Why It’s So Important to Read ‘Dancing My Dream’ in 2021
In a ReadTheSpirit magazine cover story, June 28, 2021, I explain the long history of advocacy on behalf of Native Americans by the co-founders of our publishing house—and I explain why Warren Petoskey’s Dancing Our Dream was one of our first projects. In that book, Petoskey prophetically described the multi-generational trauma of the North American system of prison-like boarding schools for Indian children.
In this story, you’ll learn more about that book—as well as our other major project with Native American writers, 100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America.
First, you can read Warren’s own interview about his memoir, a conversation with him that we published in 2009 when his book was first released. In that interview, he says about the lingering trauma of these boarding schools: “I think the greatest damage that was done was spiritual. As we lost our traditional languages, our elders will tell you that we lost something in the way that we pray. And there is an even larger spiritual wound here. This was more than a century of organized attempts by our government to destroy our spiritual validation as human beings.”
However, Warren’s memoir is not an unrelenting horror story—far from it.
Warren’s vocation throughout his life is to use his own hard-earned wisdom to teach and encourage techniques for resiliency. One way he does that is to promote a deep awareness of the timeless power of nature to reconnect us, as humans, to what he describes as God’s larger Creation.
In his memoir, you will find poetry and soaring passages of spiritual encouragement.
He sums up this difficult pilgrimage—from trauma to life-giving spiritual renewal—as Walking the Red Road. At one point in his book, he writes:
Walking the Red Road is a journey from our spiritual origin through this world and our physical experience in it, trusting absolutely that the road will lead us again into the Presence of the Great Creator. Walking the Red Road is walking in consciousness of the presence of the Creator at all times. Walking the Red Road encourages prayer, thankfulness and giving back. Walking the Red Road is a consciousness of our sacred connection to life and all living things, especially of our connection with the Great Creator’s purpose for our existence here. We, as human beings, can be the Great Creator’s emissaries or we can be defiant and be perpetrators of conditions contrary to a respect for all life. We are scattered as a people, not just in a geographical sense but in our consciousness. We need to come together again as one people comprising many individual tribes, so we can counter the conditions that created this dysfunction and trauma among us. If we come together, we will see the changes these efforts will bring to ur children and grandchildren for seven generations to come—and beyond. We can all find our way through the chaos of Western culture and through the wilderness that has been created by its callousness and unconscionable conduct. We all know the way home. It is in us all to Walk the Red Road.
100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America
In addition to that remarkable memoir by Warren Petoskey, our publishing house has worked closely with Joe Grimm, professor at the Michigan State University’s School of Journalism on publishing a whole series of guides to religions, races, cultures and professions, called The Bias Busters book series.
Each guide in the series was created in partnership with leading men and women within the communities we are covering.
For our 100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America, we worked with the Native American Journalists Association.
This guide has sections on tribes, reservations, sovereignty, treaties, federal offices, casinos, education, language, religion and culture. The guide is intended for people in business, schools, places of worship, government, medicine, law enforcement, human resources and journalism—anywhere it is important to know more about the distinctive cultures of our neighbors.
We also hope this guide works for individuals who just have questions about the people around them.
- Who is an American Indian? And, why are native peoples referred to as Indians?
- What is a tribe?
- Are Indian tribes and Indian nations the same?
- What powers do the tribes, as nations, hold?
- How many American Indians live on reservations?
- What is tribal sovereignty?
- What does the Bureau of Indians Affairs do?
- How many American Indian languages are still spoken?
- What is a sweat lodge?
- What is cultural misappropriation?
- Why do Native Americans object to the use of Indian symbols, like feathers and face paint, in U.S. sports?