Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern CaliforniaMay 15th, 2013 | By jantoine | Category: 24-4: Language Revitalization, Media Reviews
By Susan Suntree
University of Nebraska Press (2010)
Review by Jurgita Antoine
In her book Sacred Sites, writer and performer Susan Suntree masterfully weaves science and Native American oral tradition into an epic poem. Suntree presents the history of California from the beginnings of time to modern day. With a foreword by Beat poet Gary Snyder, the narrative is divided into two parts, “Western Science” and “Indigenous Myths and Songs.” Black-and-white photographs of culturally and historically significant places in California complement the narrative.
In the first part, the author recounts the formation of the universe, geological processes, and the development of flora and fauna from the western scientific perspective. Human history is presented from the Native perspective in the second part, using oral histories of various California indigenous groups.
In this book, meticulously researched geology, geography, history, and oral traditions are put in motion by a performer’s touch. Complex geological processes, to the detail of molecules, come alive in Suntree’s text, as do the characters of Native American creation stories. Sacred Sites is an outstanding literary work, combining science with the spirituality of Native oral traditions.
Jurgita Antoine, Ph.D. is a project director at Lakota Documentaries at Sinte Gleska University. She coordinates translations of Lakota oral narratives and production of educational materials.