Light of the Feather: Pathways Through Contemporary Indian America

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9780688115593: Light of the Feather: Pathways Through Contemporary Indian America
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In 1979 Mick Fedullo was sent by a state arts agency to a village in the middle of the Arizona Sonoran Desert as a one-year writer-in-residence. Upon arrival he was surprised to discover that the school at which he would be working was located on an Indian reservation, and that all the students were Pima Indian children. This temporary assignment grew into a five-year residence, and Indian education became Fedullo's lifework.
Light of the Feather chronicles Mick Fedullo's unique journey beyond Indian stereotypes and into the heart of contemporary Native America. It is the story of how one white man crossed the cultural divide and found old and new values, the determination of the human spirit, and, ultimately, himself.
Fedullo writes of experiences that few have ever had. In passing from curious outsider to friend and neighbor, he meets and befriends Indian families, attends tribal celebrations, discovers the bounty of the wilds that Indians have always known of, and surmounts an initial culture shock. He learns what "Indian education" was during a hundred years of attempted forced assimilation, what it is today, what it can be in the future, and he becomes deeply involved in it, consulting at schools on many reservations.
Light of the Feather takes us into the homes of a generous and warm people, where we learn how death and tragedies are dealt with and how the spirits of giving and celebration remain vitally important. Fedullo shows us, from the inside, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, where Navajo children watch old John Wayne movies and cheer for the cavalry. He takes us into classrooms where delightfully curious children become attached to this "tall white guy with a beard." He writes about trips on which he has flown Apache and Crow students to education conventions at which they read their poetry like professionals.
From the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the heights of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana, from a reggae concert in Hopiland to a playful mock battle with Indian kids at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, from a Plains pow-wow in a brightly lighted gymnasium to a cleansing ritual in an utterly dark sweat lodge, Fedullo gives us wonderful moments and occasions that represent true sharing across very different cultures.
In Light of the Feather we meet Indians who retain their rich heritage while surviving, even prospering, in the white man's world. They have learned to live biculturally. Fedullo writes sensitively about the difficulties of achieving such a balance, and of the necessity for Indians to do so if the old ways are not to be lost.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Enthusiastic and charmingly frank, Fedullo details his memorable experiences in a decade of teaching creative writing to Native American schoolchildren on reservations throughout the West. Starting in 1979 with a five-year stint in the Arizona desert, as a writer-in-residence among the Pima on the Gila River Reservation, Fedullo quickly realized that he had as much to learn as to teach. Gaining the trust and acceptance of his students in class proved easier than being welcome in their homes, but his eagerness to help them bridge the gap between their culture and white society, so that they could function well away from home without having to sacrifice their sense of identity, proved to be the key that opened doors time and time again. Aware that his method of encouraging students to read their poetry to audiences off the reservation, and of equipping them with ``survival skills''--including tips on projecting one's voice as well as on riding an escalator--could be widely applicable, Fedullo became an educational consultant, traveling on an ever-expanding circuit to schools on various reservations. Contact with Hualapai, Crow, Cree, Apache, Navajo, and other tribal groups found many children responsive to his message and his infectious spirit, but it also brought a sharing in the lives of families in each community, whether through taking part in feasts and dances or through joining in a ritual sweat bath in a traditional lodge. In contrast to teachers in Indian boarding schools who still practice the assimilationist creed that native customs must be eradicated, Fedullo offers the testimonial of a caring educator who found a means of enhancing cross-cultural communication without denying tradition. An insightful, colorful account of real achievement in Indian education today--and solid evidence of the benefits of multiculturalism at its best. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Fedullo, a published poet, is also a visiting poetry and language development teacher on Indian reservations, serving communities that include Navajo, Crow, and Gila River Pima. After he began teaching creative writing to Pima Indian children in Arizona in 1979, he became an advocate for Indian education and an accepted friend in many Indian communities. He recounts his ups and downs with the children, their families, and schools and teachers, also describing the teaching techniques he uses. While teaching his students to express themselves through writing and to deal more effectively with mainstream culture, he shows respect for their unique world view. Recommended for those interested in contemporary Indian culture and education.
- Gwen Gregory, U.S. Courts Lib., Phoenix
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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