TOUCHING THE FIRE by Roger Welsch

TOUCHING THE FIRE

Buffalo Dancers, the Sky Bundle, and Other Tales
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Folklorist, widely published and broadcast essayist Welsch-- who was adopted into the Omaha Tribe in 1967--reveals much love and knowledge of Plains Indian people and their spiritual life, but skilled fiction writing still eludes him in his 16th book and second collection (It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It from Here, 1990). The first of the seven linked stories takes place in the year 2001, when members of the invented Nehawka tribe outwit a racist museum director and retrieve their sacred Sky Bundle. The stories move backwards in time until the historic origin of the bundle, the symbolic objects it contains, and the sometimes otherworldly events they commemorate are all revealed. By the end, the logic-oriented reader is led to appreciate that cultural fragments strewn through the text may seem irrational taken out of context but, in fact, are meaningful and make sense. The opening pieces, concerned with contemporary political issues, are more problematic: characters rarely transcend stereotype, and affirmative endings seem forced-- as when a violent racist ex-drug-dealer turned bounty-hunter tracks down two young Indians who've jumped bail after an arrest for distributing sacramental peyote; exposure to their innate nobility and religious conviction transforms him; he helps them beat the rap, marries the young woman, and throws in his lot with the Nehawka. Welsch opens with a passionately partisan and moving essay about the religious persecution of Native American peoples; the stories themselves, while well-intentioned and offering interesting detail, remain heavy-handed and unconvincing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-40887-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992




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