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Paths of Life
American Indians of the Southwest and Northern Mexico
By Thomas E. Sheridan
298 pp. / 7.00 in x 10.00 in / 1996
Paper (978-0-8165-1466-3)
  
Related Interest
  - Native American Studies


Within these pages are living portraits of fifteen Native American groups of Arizona and northern Mexico. The Navajos, the Western Apaches, the Hualapais, Yavapais, and Havasupais, the Yaquis, the O'odham, the Tarahumaras, the Southern Paiutes, the Seris, the Colorado River Yumans--Quechan, Mohaves, Cocopas, and Maricopas--and the Hopis. Literally and figuratively, the paths they walk are the same paths walked by their ancestors, going back hundreds and even thousands of years.

Through history, most of these groups have seen their homelands conquered by outside military forces and their people scattered far and wide. Yet, despite years of exile and subjugation, they have all kept alive their cultures, their sense of being a people. This book explores the symbols, rituals, and words that have ensured continuity and that distinguish each group from others. Equally important, Paths of Life describes the dynamic changes that are occurring in each group as new ideas are incorporated into traditional ways of life.

The book focuses on one major cultural theme for each group. The chapter on the Navajos, for example, illustrates how the work of sheepherding reinforces the Diné way of relating to one another and living off the land, while the chapter on the Yaquis examines how Catholic and Native rituals have become fused into a uniquely meaningful Yaqui religion. Throughout the book, the guidance and advice of respected Indian scholars have ensured both accuracy and authenticity.

The pages in this volume are filled with individuals like Victoriano Churro, "a man who ran like a deer," and artist Grace Mitchell: "I'm going to weave a basket. I'll gather mulberry shoots, split them and roll them . . . " There are glimpses of the Yaqui flower world, "Wilderness world / flower freely, is blowing, / wilderness world," and the Seri creation myth, "Slender whirlwinds coming from the sky touch the land. / Sounds of arrows / striking the ground, / roaring, / raising dust clouds." Here also are Father Sun and Mother Moon, Rock Crystal Boy and Yellow Corn Girl, Spider Woman, Wolf, and of course Coyote.

Among the many books written about these groups, Paths of Life is rare for its breadth of information. The book includes dozens of photographs, both color and black-and-white, as well as a number of short asides, which discuss special points of interest. Readers in search of even more information will appreciate a carefully selected list of suggested additional reading.

Encompassing anthropology, history, Native American cultures, arts, and folklore, at heart this is a book for anyone--teacher, student, armchair traveler, general reader--whose imagination has been captured by the lands and peoples of the Greater Southwest.


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