Blair Stonechild’s background, experience, the extent of his research, and the careful attention with which he presents the ideas make his latest book, The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality, an important contribution to knowledge. He has been highly involved in talking with elders to compile their oral knowledge; Stonechild summarizes the ideas of the elders, then comments on the ideas presented using his own spare conversational tone.
While I am not from an Indigenous culture, community, or spirituality, reading this book allowed me a greater understanding of life, its stages, and its challenges. On an intellectual level, this is the most believable book about spirituality that I have ever read. This is an academic book, not a spiritual text in itself, but it does outline some very basic concepts that I find highly believable, and simple enough to inform understanding and even day to day living. It is not my place to summarize the ideas contained in this book, but I can present some of the basic concepts that I find particularly stimulating: that each person is a spirit who chose human existence, that the loss of spirit memory leads to focus in the physical world, and that everyone has a gift. Of course these are the very basics, and there is much more to learn from the book itself.
Surprisingly, education is quite a focus in this book as well. The first chapter includes a detailed history of Manitou College in Quebec, where Stonechild became Assistant Director in 1974. He outlines the many governmental and financial challenges that the college endured before it closed in 1979. Shortly after returning to Regina, Stonechild was asked to teach the first Indian studies class at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC), which has now been expanded into the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC).
With much of chapters two and seven providing a detailed history of SIFC and FNUC, Stonechild is shown to have been present during the beginnings and development of the First Nations controlled education system in Canada. I learned through reading just how important education is to Indigenous communities, that learning is considered a sacred activity. Creating a new First Nations education system was one of the ways to bring the focus back to honoring First Nations culture, community, language, and spirituality, after the residential schools had existed for generations for the sole purpose of destroying those very relationships.
Overall, it is the nature of academic texts to be well-researched and to acknowledge the opinions of others. This book is wonderfully well-rounded, providing evidence of spiritual power as well as contrasting spiritual ideas against scientific concepts. It delivers exhaustive research of many Indigenous cultures from around the world, and is written by an astute author who has an impressive, clear, and academic writing style. The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality by Blair Stonechild would be particularly welcome in any Indigenous Studies program across Canada, and furthermore, it will provide a rich and satisfying read for anyone interested in spirituality.
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