clappers: An Anthology of California Indian Writing (1994).