Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places

Feb 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 18-3: Building Prosperity, Media Reviews

by Peter Nabokov
Viking (2006)
New York, NY
350 pages  ISBN 0-670-03432-0

Review by Michael Thompson

This is outstanding scholarship on Native American sacred sites.

Nabokov, professor of American Indian Studies at UCLA, attempts “to give readers a sense of the diversity of American Indian spiritual practices by focusing on beliefs related to different American environments… and to illustrate the persistence of those beliefs, practices, and feelings against great odds.”

He examines 16 “biographies of place” from the four directions, challenging stereotypes head on — that Indian attitudes toward the environment are frozen in time, that they are simple and similar, and that they are always romantically picturesque.

He also delves directly into recent failures of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act: Tellico Dam in Tennessee, the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, Bear Butte in the Black Hills, and the U. S. Forest Service GO Road in California.

Along the way, he honors the scholars, Indian and non-Indian alike, who have struggled to protect the essential heritage of place. I recommend it for tribal college libraries.

Michael Thompson (Muskogee Creek) is an English instructor and writer with published work in several journals. He resides in Farmington, NM.

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