The Sea of Grass

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Member Reviews

Reading this was near-unlike anything else I’ve read.  I consider it to be non-fiction, a memoir–after all, The Sea of Grass tells the written tale (though once oral) of many generations ago and their stories, and offers a well-researched and cited list in the backmatter. Yet this book also falls certainly within the historical fiction category, as certainly events from so long ago and events that were certainly not recorded or documented in what is now deemed the “traditional” or “academic” way.  Not only is it unlike anything I’ve ever read due to its genre-crossing boundaries, but its plot and structure is totally unlike anything I’ve read either, likely due to its Native American influence.

Told in many parts, from various different perspectives, Echo-Hawk offers points of view from many generations ago to himself today.  Within each section, however, are additional stories and tales, as well as context that are woven in throughout the text.  After all, how could I, and perhaps plenty of other white readers, really understand the heart of this book without also trying to understand the culture and traditions that Echo-Hawk has understood his whole life?

It reads as though one were telling you this story themselves–there are many contexts, many dates, and plenty of facts that do not need to be expanded upon in order to make this book make sense.  Because of that, it did take me a while to really be able to dig in, being so different than what I’m used to, but it made for an incredible and relaxing reading experience.

Overall, this book is a strong, sturdy text, and though I read it specifically for Native American Heritage Month (November), I highly recommend reading this outside of that month, too.  It’s intriguing, historical, and offers many perspective that I’d little considered due to our current society’s constraints.
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A rich and well written story. Touching and also heart wrenching at times, it kept my interest through. Really liked the way the story has the feel of oral tradition. Was not able to read on my kindle, but was able to read on my computer in a PDF file. From the beginning origins, to the wars with neighboring groups and finally the whites, it is a telling of the history of the Pawnee nation, including Crazy Horse. From the telling of how the Wolf was their protector, to how they got the Big Dog (horse), it was interesting throughout. Highly recommend this book and author.
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This was an epic and gut-wrenching read.  The Sea of Grass is a novel based on real people and events over multiple generations from the perspective of the Pawnee Nation.  It's based on oral tradition, and admittedly, the narrative does take a little while to get used to, but it is very worthwhile and ultimately rewarding.

Despite the many disasters faced along the way, The Sea of Grass is a book about survival as well as the endurance of the human spirit. Although, I must confess by the end of the novel the message did feel a little hollow.  Based on historical events, the many cruelties and disasters visited upon the Pawnee Nation were a lot to absorb and process, however, perhaps others may feel differently.

The myths and legends scattered throughout were also fascinating to read about.  

Highly recommended. 

This was an ARC in exchange for an honest review.  With thanks to Netgalley and Fulcrum Publishing.
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I would love to read this book and have tried to download it to my Kindle several times without success. I have managed to read about ten pages, and what I have read is very interesting.  The author writes from inside the experience of his culture, which is very rewarding to read.  The author is also a skilled writer and takes the reader on the journey of his story with him.
Was this review helpful? confess that, much to my shame, I knew zero about the Pawnee Nation until I came across Walter Echo-Hawk's THE SEA OF GRASS: A FAMILY TALE FROM THE AMERICA HEARTLAND. An attorney, writer, and activist, Echo-Hawk is one of the rare Americans who can rightly claim that his ancestral roots in the New World reach back to 1250. The fictionalized history of his Pawnee family's presence in America, is an inspiring exploration of these roots. It is an account that begins with a meeting between a lost, starving Pawnee boy and a wolf. Separated from his companions, the boy is near death when the wolf rescues him and blesses him with the power to live,

"Wherever you go, you will never get lost or starve. Like a wolf, you will always find something to eat and find your way back home. This is the power to survive. Your people will need it in the years ahead. Remember me—and you will be taken care of, no matter what. "

 That power was greatly needed by the Pawnee as war with larger tribes such as the Lakota, famine, and invasions by Europeans who wantonly destroyed buffalo herds and who brought with them deadly infectious diseases so reduced their numbers that by 1850 a population of 10 000 had dwindled to  4000. Forced dislocation to Oklahoma from the Loup, Republican and south Platte river areas, in Nebraska and Kansas,  further reduced that number to 2 700.

Although the journey the reader takes under Echo-Hawk's deft guidance is not free of sorrow, as the Pawnee have their land taken away, their traditions fractured, their children subjected to enforced acculturation, what shines through is the strength and faith that make survival possible. But this is not a grim story. It is a story that includes lyricism,  cosmology, humor, feminism, subtle political jabs, a compact between human and nature, faith, tradition, and the hard-earned pride of a people who served their country well in war and peace. While reading it, I learned that the Pawnee is a matrilineal nation-- its first chapter honors Echo-Hawk's ancestor Calico Woman--and I loved the charming Pawnee legend of how horses came into being. The heavenly legend about the origin of the Pawnee, who call themselves Children of the Stars,  moved me and made me wish more people would learn Echo-Hawk's people.

There are only a couple of minor quibbles I have about the text--two or three typos and the lack of a Pawnee glossary. Neither limits the pleasure of reading this long overdue contribution to the history of Native Americans.
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