Friday, September 14, 2018



Author Walter Echo-Hawk, Fulcrum Press.

       Q. If you could, would you change in the history of the Pawnee Nation?

        A. If a change in Pawnee history were possible, my wish would be: That the Pawnee were able          to remain in our Nebraska homeland.

       Q.What do you see as the future of the Pawnee Nation in the United States?

       A.  My crystal ball sees that in the future the Pawnee Nation will grown and flourish in the              United States as an integral part of our domestic political system, with all of its treaties,                 culture, language, and full measure of indigenous human rights intact. Our nation will not            perish from the face of the earth; and we shall remain in greatest grassland on earth--no              matter what.

        Q. How representative of First Nations is your family's post-Columbian experience?

      A.Though every Indian tribe has a unique culture, language and history, all suffered common          fates resulting from colonialism similar to that depicted in this book; and today all share                similar aspirations for cultural survival, self-determination, and well-being.

       Q. What can be done to promote the inclusion of Native American history in American  elementary  and  middle   schools?

      School curriculum should include unvarnished indigenous history of the United States; teachers should learn and teach Native American studies; and school or college libraries should provide students with books on our rich Native American history, culture and current issues. The lack of reliable information about Native America by the public at large and by government policymakers is a glaring information gap and the single biggest problem faced by Indian Tribes in the United States today.

Q. What can Pawnee elders teach young Americans?

A. Pawnee elders could share teachings about this land, the heavens above, and our indigenous history and heritage. All citizens must at some point become indigenous to North America.

Q. Your book, THE SEA OF GRASS, attests, movingly, to your family's resilience. Why do you think your ancestors were able to transcend their losses?

A. Our ancestors were a very strong and proud people, determined to stay in their homeland whatever the cost. And I believe their culture and our communal way of life sustained them during the trying times.
.Q. Has the American government done all it can to redress offenses committed against the First Nations?

A. The government began the task of restoring indigenous justice to the American Indian tribes in 1970, with President Nixon's "Indian Self-Determination" policy which seeks to invest the Indian Nations with decision-making power over their own destinies. Since that date, Native America worked to implement Indian self-determination across the land in one of America's great social movements, and we have witnessed the rise of modern Indian Nations as a result of that social movement, which is called the Tribal Sovereignty Movement. But the work toward restoring indigenous justice in our country must continue until it is done by coming to a national reconciliation with Native American about "what we did to the Indians" and according to Native America the full measure of "indigenous human rights" as that term is defined by modern international human rights law.  

Q. Do you think Pawnee language and cultural traditions will survive and why?

A. T
he Pawnee people work hard to preserve their language and culture to keep their heritage strong in the face of changing times. However, this is a difficult task. Only time will tell.

Q. How important for young Pawnees to preserve their culture and why?

A. Culture is carried-on by the whole community--and that legacy is handed down from one generation to the next. It cannot survive if the young generation turns its back on its heritage.

Q. What does the Pawnee Nation have to teach present-day America?

Here are six wise Golden Rules which seem to be the hallmark of traditional Indigenous Peoples worldwide: Place your trust in your Creator; love the land; respect all of creation; put your family and the people before yourself; listen to your elders and respect your ancestors; protect your that legacy is handed down from one generation to the next. It cannot survive if the young generation turns its back on its heritage.

Q. Since the  1500s, the indigenous people of the Americas have had to make accommodations in order to survive. In the process, much of value was lost. How can the history of the Pawnee Nation inspire other indigenous people? 

A. Indigenous peoples share the share a common traumatic history of colonization, experienced a struggle to survive, and have similar aspirations for prosperity and self-determination. Pawnee history symbolizes humanity's strong will to survive that inspires the best in every human breast.

Q. Do you think indigenous people are adequately represented in local, state and federal government? If not, what should be done to change that?

A.Indigenous peoples are a permanent, and often invisible, minority in their homelands that have been engulphed by immigrants; and Native peoples are normally underrepresented in modern democratic nations, such as the United States. They depend upon fair and independent courts to protect their interests from the tyranny of the majority; and need better representation in all branches of government--legislative, executive and judicial.

Q.The Pawnees are a matrilineal nation. How does that affect the future of young Pawnee women?

