Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Book Review: Holy Ground, Healing Water

By Dwight Hunter

Perhaps, this is a book too old for a review as it was published in 2010. However, the appealing thing about non-fiction books in electronic format within the library catalog is that if you stumble across an intriguing one, review it.

Well, this was certainly an intriguing one.

Holy Ground, Healing Water: Cultural Landscapes at Waconda Lake, Kansas was written by a cultural anthropologist, Donald Blakeslee. I was going to do what I normally do with non-fiction books: skim around and read the good parts. I ended up reading most of the book. The book appeals to learning about Native American history, Western expansion, economics, and spiritualism.

To be honest, I chose this book because of the subtitle: cultural landscapes at Waconda Lake, Kansas. I grew up knowing about Waconda Lake. My grandmother's house was just a few miles from the lake's shores. I remember being incredibly sad as a 10-year old boy upon first learning that a great spring, Waconda Spring, was buried by the waters of the new, man-made Waconda Lake.

It was this sadness, that curiosity of what was, that attracted me to this book subtitle. But I learned so much more; this book wasn't just about Waconda Spring and the lake bearing its name. The book was about the clash of cultures, about spirituality versus economic gain, about the ignorance of cultural identities. A person with critical thinking skills could extrapolate so much from this 2010 historical anthropology book.

The early chapters explored the history of Native American trails, that they were really a series of short trails connected together, and the early explorers from the French, the Spaniards, the Americans and their cultural interactions with Native American tribes.  I was wondering why all of this information and then saw the connection. Despite the warfare among tribes and despite the historical changes in culture, one thing remained constant: water flowing out of a cone-shaped rock 30 feet tall, and 30 feet in diameter, was so revered, so sacred, that no one tribe dared to fight near it.

It was called Kitzawitzuk and anglicized to Waconda. For the Native Americans, the cone-shaped spring was holy ground. By the 1950s, a great need for flood control was required. Floods had damaged property and towns downstream. Waconda Lake was created.

I recommend this book, if nothing else, to learn about a lost culture and the importance in remembering.

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