Books by Harvey Arden

PRISON WRITINGS by Leonard Peltier
Released: June 23, 1999

" An important contribution to Native American letters, sure to stir both controversy and renewed attention for Peltier's ongoing quest for freedom. "
Part manifesto, part memoir, a standout collection by the celebrated, long-imprisoned American Indian Movement co-founder and activist. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

A multilayered but self-conscious adventure story told by National Geographic journalist Arden and photographer Wall, who embark on personal spirit-journeys while returning to investigate the living culture of Native American wisdom (their first account was Wisdomkeepers, not reviewed.) A spirit-journey is a journey into metaphor as a means to the belief system of others, as well as self. Using this definition of spirit-journey to drive the narrative, Arden and Wall take on a mission: tracing the dying generation of Native American elders known as Wisdomkeepers, for a National Geographic article. Multiple roadblocks, from professional red tape to personal prejudices, keep the actual stories of the Native American elders from being satisfactorily revealed. Instead, the roadblocks themselves become the predominant, but less compelling, story. As Arden and Wall pursue the "truth" behind "Indian ways——the work of "real" medicine men, Indian reactions and remedies to pollution and the desecration of ancestral graves—they frequently give less weight to the telling of the Native American point of view than to the telling of their own perspective as whites studying Indian culture. They travel from the Iroquois Nation to the Everglades to the Oklahoma burial grounds of the Shawnee, collecting Indian blessings and warnings about impending natural disasters. While the two journalists seem to connect intimately with Indian people, the poetry of Native American culture, and their experience of it, is replaced with more prosaic events like getting the Geographic editorial board to accept a story despite "mystical" overtones. The most important messages, spoken by Arden himself and Chief Shenandoah of the Six Iroquois Nations, are obscured by unending personal reflection. Arden says, "The great challenge of our time is to find metaphors that include rather than exclude." Shenandoah says, "I'm working for the creation. I refuse to take part in its destruction." If Arden and Wall had been less reluctant to exclude themselves in their self-reflection, the more important story of their involvement in the creation and its destruction might have been told. (photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: April 27, 1994

An interesting but nonetheless weak follow-up to Arden's (Wisdomkeepers, not reviewed) work on American Indian spirituality and values. Arden travels to Australia in an attempt to get inside that country's aboriginal culture to produce a volume containing ``Dreamtime'' stories. Dreamtime, or simply the Dreaming, is, for the aborigines, a kind of hybrid: part creation narrative and part physical map. It encompasses the mythic time when the Australian continent was born and its topography turned into a numinous landscape whose every rock and rill has meaning for its indigenous inhabitants. Yet, at the same time, it is contemporary, a place and a state of mind into which believers can enter in the here and now, thus participating in an ongoing creation. From the outset of his trip, the author encounters difficulties. Whereas, he states, his Native American informants were willing, even eager, to talk and share their innermost thoughts, the aborigines with whom he speaks are suspicious and reticent. He is told that the Dreaming is personal and not to be shared with outsiders. Ultimately, he collects very few stories. This volume documents his attempts. Despite this failure, he learns and offers readers a fair amount about people fighting to maintain their traditional culture in the midst of a foreign culture that has overwhelmed them. Though Arden makes a show of doubting the sincerity of his own motives for seeking out the Dreaming (``Get your own Dreamtime,'' one man growls. ``Don't take ours''), he is not so conscience- stricken as to refrain from peddling what he has learned. Read full book review >