Joanne Shenandoah & Douglas M. George,
Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois
(Clear Light, 1998)

Yes, Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois was co-written by award-winning singer, performer, composer and lyricist Joanne Shenandoah, whose work I have praised as loudly as possible. If you have been living under a rock and through some fluke missed my reviews of her work, check out the music heading when you finish here.

This lady -- a member of the Iroquois Confederacy, Oneida Nation, Wolf Clan -- is awesome in the true sense of the word: "to inspire awe." I will not recite her accomplishments simply because they take so long. But with 11 albums since 1990 -- so far -- she can talk Grammy, Nammy, Indie and many other awards. She has demonstrated her talents across Native American, blues, jazz, classical and folk rock genres.

When you combine the talent of Shenandoah with that of her Mohawk husband, Douglas M. George -- himself an accomplished writer and author -- you have an unstoppable duo with the ability to charm, excite and spellbind any person (except those few who should go back under their rock and try joining the world at some later point in time). These two are the total package!

This hardcover, 109-page book contains nine stories that explain a great deal about the Iroquois beliefs of ancient times. Most of the stories, in typical indigenous fashion, relate lessons for life: to remember to pray and give thanks, to respect your elders, to share, to keep your promises and to live a good life. The Iroquois creation story begins the book. It ends with the story of Jikonsahseh, the Mother of Nations, who encouraged the warring peoples to accept the Great Law of Peace and unite, forming the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.

There are 44 illustrations that range from pencil sketches to elaborate paintings. The father-and-son team of John Kahionhes Fadden and David Kanietakeron Fadden, members of the Mohawk Nation, provide excellent visual support for the stories.

Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois is one of the must-own books for any Native American or folklore collection. This is a top-notch book by a brilliant team.

Recently, I had several books on my coffee table and took a few moments to and compare. The books from Clear Light Publishing have a much stronger visual support than the average book. They consistently utilize paintings or photographs instead of pencil sketches. When they do use pencil sketches, they are extremely and meticulously detailed. In short, Clear Light uses "artwork" instead of simple illustrations. That is the honest fact.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

5 July 2008

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