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Medicine Trails: A Life in Many Worlds Paperback – September 1, 2009

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mavis McCovey has lived along the Klamath River in northwestern California all her life. Trained as a child to be a medicine woman, she assists with the traditional ceremonies of her tribe, the Karuk. The mother of five children, she has also worked as a community health representative and a nurse, and she has been an advocate on issues affecting the health and well-being of the native people of her region. Dr. John Salter is a cultural anthropologist, teacher, and writer who has worked intermittently with the Karuk Tribe of California and Karuk people since 1968. Trained by Gregory Bateson, Salter received his Ph.D. for a study of the social ecology of the Salmon and Klamath River area. He currently lives in Sacramento, California.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Heyday Books (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597141178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597141178
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,635,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm Terence on December 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Medicine Trails
By Mavis McCovey and John Salter. Heyday Books.

By Malcolm Terence

As a young woman, Mavis McCovey was trained to enter a spirit world by her Karuk Indian elders -- older medicine women. What's unsettling is that McCovey, now an old woman in the Klamath River town of Orleans, sounds somehow believable. For us materialists, judging magic is simple. It's all either delusional, illusional or confusional. But that pat judgment gets dicey when the spirit guide is a hero of what we now call the Herbicide Wars of the 1980s. This magic is not easily discounted.

In her new book Medicine TrailsMedicine Trails: A Life in Many Worlds, which she wrote with the seamless assistance of anthropologist John Salter, McCovey begins a narrative of her life from her birth in 1933 and goes back several generations before. There are the tragic histories like the time her grandfather, then still a boy, watched white miners burn their village and shove Indians back into the burning buildings. Or the great-grandmother who was kidnapped and raped in her early teens by soldiers in Oregon, then rescued by an itinerant peddler and returned to Orleans.

As a child, McCovey repeatedly had visions of future events that she might blurt out to the embarrassment of the adults around her. She talks also of her training by elders, some of it in a form of telepathy wherein their instructions entered her mind without speech. But the stories of magic are interwoven with the daily life of several generations in Orleans and, after her marriage, in Yurok villages downriver.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Medicine Trails: A Life in Many Worlds" is the deeply moving biography of a modern medicine woman of the Karuk tribe of northern California. Told in warm detail by Mavis McCovey to cultural anthropologist/writer, John Salter, "Medicine Trails" conveys a full load of personal and spiritual life experiences of this amazing elder of the Karuk tribe. Mavis was conceived and destined to become a tribal spiritual leader and her earliest training was undertaken by a specific group of tribal medicine women, some of whom she was related to. Her warmth and humor pervade the pages, which also chronicle many painful and tragic experiences. Mavis' unassuming tone and courageous demeanor may seem contradictory, but she also clearly projects an amazing, centered self awareness that must be stunning to absorb. Many unpublicized or "whitewashed" parts of the history of the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa peoples of the Klamath River area in northwestern California are also described in painful detail. The practice of genocide of Indian tribes by white gold seekers in the 19th and even into the 20th century is detailed, along with the heroic survival efforts of the continuing tribes. Much of the tribes various heritages and histories have been eroded or lost due to decimation by white settlers. Despite these and many other hardships, Mavis has led a life focused on a deep commitment to the physical and spiritual health and well -being of her people and her family. She truly is a venerable woman, rescuing both the parts of her medicine training tribal heritage and forging ahead with promoting the health and well-being of neighboring Native Americans today.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom King on October 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm grateful to Mavis McCovey for this thoughtful, incisive account of her life, and to John Salter for the skill and respect with which he has performed his ethn-editorial function. Anyone interested in American Indian culture and spirituality, or in the history of Native California (among other histories) should -- I think -- share this gratitude, and read this book.

As Salter says in his introduction, reading this book is very much like being at Mrs. McCovey's kitchen table, listening to her tell the story of her life -- the life of a Karuk medicine woman, whose remarkable adventures with the spirit world are mixed in a matter-of-fact way with the history of her family and tribe, births and deaths of friends and relatives, work as an Indian Health Service nurse, contending with racism, environmental degradation, socioeconomic tragedies and triumphs, even feeding kitchen scraps to the chickens. She and Salter have done a beautiful job of maintaining the feeling of her life's realities (in several dimensions) while making the story accessible to the ordinary reader.

This is a remarkable book, that belongs in the library of anyone who wants to learn about, or from, indigenous culture, history, and concepts of spirituality.
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