Kent Nerburn is the author of sixteen books on spirituality and is widely respected for his dedicated work bridging the gap between the Native and non-Native traditions.
In the prologue to his latest book, Voices in the Stones he shares his impressions regarding the width and degree of that chasm and is not shy in exposing the ashes of destruction that can be found littering it
When establishing the degree to which the Native American tradition conflicts with the fundamentalist Western mindset Nerburn states "They’re driving you from your homes, your way of living, your way of honoring the Creator. They take from you whatever they want and insist that their way should govern all your dealings with them. They do not use their language to speak from a pure and clear heart, but to twist the truth and get their own way.”
Strong words indeed!
A True Story
Voices in the Stones is Kent Nerburn’s personal recollection of major events that have taken place over the past three decades whilst spent living and working among several tribes of Native American people.
The book forms a unique collection of his encounters, experiences and reflections drawn from his efforts to understand and protect the traditions of the original inhabitants of the Lakota culture in particular.
For the author the story begins in September 1988 when he took a job on in the deep pine forests of northern Minnesota and on the Red Lake Ojibwa reservation.
From there he studied and absorbed the Native cultural values of peoples from South Dakota to the mountains of eastern Oregon an the windswept plains of Montana.
A long a painful journey of insight and revelation which has clearly opened his eyes to a spiritual and ecological world we desperately need to reclaim.
Our Review of Voices in the Stones by Kent Nerburn
Throughout his book Nerburn impresses upon his reader the great sense of humility that is expressed by all native peoples - along with their deep respect for the natural world that they inhabit.
Whilst many of their ancient traditions are fast disappearing under the relentless pressure of modern 'civilisation' many of the sacred practices remain today and Nerburn shares his own personal experiences of many of these with his readers.
What is most impressive about this work is the fact that the author also manages to convey a deep sense of spiritual reverence that the elders of the Native Tradition have towards the divine creator. Sadly this is not the same God of the Christian evangelists who fought to destroy their culture and traditions.
In this regard their sense of spiritual identity is more personal and private to them.
As Nerburn states:
"There is no need to justify the purity or sufficiency of your spiritual convictions, no need to defend them through theology or philosophy or argumentation. All that is necessary is that you acknowledge the Great Mystery that is behind everything and present in everything."
Despite the inherent sense of pain and anguish that pervades through this book at the declining worlds of the Native peoples it is an enjoyable and generally light-hearted read.
In this somewhat subtle context the writer further exposes the mindset of those who have, and still do, attacked the ways, rights and freedoms of these proud nations as the pompous, over-bearing and scurrilous despots that there are.
Thus Voices in the Stones is a bitter-sweet book; but is an important one, for it some small part shows us so clearly what it is we have lost as a Western culture and need to re-embrace if we are to survive.
The work of Kent Nerburn will, one day, be highly-valued as the precious archive that it is but until then the fight continues.