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The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky Paperback – November 5, 2013


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The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky + The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows + Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Nerburn is haunted by a recurring dream about Yellow Bird, the long-missing little sister of his friend, Lakota elder Dan. When he cannot shake the dream, Nerburn goes in search of Dan but first encounters others who pass along mysterious messages for Dan that will reopen memories of the loss of his beloved sister. Nerburn’s timing is auspicious as Dan is near death and has taken up mentoring a four-year-old girl with an uncanny resemblance to Yellow Bird, including her spiritual gifts, communing with animals, and singing more than talking. Because whites perceive her behavior to be odd, the girl is threatened with medication or placement in a white foster home, reminiscent of earlier Indian reeducation efforts. Worried that she represents yet another case of the Indian being driven out from them, Dan and an assortment of allies (not all of them as trusting of Nerburn as he) marshal their forces to protect the girl and her connection to the spirit world. Nerburn takes up his masterful storytelling (Neither Wolf nor Dog,1994; The Wolf at Twilight,2009) to convey the longing of modern Native Americans to stay connected to their culture, the suspicion of outsiders, and the fate of one young girl caught in the balance. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“A touching and enlightening pursuit of spirit.”
Chris Eyre, director of Smoke Signals

"With poignant prose and a compelling story, The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo demonstrates Kent Nerburn's gift: not just to build bridges between the Native and non-Native world, but to transcend those differences with a narrative that speaks to the heart of the human experience."
Anton Treuer, executive director of the Bemidji State University American Indian Resource Center

“Simply riveting. Kent Nerburn has the very rare ability to gently and compassionately teach in a respectful way. I love this book. And so does the rest of our staff.”
Susan White, manager of Birchbark Books

Praise for Kent Nerburn's books:

“This is storytelling with a greatness of heart.”
Louise Erdrich, National Book Award winner and author of The Round House

“Offers a sensitive, insightful glimpse into a Lakota soul, a feat unattainable by most non-Native writers.”
Joseph M. Marshall III, author of The Lakota Way and The Journey of Crazy Horse

“Perhaps the most significant and insightful work on Native Americans since the writings of Vine Deloria Jr.”
Roger Jourdain, former tribal chairman of the Red Lake Ojibwe nation
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library; First Edition edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608680150
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608680153
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
14%
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See all 155 customer reviews
As a story it is incredible- well written, interesting characters, and a great story.
J. Johnson
Nerburn was indeed privileged to walk with these people, and we are privileged because he shared the story with us.
Vera M. Hummel
This is the third book in the trilogy, but I read this one without having read the previous ones.
Sheri Newton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Tom A. Kanthak on October 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
This time Nerburn starts having vivid dreams. They're relentless, confounding, and ominous. Eventually, they propel him into his third encounter with the American Indian world of Dan the Elder; Grover the grouch; Jumbo the gentle giant; a slobbery orphan dog; a wistful, young girl with an old soul; a woodland Anishinaabe man known by Dan as one of "the old ones" who raises buffalo; and a gruesome Indian insane asylum in South Dakota.
Of the three books Nerburn has written on his experiences with the Indian people of "Dan the Elder's" world, "The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo." is the most fleshed-out, mysterious, awe-inspiring, sad, humorous, suspenseful, and courageous. Nerburn walks to the edge of a deep precipice of human understanding and shows us the terror and magnitude of things Western Europeans may never fully understand. In the framework of indigenous spirituality, cosmology, and culture all things are connected. In the hands of the literary master craftsman Kent Nerburn, the disparate landscapes, personalities and situations in his book are also connected and profoundly meaningful.
Nerburn has an understanding of the Native culture that transcends the best efforts of theologians, anthropologists, sociologists, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, American government, and zealot do-gooders. He puts himself in situations he knows will pummel his ego but lead him to a place of knowledge and understanding. To be available for these teachings, he is lead across axel-busting-back-country roads, greasy roadhouses, a senior citizens home, deep forests, encounters with a menacing buffalo bull, and a historically suppressed Indian insane asylum.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K.Wagner VINE VOICE on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Not since Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux by John G. Neihardt have I read a book that touched my heard in this way. Many years ago, why my children were young, I brought home a copy of Black Elk Speaks that I had found in a second hand books store and it wouldn't let me leave without it. Since that days, so long ago we have probably purchased six other copies, one for each of my children, and two or more for lending.. one to stay home. I have lost count. This will join the battered copy of that book on my shelf, the one where the books live that will always stay with me. This book, The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky by Kent Nerburn is a life changer, a spirit toucher, a heartbreaker. This is a story, and it is a truth.

Why do these books touch me is so strong a way? I don't know, as in this lifetime, I have not walked in the shoes of any but a white woman, but somewhere in the past, in a lifetime long ago, I think I knew. For this reason, I think I can also hear the ring of truth in words spoken, or written. I found this book waiting patiently for me on a list of Vine books, and I knew it had to be mine.

You will read the story of Yellow Bird, her family and her her ancestors, and her gifts. This is a story of how gifts are passed, how elders remember and why. This is a story of the world the way it was meant to be, not what we have twisted it into.

Recommended.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on November 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The best way I can describe this book is to liken it to an avalanche that begins with a tiny ball of snow dislodged on the upper slopes and eventually turns into an awesome force. Nerburn begins by describing in simple and somewhat spare language a recurrent dream that sends him out to revisit an earlier quest that he fears he didn't adequately complete. It ends with a mystical experience of profound power and beauty, played out under a truly awesome display of Northern Lights and amidst a herd of buffalo. Along the way, Nerburn provides vivid characterizations, significant humor, and deep spirituality. He also gives an almost unendurably painful view of the viciousness of the methodical destruction of Indian culture perpetrated by the boarding school system and other interventions of white society's style of "pacification by intimidation and domination".

Let me emphasize that the awareness of the incredible predations of white culture upon the indigenous inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere is not new to me. From a purely personal viewpoint, I have two Navajo sons-in-law and five grandchildren who are members of the Navajo tribe. Before that, I grew up in New Mexico, and my father, as an artist, was deeply in touch not only with the Pueblo culture in the Rio Grande River valley, but also was deeply in tune with the natural world in the "Land of Enchantment". I have read extensively, including the works of Victor Villaseñor, whose book "Beyond Rain of Gold" was actually the first book I reviewed for Amazon Vine. However, I am, like Nerburn, unavoidably "white" (or Anglo, as we preferred to say in the Southwest), which makes it essentially impossible to be other than an interloper to some extent.

I have to add one other vital point in my review of this book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas P VINE VOICE on November 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I absolutely loved the book, The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo, however I did not know it was the third book in a trilogy. This didn't seem to matter, though, the story was pretty much self contained. I do plan to read the other two books.
The beginning of the book is very sad because it talks of "The Asylum for Insane Indians" that really existed in South Dakota, a horrible place where they put Native Americans that would not conform to the White Man's Ways. Kent Nerburn is searching for clues to what happened to Yellow Bird, the sister of his native friend, Dan, a Dakota elder. Along the way, Kent meets people who have some information linking Yellow Bird to this institute.
Another key figure in the book is a little girl named Zi. She is only 4 years old and seems to have many special abilities. The White Doctors, however, seem to think she is ill and in need of medication. Her parents are caught between worlds and don't know who to believe. They don't want to put her on drugs, but they realize she is different and other children avoid her. In generations past, the native community would have revered this child who could communicate with the animals and spirits. But in today's world, she was looked on as an oddity.
As the story progresses, Yellow Bird's parents are shown the way.
Nerbun has a very "easy to read" style. I really feel like I have learned something about Native ways and the struggle that Native's still have today trying to fit in to two worlds.
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