Book Review

Winona LaDuke’s Recovering the Sacred begins by addressing the plight of the Apache, whose holy mountain, Mount Graham, has become the site of Mt. Graham International Observatory, a project of the University of Arizona.  The University of Arizona, it turns out, has strange bedfellows as sponsors–the United States Military and the Vatican.  The Vatican joins in this struggle against the Apache and their mountain–also a struggle against nature–attempting to live down the church’s persecution of Galileo.  Revealingly, the director of the Vatican Observatory states that a failure to “make distinctions (between insignificant nature and spiritual human beings)  has created a kind of environmentalism and a religiosity to which I cannot subscribe and which must be suppressed with all the force we can muster.”

In the second chapter, LaDuke takes on Peabody Coal’s Black Mesa mine, which scars 1,700 acres and uses 1.3 billion gallons of water annually to transport the slurried coal, endangering the Navajo-Aquifer, an irreplaceable resource which again must be sacrificed to man–in this case corporate man.

LaDuke sweeps out across the United States, taking up struggles to reclaim bones and blood, to reintroduce the sturgeon, to protect seeds from transgenic pollution, to reestablish relationships with the land, to engage in lifestyles that place man within a cycle of harvesting, harnessing wind in the face of global climate change, and naming the other with reverence.

Recovering the Sacred proposes solutions that are environmentally and spiritually founded in the American land,  presenting an opportunity for those who live upon it and benefit from it to adopt a sense of reverence.  This is a particularly valuable vision, as it is the arrogant legacy of Columbus who considered gold living and the Tainos damned that endangers the earth, the creatures who share it with us, and the children who will walk upon it when we are gone.

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