Monday, December 13, 2010

Land of the Spotted Eagle

Land of the Spotted Eagle, Luther Standing Bear, 1933
Book Review

Very intense. Exhaustive. Encyclopedic in its delivery of Native American Indian culture. Upon reading, it transforms one’s perspective of such basic concepts as human knowledge and the human condition. Via the Indian perspective, as Luther Standing Bear calls it, one can grasp a much simpler comprehension of the social fabric as a form of infrastructure that services the human condition (spiritual and physical needs included). One can also see, using the Indian experience in America as a microcosm, how the unraveling and dissolution of this fabric affects the complete well-being of its members/users.

This is a study of art as human expression, necessary to the well-being of both the individual and the group. It is a reminder of the unifying features of all spiritual endeavors: We live as a means for life to enjoy itself – the Greater Life that is in all things – hence it is our purpose and our pleasure to ritualize our human experience through dance, music, art, thought and action. These ways are so embedded in every human that to ignore them is to cause harm. The fate of Standing Bear’s people shows this truth.

This story stirs deep anger and confusion in the 21st century reader. Anger at the force, greed and disregard used by the European Americans of the time. Anger, most of all, at the loss. One is forced, at the conclusion of this book, to penetrate deep into one’s heart to find the reason for their sacrifice. Finally, one realizes that this story, already one hundred years since its beginning, is still teaching, not in the oral tradition, but in a new way, for a new people, and in that, there is hope.

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