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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

Power, Language And Stars In The Sky

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Michael J. Bennett, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Thank you for joining us on the High Plains Public Radio Station. My name is Jessica Sadler and I am a Science Teacher and STEAM facilitator in Olathe, Kansas. I am here with the other book leaders to discuss Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. This is a powerful story written by a white man, with the content supplied by a Native Elder. Their journey takes place by traveling to many different locations enlightening the author and reader along the way.

Of all the books in this cycle of the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” is my favorite. For me it truly embodies the theme of “Cultures in a Common Land”. The lived experiences of Native peoples and the initial settlers that arrived to what is now known as the United States is one known by many, but not at a sufficient depth. Throughout this book the Native elder, Dan, uses his thoughts and experiences to touch on many different aspects of Native and White encounters.

The theme of power and ownership have a significant place in sections of this book. It begins by Dan explaining the way of a leader. Many times in the western way, people are placed into positions of power without the consent of the majority. However, because these positions have titles and importance placed upon them, the majority tend to follow. This means people are more following a title than the person. since the person “owns” that title they acquire the powers that go with it. The individuals with the power will often use whatever means necessary to make sure they keep their title, authority, and benefits.

“That is not the way it should be. Good leaders wait to be called and they give up their power when they are no longer needed. Selfish men and fools put themselves first and keep their power until someone throws them out. It is no good to have a way where selfish men and fools fight with each other to be leaders, while the good ones watch.” -Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

This need for ownership does not just stop with titles and accolades, but extends to possessions. So often people base the worth of others on the tangibles they amass...cars, clothes, designer brand xyz. When someone does not have these things it is the western way to assume information about their socioeconomic status and therefore them as a person. I believe this is a very engrained pattern rooted in the Monarchy of which the early settlers came from. The best of the best lived/live in castles, have balls, butlers, and even lavish heirlooms like the ever famous crown jewels. These items really only amount to the worth people put into them and are used as a method of displaying a higher status.

“If I lived in a big house and had rooms full of different things, if I had big cars and a library full of books, if I had pulled out all the flowers and medicine plants and made a lawn that looked like a rug, people would come to me and ask me about everything because they would say I am a ‘good’ Indian. All it would mean is that I am an Indian with lots of possessions, just like a white man. That would make me good and important in your eyes. Admit it.” -Neither Wolf Nor Dog

While this is not necessarily true of everyone it does seem that “White people have an endless hunger. They want to consume everything and make it a part of them.”- Neither Wolf Nor Dog

This does not apply only to materialistic things but cultures as well. This could be the reason so many people suddenly have a great-great grandmother who was a Cherokee princess when meeting someone Native or a best friend who happens to be of another race.

This is Jessica Sadler, and you are listening to the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club.