I Want to Think in Indian

BOOK REVIEW

Thinking in Indian
A John Mohawk Reader

Edited by José Barreiro

Fulcrum Publishing | 320 pp | $14.41
ISBN: 978-1-555917-38-8

“Culture provides the lens that lends meaning to what we see.”                                                                                        John Mohawkthinking-in-indian-cover

It is said the good die young.

John Mohawk (Seneca) – an American Indian scholar who died at the relatively young age of 61 in 2006 – was a good man.

Though his life was short, the list of his accomplishments is long.

Dr. Mohawk earned a Ph.D. and served as editor to the “Akwesasne Notes” – a national American Indian newspaper. He was an author, professor, lecturer and philosopher, who traveled extensively globally speaking on behalf of indigenous rights.

His words helped to develop economic development strategies and American Indian policy that are still being felt in Indian Country today. His words extended beyond simply American Indian rights; he wrote about human rights.

“We depended on John Mohawk, known as Sotsisowah (Corn Tassel) among his people, to translate that Native wisdom into the languages of the colonizers. He was, in my judgment, the resident intellect of Iroquoia,” writes Oren Lyons in the foreward to “Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader.”

“Thinking in Indian” is a collection of essays that represent 30-years of great writings. The earliest essay included in “Thinking in Indian” dates back to late 1975; the most recent dates back to 2004.

The collection is the work of José Barreiro, who is a senior scholar at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Mr. Barreiro worked with Dr. Mohawk at “Akwesasne Notes” and is a tribal member of the Taino Nation of the Antilles.

While some of the essays date back three decades, the relevancy of the essays extends to the present. Since the credits are listed in the back of the book, as I read the book, I had to peek so I could discover what year the essay was originally published.

A couple of times, I actually thought he was writing about today.

It seems as if American Indians have recurring problems that just will not go away. This is true when he writes about diabetes that is so prevalent today.

The thirty-five essays cover an array of subjects that are broken into five sections, which are:

  • Earth Spirit;
  • Indigenous Economics;
  • Nation and Governance;
  • Native Rights and
  • Political Philosophy.

One of my favorite essays is “Clear Thinking: A Positive Solitary View of Nature.” Dr. Mohawk writes:

“But there is also in our culture a core requirement that ultimately, whatever our beliefs are, we are encouraged to maintain the tradition of clear thinking.”

The collection of essays is full of clear thinking, which hopefully translates into “Thinking in Indian.” If so, I want to think those types of thoughts to be a better Indian.

“Thinking in Indian” is the kind of book that one has to put down to contemplate the ideals set forth in the writing before going on to the next essay. It is a kind of book that will keep the reader coming back to for reference.

“Thinking in Indian” is a gift for those unfamiliar with Dr. Mohawk’s writings and to future generation of American Indian leaders who will be able to benefit from the writings of one of the leading American Indian scholars in modern times.

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