WOLF THAT I AM: In Search of the Red Earth People by Fred McTaggart

WOLF THAT I AM: In Search of the Red Earth People

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fred McTaggart, doctoral student at the University of Iowa, came to the Mesquakie Indians as a romantic and exploitative intruder in the great white tradition. He wanted to capture their ancient stories on his tape recorder, and he wanted, typically, to ""help"" the Mesquakies preserve what he thought of as the last fragments of a dying culture. He found out that the Mesquakies' oral tradition was very much alive, and that it irrevocably excluded him. What he did learn from the gentle but firm indirection of the Indians was a great deal about himself--about his own acquisitive and inattentive attitude towards experience. He portrays himself truthfully and without mercy as he first bumbled around the reservation, embarrassed and overeager. Then, as the Indians forced him to listen and wait, he began to sense something of the many-faceted function of their sacred stories--which teach both wisdom and discipline--and to receive some of the same parabolic instruction through his own experiences with them. The reader must judge that he did not fully overcome his wistful romanticization of Mesquakie culture, but did learn to respect its privacy, its difference, and its resiliency; and he does convey a rudimentary sense of its preservation of communal identity through living history and its reverent intimacy with the natural world. His book carries a quiet, useful message for white readers, much of it in a new style: between the lines.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1976
ISBN: 0806119055
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin