Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader

May 13th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-4: Honoring Student Success, Media Reviews

Edited By Jose Barreiro
Fulcrum Press (2010)

Review by Michael W. Simpson

If you could obtain only two books to start an American Indian Studies section for your library, Spirit and Reason: A Vine Deloria, Jr. Reader would be the first purchase. The second would be Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader. In fact, these two works would be high on the list for anyone seeking to understand the current state of the world and how to survive as both individuals and as peoples.

The book’s foreword by Oren Lyons offers a nice statement on the legacy of John Mohawk, farmer, activist, scholar, professor, lecturer, conflict resolver, and human being. Lyons reminds us that sovereignty is more than just a legal/ political claim or an inheritance but something that people must make real though self-governance and conflict resolution, land and economics, health and reproduction, education and socialization of children, and in the mind and spirit.

The essay collection is divided into five sections: Earth Spirit, Indigenous Economics, Nation and Governance, Native Rights, and Political Philosophy. Its essential message is that people achieve sovereignty by recovering a land base, rebuilding families, and strengthening people from within their own cultural base. Self-sufficiency through a contemporary traditionalism—employing appropriate technology to grow your own food and build your own homes—will rejuvenate communities and allow them to survive the economic and social repercussions of the current consumptive dominant culture.

This book challenges beliefs and thoughts and is fundamental for Indigenous peoples and all others seeking a way to critique a world that does not seem right. This is a book for those who wish to be free.

Michael W. Simpson, J.D., M.Ed., is a doctoral candidate in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. He conducts training in exposing judgment made in textual and visual curriculum and the national narrative. He can be reached at

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