I’m half way through a novel, Wind from an Enemy Sky, by D’Arcy McNickle. It opens with an old Indian hearing of a dam that is going to be built in the hills above them, and he refuses to believe it can happen. “They can’t stop water. Water just swallows everything and waits for more. That’s the way with water… The water was there when the world began. What kind of fool would want to stop it?”
The old Indian, of course, is wrong about the dam being built, but the way he feels about streams and rivers is right, because he feels them to be alive.
I came upon this obscure but very well written novel because I overheard an Indian friend – who is a mine of obscure information – talking about D’Arcy McNickle. He described him as the writer who in his opinion best portrays the Indian mind at this transition stage between indigenous and white-influenced culture, which is how both McNickle and my Indian friend grew up.
Anyway, you can get it on Amazon, and it knocks the socks off the western writers on ‘shamanism’ and their claims of transmitting native spirituality, often on the basis of very limited experience. Which doesn’t mean that shamanic techniques don’t work – they do, and often very well – it’s just that the claims of connection to indigenous cultures are usually not what they seem. These claims are therefore perceived by indigenous people as a sort of theft of their culture.
D’Arcy McNickle was born 14 Jan 1904 in Montana and grew up on a Flathead Reservation. He has Sun-Mercury conjunct Chiron in Capricorn, which describes both his strong sense of his tradition, as well as the irreparable damage it was undergoing. Mercury retrograde shows his ability to reflect on, and communicate this. Aged 21 he sold the land allotted to him, and used the money to go to Oxford University in England. He spent much of his life working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, becoming chief of the tribal relations branch. He had Moon in Sagittarius, describing the long journey to another culture in search of learning, and its probable conjunction to Uranus shows the unusual, non-conformist path he was prepared to take. The Moon’s opposition to Pluto shows he felt his home-culture (Moon) to be under mortal threat (Pluto); by the same token, Pluto gave him the power to address this threat through his life’s work.
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