The genius of the Native Americans has always been their profound spirituality and their deep understanding of the land and its ways. For three decades, author Kent Nerburn, who has been called “one of the few writers who can respectfully bridge the gap between the Native and non-Native cultures,” has lived and worked among Native American people.
Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way is a unique collection of his encounters, experiences, and reflections during this time. It opens with a poignant narrative of the American historical experience as seen through Native eyes, followed by twelve chapters that each offer insight into a specific aspect of the Native understanding of a life well lived. He takes us inside a traditional Native feast to show us how the children are taught to respect the elders. He brings us to an isolated prairie rock outcropping where a young Native man and his father show us how the power of ceremony connects the present with the ancient voices of the past. At a dusty roadside café he introduces us to an elder who remembers the time when his ancestors could talk to animals, and reminds us that there is spirit in all living things.
In these and other poignant stories — the reinternment of ancient bones of two teen-aged girls, the traditional burial of a young man, and the haunted, almost mystical force that surrounds a forgotten Nez Perce battlefield — Nerburn reveals the way a spiritual awareness animates all of Native American life, and points the way forward to a more humane and mindful life for us all. Each story takes readers deep into the Native way of understanding life’s most important issues, including the importance of the elders, the spiritual presence in plants and animals, and the ways of giving and sharing and grieving. Nerburn reminds us that as common children of a common land, we have much to learn from each other if only we have the heart to listen.