MOHAWK BLOOD by Michael Baughman

MOHAWK BLOOD

A Native American Quest
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A sometimes poignant but ultimately banal memoir that simultaneously essentializes American Indians and has nothing to do with them. Baughman, a freelance writer who contributes to Field and Stream and other publications, is a distant relation of Joseph Brant, a renowned Mohawk statesman of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Baughman claims that Brant is one of the two most important people in this book, though readers learn very little about him and his name is, in fact, barely mentioned. The other key personality in the volume is the author's grandfather, John Brant, who taught Baughman as a boy about the famous chief. The ten chapters of the volume are loosely linked ruminations by Baughman on his own life as it relates to that of his grandfather, a small Pennsylvania farmer who taught his grandson about the woods, nature, and life. When teaching the young Baughman to shoot and hunt, this grandfather tells him that it is in his ``blood.'' Small incidents, like the family dog getting into a scrap with a porcupine, are presented in affectionate detail. Baughman tells of portraying an Indian in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. He also relates his travels to numerous reservations, the only places, he claims, where ``real'' Indians can live together and which, paradoxically, according to the author, almost all the residents want to leave. Modern-day Indian dysfunctionality and misery are dwelt upon as a means of looking back elegiacally on a sepia-toned past. The volume ends with Baughman's lament for the ``purity of Mohawk life,'' whose doom was sealed 200 years ago, and his passing on of his Mohawk blood to his children, thus completing the circle of his own life. Pretentious and riddled with inaccuracies, the book is best viewed as Baughman living out the ultimate white colonial fantasy- -playing Indian.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55821-376-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Lyons Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995