cover image Lasting Echoes: An Oral History of Native American People

Lasting Echoes: An Oral History of Native American People

Joseph Bruchac. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201327-1

Author and poet Bruchac (Breaking Silence) has assembled a plethora of eloquent poems and essays spanning the ""seven generations"" since Europeans arrived. It was at this point that tribal traditions and beliefs, passed down orally, began to be ""spoken by Indians to Europeans or set down by Indians who had mastered European traditions of writing."" Bruchac, who is part Abenaki himself, weaves together the native voices (mostly male) within a historical framework (from the Europeans' arrival to the present), while providing a context for the poems and songs to echo the continuum of the values passed down from one generation to the next. One chapter, about land transactions, makes clear to readers that such deals as Peter Minuit's ""purchase"" of Manhattan for 60 guilders of trade goods were inconceivable to Native peoples: they sold only the right to share the land, believing it ""could not be bought or sold any more than water, air, or sunlight."" Perhaps Bruchac's most valuable contribution is his introduction to readers of Native American voices and writings seldom seen or heard, ringing angrily from the 1850s (""You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it, and be rich like white men. But how dare I cut off my mother's hair?"", wrote Smohalla, a holy man of the Wanapam people), desperately from the 1870s and 1900s (e.g., Chief Joseph, 1877: ""My heart is sad and sick. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever"") and determinedly from the 1970s, in which Native Americans began to use a new ""language blending traditional belief with a clear understanding of the process of modern law."" By summoning the voices Bruchac so admires, he creates a powerful testament to the endurance of a people who have witnessed a painful period of history, and allows their words to reverberate in our own time. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)