View from the Medicine Lodge is a soul-stirring, poetic, wise collection of Indian stories and life experiences from the heart of Jim Great Elk Waters: "Our religion is not of paint and feathers. It is a thing of the heart."
Once begun, this inward trek into what is the best of being Indian and human is not easily put down. Curled on the couch with my cat, I journeyed on under the gentle, eloquent guidance of Great Elk as he led me to a richer understanding of what has gone before us, where we are now -- and most importantly, all that we CAN BE: "No dream comes true unless you breathe into it life." And: "To be human is to be truth, less will make us hollow."
Great Elk exudes a positive, irrepressibly hopeful spirit that is contagious. He makes me believe in the rich possibilities of this great land we call America and calls me to affirm those possibilities within myself. Despite his people's tragic history, which he touches on in a poignant and comprehensible way, they and he have held to the truths and traditions that make them Shawnee: "We are the total sum of all our ancestors."
But you need not be Shawnee or from any other tribe to appreciate the wisdom and poems threaded throughout this unique perspective: "One cannot be long angry in the loving arms of another." Great Elk teaches with warmth, humor and a noble dignity that does us all honor. His reverence for the Creator and the earth, living in rightful harmony with ourselves and others, remembering those who have gone before us, and our place in the great circle and dance of life shines forth in this inspiring book: "Happiness, laughter, and family voices in a home keep more people living right than all the laws man can make." This is a must read for anyone with a soul. It is brimming with food for those weary in spirit, and anyone who desires a better understanding of what makes us good. It is also a visual treat with beautiful illustrations by the author.
In the words of Great Elk:
"I am an okama, (storyteller, or teacher), and it is my job to share with you that which has been shared with me. As we journey together, it is my prayer that I will inspire you, excite you, anger you, or in other words cause you to think. If you think, then you will begin to understand the meaning of this journey. For those of you who read View only for its enjoyment, that is also good."