Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth

Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth

by Steven McFadden
Bear & Company, Santa Fe, NM, 1991; paper.

Coincident with the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the Americas, Time magazine lamented the loss of a vast wisdom tradition in a feature called “Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge.” It also noted the dearth of scholars willing to document the remaining cultures around the world, which are facing the destruction of their natural habitats as well as their tribal existence.

In synchronous concern, author Steven McFadden addresses the same causal forces, such as our separation from the earth and misuse of techno logy, but with a remedial approach. Profiles in Wisdom : Native Elders Speak About the Earth is a series of vignettes on indigenous America ns who speak about these issues and the spiritual influences in their lives.

McFadden distinguishes his subjects as “elders” by virtue of the unique use of their cultural wisdom in their own lives and its impact on those around them. Seventeen individuals from as many tribe s of North and South America speak about the present and coming age in a context all agree up on- survival based on cooperative effort and elevated consciousness.

The author has reserved his personal opinions in the interviews, which allows a natural focus to emerge. Despite the geographic diversity of his Native American subjects, the message for today's world is essentially the same. The warrior woman Oh Shinnah whose ancestors come from both Apache and Mohawk traditions says that “There has to be a revolution in this country. I think it has to be a spiritually political revolution.”

All agree that changing our fundamental thinking is essential. “Human consciousness has to evolve and expand,” says Sun Bear of the Chippewa-Ojibwa, who revealed the prophecy and mission of the modern-day Rainbow Warriors. And the Seneca prophetess Grandmother Twylah Nitsch reminds us that “Nothing works with out the focus on truth, wisdom, and faith.”

For many of these earth-spirit representatives, the proper use of innate natural forces as their own elders taught is still a viable solution to our myriad problems. A state civil service administrator, J. T. Garrett of the Cherokee says “… that’s how I see our role in the nineties: to modify the energy and bring it back to a level of harmony and balance.” The men and women of Profiles in Wisdom articulate well-known dilemmas, yet each is distinguished by a commitment to solving the concern as well as pursuing a personal quest. This marvelous balance of individuality and collective participation shines clearly through each facet of McFadden's collection of Native American gems.


Winter 1992