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Embracing Fry Bread: Confessions of a Wannabeby Roger L Welsch
Synopses & Reviews
Forty years ago, while paging through a book sent as an unexpected gift from a friend, Roger Welsch came across a curious reference to stones that were round, “like the sun and moon.” According to Tatonka-ohitka, Brave Buffalo (Sioux), these stones were sacred. “I make my request of the stones and they are my intercessors,” Brave Buffalo explained. Moments later, another friend appeared at Welschs door bearing yet another unusual gift: a perfectly round white stone found on top of a mesa in Colorado. So began Welschs lesson from stones, gifts that always presented themselves unexpectedly: during a walk, set aside in an antique store, and in the mail from complete strangers.
The Reluctant Pilgrim shares a skeptics spiritual journey from his Lutheran upbringing to the Native sensibilities of his adoptive families in both the Omaha and Pawnee tribes. Beginning with those round stones, increasing encounters during his life prompted Welsch to confront a new way of learning and teaching as he was drawn inexorably into another world. Confronting mainstream contemporary cultures tendency to dismiss the magical, mystical, and unexplained, Welsch shares his personal experiences and celebrates the fact that even in our scientific world, “Something Is Going On,” just beyond our ken.
"In a memoir filled with compassion and humor, Welsch (Touching the Fire) writes neither as an anthropologist nor an activist, but simply as a non-Indian, self-described 'wannabe' grateful at having had the chance, more by fate than choice, to participate in the cultures of the Northern Plains' indigenous tribes. Thankfully lacking in rosily New Age — tinted awe toward Indian wisdom, Welsch relates a deepening, near lifelong involvement with these communities, first as a political ally, then as a friend, and finally as an accepted and beloved family member. While dispensing a modest portion of advice to fellow 'wannabes,' he explores questions of cultural ownership and lifestyle through the prism of personal experiences like playing the traditional Omaha Indian handgame or returning his land in Nebraska to the Pawnee Nation as a sacred site and reburial ground. Nonetheless, Welsch's background as a University of Nebraska — Lincoln anthropology professor emerges as he lucidly explains such concepts as the esoteric-exoteric factor: the dividing line for acceptable, understandable expression within and without minority communities. Welsch's natural warmth and skill as a storyteller, and his obvious respect for the individuals he encounters, come through clearly in his writing, and it's easy to see why so many people, from so many backgrounds, might be honored to call him 'friend.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Plains folklorist Roger L. Welsch has edited a lively collection of stories by some master yarnspinners—those old-time traveling horse traders. Told to Federal Writers' Project fieldworkers in the 1930s, these stories cover the span of horse trading: human and equine trickery, orneriness, debility—and generosity.
Were our forefathers liars? "You bet they were," says Roger Welsch, "and damned fine ones at that." The proof is in Catfish at the Pump, a collection of the kind of humor that softened the hardships of pioneering on the Great Plains. From yellowed newspapers, magazines, and forgotten Nebraska Federal Writers' Project files, the well-known folklorist and humorist Roger Welsch has produced a book to be treasured. Here are jokes, anecdotes, legends, tall tales, and lugubriously funny poems about the things that preoccupied the pioneer plainsman: weather extremes; soil quality; food and whiskey; an arkload of animals, including grasshoppers, bed bugs, hoop snakes, the ubiquitous mule, and some mighty big fish; and even sickness and the poverty that would inspire black laughter again in the Great Depression.
Catfish at the Pump proves abundantly that the art of story telling was practiced diligently by our plains ancestors. Roger Welsch, who brought out Shingling the Fog and Other Plains Lies in 1972 (reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1980), now issues this "book about lies and liars," knowing full well that "underlying the pioneer sense of humor is a profound respect for truth."
About the Author
Roger Welsch is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of more than forty books, including Touching the Fire: Buffalo Dancers, the Sky Bundle, and Other Tales and My Nebraska, both available in Bison Books editions.
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