It is true that the Pawnee Nation is traditionally a matrilineal society, as are many American Indian tribal nations. Earth-Lodge-Women made life possible in the Central Plains during aboriginal times. But that part of Pawnee social fabric was weakened by non-Indian influence after the people were removed from their aboriginal homeland and placed onto individually-owned tracks of allotted Indian trust land on the Pawnee reservation in Oklahoma. Only bits and pieces of the matrilineal structure survive today that is seen, for examples, in ownership of sacred bundles, feasts for tribal ceremonies, and gardening practices. Today, women are reviving some of their traditional societies in the Pawnee community and defining their role in the community. In addition, young women are serving as elected tribal government leaders, becoming doctors, lawyers and other professionals, and even running for elected office in state and local government; and they serve on Pawnee Nation economic development and higher education boards of directors. The cultural foundation for modern Pawnee women remains ever important. 

Q. What would you like to say to the readers of THE SEA OF GRASS on behalf of your ancestors?

A. From this book, I hope that you will come to know America's Native peoples and see our humanity.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Interview with author Walter Echo-Hawk.

Review of RIOT DAYS, by Maria Alyohina

Saturday, September 1, 2018


I confess that, much to my shame, I knew zero about the Pawnee Nation until I came across Walter Echo-Hawk's THE SEA OF GRASS: A FAMILY TALE FROM THE AMERICA HEARTLAND. An attorney, writer, and activist, Echo-Hawk is one of the rare Americans who can rightly claim that his ancestral roots in the New World reach back to 1250. The fictionalized history of his Pawnee family's presence in America, is an inspiring exploration of these roots. It is an account that begins with a meeting between a lost, starving Pawnee boy and a wolf. Separated from his companions, the boy is near death when the wolf rescues him and blesses him with the power to live,

"Wherever you go, you will never get lost or starve. Like a wolf, you will always find something to eat and find your way back home. This is the power to survive. Your people will need it in the years ahead. Remember me—and you will be taken care of, no matter what. "

 That power was greatly needed by the Pawnee as war with larger tribes such as the Lakota, famine, and invasions by Europeans who wantonly destroyed buffalo herds and who brought with them deadly infectious diseases so reduced their numbers that by 1850 a population of 10 000 had dwindled to  4000. Forced dislocation to Oklahoma from the Loup, Republican and south Platte river areas, in Nebraska and Kansas,  further reduced that number to 2 700.

Although the journey the reader takes under Echo-Hawk's deft guidance is not free of sorrow, as the Pawnee have their land taken away, their traditions fractured, their children subjected to enforced acculturation, what shines through is the strength and faith that make survival possible. But this is not a grim story. It is a story that includes lyricism,  cosmology, humor, feminism, subtle political jabs, a compact between human and nature, faith, tradition, and the hard-earned pride of a people who served their country well in war and peace. While reading it, I learned that the Pawnee is a matrilineal nation-- its first chapter honors Echo-Hawk's ancestor Calico Woman--and I loved the charming Pawnee legend of how horses came into being. The heavenly legend about the origin of the Pawnee, who call themselves Children of the Stars,  moved me and made me wish more people would learn Echo-Hawk's people.

There are only a couple of minor quibbles I have about the text--two or three typos and the lack of a Pawnee glossary. Neither limits the pleasure of reading this long overdue contribution to the history of Native Americans.

1822 portrait of Sharitahrish by Charles Bird King, on display in the Library of the White House

NOTE--Today, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma has 3, 600 members. The Pawnee language lives.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


After a long pause, Rich Text returns to exciting work of reviewing books and interviewing authors and artists. Please stay tuned. Albert Camus,  Leon Wirth, Sujata Massey, and Khaled Husseini are the authors whose works are on this blogger's bedside table, at the moment.

COMING UP--A review of THE SEA OF GRASS,  by Walter R. Echo-Hawk, a book  ''Inspired by real people and events, "The Sea of Grass" is the story of the Pawnee Nation, which was shaped by the land, animals, and plants of the Central Plains. The long sweep of indigenous history in the grasslands of North America comes alive through the folklore of a single family. Major events are told from a Pawnee perspective, and capture the oral tradition of ten generations of Echo-Hawk's family. This historical novel tells the stories of the spiritual side of Native life, and gives voice to the rich culture and cosmology of the Pawnee Nation."