TRAVELS IN A STONE CANOE: The Return to the Wisdomkeepers by Harvey & Steve Wall Arden

TRAVELS IN A STONE CANOE: The Return to the Wisdomkeepers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

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.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster