The Edmonton Public Library has a summer reading club that is popular with my family. The boys get reading and library challenges and I love it because the adults can participate too. I love sitting down with a good book and this one, written by author Kent Nerburn, definitely fits that description. It is filled with an engaging story of adventure, educational excerpts of history and many chunks of wisdom that make you sit back and consider deep issues.
The author tells the story of immersing himself in relationship with an Indigenous elder and how that experience shaped and informed his work and life. The elder, named Dan to keep his real identity anonymous, tells stories about his life, his people, his culture and is often starkly blunt about how he sees the realties of Native culture and how they are misconstrued by current stereotypes.
Hearing stories from another perspective can challenge and move us and I was certainly inspired to join in the adventures of Kent, Dan, Grover and "Fatback." There were many things that stood out for me and some of them even enlightened my own questions and stereotypes. For example, there is a discussion about why Indigenous Peoples properties or reservations are often perceived as junky with discarded items strewn about. I am not going to go into detail about the discussions and views of the characters but I will say it is only one example of something that opened my heat and mind to a new level of awareness. That narrative is just one example of why I would encourage anyone to take the time to read Neither Wolf Nor Dog.
Cultural connection and interaction are one of the major themes in the book. Our Canadian history and recent moves towards reconciliation are part of the ongoing story. I really liked one great discussion about words and communication. "You don’t convince anyone by arguing. People make decisions in their heart, not their ears and mind. Words should be like seeds; you plant them and let them grow in silence... We use words to make things what we want. We can use words in deceptive ways and should be careful with them. We should use words like beautiful stones, lift each one and look at it from all sides before using it. If we throw them out without thinking, they can hurt someone."
"The enemy is not each other, it is blindness to each others ways." - Dan
There are difficult parts of the book, discussion about spirituality and stories of how Dan believed many Indigenous People were Christ followers. They believed in Jesus before European settlers even arrived. He talks about aspects of culture, ceremony and a way of life that is bathed in prayer, hope and anticipation of a Messiah. In his opinion, the Ghost Dance of the Lakota people, is all about Jesus. One particular Dan story, coincidentally (or not) on page 316, was one that could make for a lengthy exploration and discussion all on its own. Dan talking to Kent...
“Your people must learn to give up your arrogance. They are not the only ones placed on this earth. Theirs is not the only way. People have worshipped the Creator and loved their families in many ways in all places. You people must learn to honor this… I am sad that the Creator saw it fit to destroy us to give you life. But maybe that is not so bad, for is that not what your religion teaches you that he did with Jesus? Maybe it was the power of our spirit that made us able to accept our physical death. Maybe it was the power of our spirit that made the Creator see that we, alone, could save you, who cared so much about things that should not matter. Maybe it is we who are the true sons and daughters of God, who had to die on the cross of your fears and greed, so that you could be saved from yourselves.” – page 316.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16.