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Medicine Trails: A Life in Many Worlds Paperback – September 1, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this again, as a gift. Authentic, native view, honest, insightful personal look at her life, her extended family, her living conditions, her education, traditions,... Read morePublished 17 months ago by metoyou
I had heard about this book from a few people, and finally got a chance to read it. What impressed me the most is that Mavis is still alive, despite all the things that she and her... Read morePublished on December 2, 2012 by Grau