Embracing Fry Bread: Confessions of a Wannabe

Roger Welsch. Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8032-2532-9
In a memoir filled with compassion and humor, Welsch (Touching the Fire) writes neither as an anthropologist nor an activist, but simply as a non-Indian, self-described “wannabe” grateful at having had the chance, more by fate than choice, to participate in the cultures of the Northern Plains’ indigenous tribes. Thankfully lacking in rosily New Age–tinted awe toward Indian wisdom, Welsch relates a deepening, near lifelong involvement with these communities, first as a political ally, then as a friend, and finally as an accepted and beloved family member. While dispensing a modest portion of advice to fellow “wannabes,” he explores questions of cultural ownership and lifestyle through the prism of personal experiences like playing the traditional Omaha Indian handgame or returning his land in Nebraska to the Pawnee Nation as a sacred site and reburial ground. Nonetheless, Welsch’s background as a University of Nebraska–Lincoln anthropology professor emerges as he lucidly explains such concepts as the esoteric-exoteric factor: the dividing line for acceptable, understandable expression within and without minority communities. Welsch’s natural warmth and skill as a storyteller, and his obvious respect for the individuals he encounters, come through clearly in his writing, and it’s easy to see why so many people, from so many backgrounds, might be honored to call him “friend.” (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 12/01/2012
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