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Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache Paperback – August 1, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Basso, an anthropologist who has done fieldwork among the Western Apache of Arizona for over 30 years, provides a fascinating scholarly study of the meaning and significance of the Apache place names found in the area surrounding the community of Cibecue, Arizona. Some Apache place names describe features of the landscape or climate, while others derive from historical or mythological events. All, however, are rich in descriptive imagery and depth of meaning for the Apache people of the area. With the help of several Apache informants, Basso explores the place worlds underlying the names of localities and through them lets the Apache express their own understanding of their history, identity, values, and morality. This work, which won the Western States Book Award for creative nonfiction, is a valuable contribution to anthropological studies of place and location. At the same time, it provides a sensitive perspective on the Apaches' understanding of themselves. A useful addition to anthropology and linguistics collections in academic libraries.?Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Coll. Lib., Westerville, Ohio
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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"This brilliant book on linguistic awareness of local landscapes is a gem." --(Arizona Republic )
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press; 1st edition (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826317243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826317247
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Bayes on November 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
What do people make of places? This is the central question examined by Keith Basso in his ethno-linguistic study of the relationship between language and landscape among the Apaches of Cibecue, on the Fort Apache Reservation in central Arizona. Basso, a professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, has spent over 30 years conducting field work among the Western Apaches. His publications concerning this group include articles on language, patterns of silence in social interaction, witchcraft beliefs, and ceremonial symbolism, among others. The idea for Wisdom Sits in Places stemmed from a study conducted between 1979 and 1984, in which Basso, with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation and the guidance of the Apaches, conducted a study of Apache places and place-names; how the Apache refer to their land, the stories behind the place-names, and how these place-names are used in daily conversation by Apache men and women. The result is a stunningly informative account of the use of landscape and language in the social interactions of the Western Apaches.

Basso divides his book into four sections: Quoting the Ancestors, Stalking with Stories, Speaking with Names, and Wisdom Sits in Places. Each chapter's focus is to examine how landscape and language serve distinct purposes in Western Apache society. Basso incorporates the oral history of, and discussions with, local Apaches, as well as his formal training as an ethnographer-linguist, to explain the underlying themes of this book.

First, Basso introduces the reader to the idea of place-names and in the Western Apache construction of history.
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Format: Paperback
Keith Basso weaves together a work of anthropology that thoroughly explores the importance of place-naming in Western Apache culture. He provides the reader with vignettes of his informants that serves his greater thesis quite well. The reader has the sense of the integration of place-naming in the culture through these vignettes. Superb!!!
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Format: Paperback
Basso's writing is extraordinary. This great book consists of engaging articles that merge linguistics with cultural anthropology in an approach called the "ethnography of speaking." Placing this jargon aside, the approach is to demonstrate how Apaches use names, stories, and other ways of speaking to create and maintain their culture. Basso's work provides deep insight into Apache life, and it also serves as a model for ways to understand how language plays an important role in everyday life.
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Format: Paperback
Wisdom Sits in Places investigates how the Western Apache think and imagine their geography. The study grew out of a suggestion to the anthropologist from the chairman of the White Mountain Apache tribe: "Why don't you make maps over there... not whitemen's maps... but Apache maps with Apache places and names." Thus, with the help of the tribe and the National Science Foundation, Keith Basso began his work over the next five years. Basso is an ethnographer-linguist which means that he studies the language and culture of a particular group.

While the book focuses upon the experience of a particular group of people, it is a wonderful book to 'think with' when each of us contemplates our own sense of place and how places help to construct our experiences and color our imagined pasts and futures. After all, human existence is deeply embedded in time and space, and our social lives are situated within an exchange of symbolic forms wherever we live. As Basso says, places have profound meaning and are often metaphors for living and understanding our social worlds and practices.

For a full review see Interface, Volume 3, Issue 2.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of my favorite authors that has shred the perspectives of the Western Apache people in a culturally sensitive and carful manner that helps the reader understand the value, importance and relationship with place.
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I used this book in my Ecological Perspectives of Native Americans course. This text brings together oral histories and the natural environment, a key component of understanding indigenous environmental philosophies, practices, and worldviews.
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This book about the Western Apache is very informative. It relates ancestral knowledge of places with oral teaching tradition, and demonstrates how meaning was communicated. A must-read for multicultural teachers, history buffs, culture and anthropology, and people who enjoy learning about different ways of thinking.
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Format: Paperback
Anthropologists, language students, and Native American culture afficionados will find this book, and any by Keith Basso, written links into a cultural past which struggles to exist today. As the Western Apache tribes become more modern, the information found in this and other Keith Basso writings, become necessities in the preservation of traditional Apache culture; with the exception of the knowledge of a few hundred very traditional Apaches still living in Arizona.
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