Book Reviews of Voices of Earth and Sky.

1. "A lifetime of interest in and study of Native American cultures and religions has prompted Vinson Brown to write in graphically picturesque form this account of the vision life and culture heroes of the Native American people. Drawing from personal experience backed by detailed analysis and study of existing literature and legend, he relates a oneness of teachings, showing the many similarities between culture heroes and their teachings known in North, Central, and South America.

"The most striking message inherent in the teachings of the culture heroes is that of brotherly love amongst all peoples. Time after time in culture after culture, enlightened ones brought the instruction that all men are brothers and must learn to respect one another and live together as one. The author indicates a strong resemblance between one of our own culture heroes, King Arthur, and his teachings of equality and oneness with those of Quetzalcoatl, the ancient teacher of many Central and South American peoples. This resemblance is such that the author includes a dialogue between them, noting similarities in background, character, and teachings. Other teachers are mentioned, including Sweet Medicine, Black Elk, White Buffalo Calf Maiden, and Crazy Horse, and detail given to their visions as well as their teachings, to give a very comprehensive view of the subject.

"The vision life of the Native American people is given careful consideration, the author specifying the purpose and meaning of the vision quest, so important to many ancient and living societies in becoming a whole person and knowing one's purpose in life. He recounts his own search for a vision, done in a traditional manner with the assistance of a Sioux medicine man, and relates to the reader much of the knowledge he received. The author examines previously unknown aspects of the native inhabitants of this land and relates his findings in an introspective yet objective manner for the reader to consider at his own discretion. The book is extremely well written, easy to follow, entertaining, and full of wisdom." (Jan Shelton, The American Recreation and Education Journal, January 1976, vol. XI, no. 1) 

2. "Brown offers both personal testimony and a summary of native religious beliefs to demonstrate that he has found spiritual fulfillment in the sacred teachings of the Indians. His experience is a good case in support of Vine Deloria's powerful God Is Red. Brown's overview of native religions is, however, rather superficial, poorly documented, and somewhat too didactic. His treatment of culture heroes (Deganawidah, White Buffalo Cow Woman, Sweet Medicine, et al.) is sketchy and somewhat speculative; and when he relates experiences of his Indian acquaintances, they are often barren of spiritual insight. Still, when he gets to the vision quest, particularly his own pursuit of the vision at Bear Butte, South Dakota, Brown manages to convey the sense of spiritual renewal he has derived from Indian concepts of harmony with the universe and love of nature and all beings. It is this personal experience that recommends the book to all interested in understanding or aiding a revival of the mystic teachings of the first Americans." (Leo E. Oliva, Dept. of History, Fort Hays Kansas State College, Library Journal, May 1, 1974) 

3. "Mr. Brown comes to his subject not as an anthropologist or sociologist of religion, but as a convert. He is attempting to understand the unifying principles of the religions of the North American Indians in terms of his own conversion experience as a white man. As such the book begs for a special kind of understanding.

"Mr. Brown is trained as a zoologist, biologist, and naturalist--meaning, I presume, that his slight bow in the direction of classification ('...culture heroes can be divided into greater and lesser prophets...') comes from long habit. However, and here is where the special understanding comes in, the real life of the book comes from Mr. Brown's own belief that Indian religions share in the universal message of the major world religions, and as such have much to say to all people. Being a non-Indian gives his message a communicative power to his Anglo audience (especially the young, one would guess) which is lacking in books written by Native Americans....

"Experts looking for something new in terms of an understanding of the general phenomenon of New World native religions will not find much here....Yet as a personal testament, no student of the religious experience per se can afford to miss this book." (J. Rogers Conrad, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Sociology Magazine, Sept. 1974)

Native American beliefs are as rich and varied as there are traditional groups. Anthropologists, archaeologists, and linguists can spend their entire career studying a single aspect of one particular native culture and never really get to the real heart of spiritual matters for these people. The result is countless academic texts with great detail about general beliefs with smatterings of detailed information about specific rituals and practices. For the average person, this information is too technical and doesn't really address the desire to understand the spiritual foundations of our native peoples.

Voices of Earth and Sky attempts to fill this void. The author is a trained anthropologist. However, while studying and working with various native cultures, he realized the human element was missing. It's actually very interesting how this transition occurred. After many disappointments finding a good research, the author found an individual who had much to teach the professor. This man was centered in a way that intrigued the author. So began another journey.

Though obviously not extensive, Voices of Earth and Sky does a good job of introducing readers to the traditions of various Amerindian societies. The reader will gain respect for these respected ideals while viewing a glimpse of the complexity and depth there within. From there, the reader can begin his or her own journey.

TCM Reviews, Reviewed by Tami Brady