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Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache
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Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  808 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
This remarkable book introduces us to four unforgettable Apache people, each of whom offers a different take on the significance of places in their culture. Apache conceptions of wisdom, manners and morals, and of their own history are inextricably intertwined with place, and by allowing us to overhear his conversations with Apaches on these subjects Basso expands our awar ...more
Paperback, 171 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by University of New Mexico Press
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Richard Reese
Mar 24, 2015 Richard Reese rated it it was amazing
Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Shell, Safeway, the highway matrix — everyone knows these culturally significant features of our landscape. Less well known are the natural features of the land: the hills, prairies, ponds, and streams. Our landscape watched the mammoths roam, it watched the furious madness of civilization, and it will watch the manmade eyesores dissolve into ancient ruins.

Waking up in the civilized world each morning is a jolt — jets, sirens, the endless rumble of machines. Most of us live
Alanood Burhaima
Aug 07, 2016 Alanood Burhaima rated it it was amazing
"The stories cannot be separated from geographic locations, from actual physical places within the land...And the stories are so much part of these places that it is almost impossible for future generations to lose the stories because there are so many imposing geographic cannot live in that land without asking or looking or noticing a boulder or rock. And there is always a story."
Jan 03, 2017 Leslie rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. Western Apache residents of the village of Cibecue explain to the author how various places were named by their ancestors, the stories they told of events that took place there, and what the community has learned through these stories. The author explains how the Western Apache communicate with the stories and how they've evolve into the wisdom of the places/people. The author's writing shows his respect for the Western Apache and deep interest in how they thi ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Stephen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Wisdom Sits in Places is the name of a remarkable little book of linguistic ethnography about "landscape and language among the Western Apache." Written by rancher and professor Keith H. Basso, who had spent decades working with this group of Apache before composing this opus, the book is easy to overlook: file under boring academic anthropology. For anyone interested in gaining a greater appreciation for the diverse ways we humans think and act, both in and about this world, doing so is a certa ...more
Susan Eubank
"I think of that mountain called Tsee Ligai Da Sidile (White Rocks Lie Above in a Compact Cluster) as if it were my maternal grandmother. I recall stories of how it once was at that mountain. The stories told to me were like arrows. Elsewhere, hearing that mountain's name, I see it. Its name is like a picture. Stories go to work on you like arrows. Stories make you live right. Stories make you replace yourself. (Benson Lewis, age 64, 1979)", p. 38
"Nothing is more basic to the telling of a Wester
Paul Haspel
Apr 02, 2012 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it
Shelves: native-americans
When reading Wisdom Sits in Places, one gets a strong sense of the aspects of Western Apache language and culture that prompted Keith H. Basso to write the book. Basso, an anthropology professor at the University of New Mexico, is also an Arizona rancher, and therefore he can consider from a variety of perspectives the Western Apache and the way they link language and landscape. As Basso tells it, "wisdom sits in places" because the Western Apache tell "historical tales" that not only impart les ...more
Thomas T.M. Wentonik
Mar 14, 2016 Thomas T.M. Wentonik rated it really liked it
I read just the title section in this book, the last 50 pages or so. Felt the beginning only reaffirmed some basic conceptual ideas about 'place' that I have encountered elsewhere. The ethnography is what I was really in it for.

Some sparse notes and thoughts:

Wanted to know more about Dudley / some of the other figures and their exploration of place.

The image of the bull overlooking the cemetery at the end was beautiful.

For memory's sake: the stories, some of which I hope to remember, include t
Jan 06, 2016 Raven rated it it was amazing
The best book I've read yet this year! (Granted, it's early, but I loved it.) It had been on my radar for a couple years, ever since I started visiting the Southwest regularly. I've been to Navajo Country, but I knew relatively little about the western Apache before reading this book. When the book club at Ada's named this as one of their picks for this year, I was delighted to have the excuse to read it. To my pleasure and surprise, many of the world reference points the author has were things ...more
Aug 15, 2010 Brent rated it liked it
Recommended to Brent by: Professor Buonforte
Shelves: cultural-study
I read this book in my Anthropology 101 class at BYU, one of my favorite classes.

Places have power. Feelings and thoughts can stay in places long after those who experienced them have moved on. Wherever I am, I love pondering about all the other people who have been there and what they felt and what they went through.

There's a residential neighborhood in Provo in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains where all the streets are named after indigenous American tribes. I laugh driving through it b
May 17, 2016 Julia rated it really liked it
3.75 stars

This was a very eye-opening monograph. This was assigned reading in my introductory anthropology class, and I can say that this is the most I learned from the class (due to my instructor's ineptitude more so than this being the greatest work of anthropology to grace the world).

Keith Basso has an incredible way with words. The memoir-like sections were written like a work of fiction would be written, with enthralling descriptions of people and places. The ethnography sections were writt
Aug 29, 2010 Alessandra rated it really liked it
Modern Anthropologist Keith Basso's work focuses on the often overlooked and oversimplified relation of people and place. The Western Apache of Cibecue present a poignant example of the persistence of place in the American Indian narrative. The tribe uses descriptive "place-names", as Basso terms them, to serve multiple functions. For the Apache, and one could argue for people in general, making place is crucial in the construction of a social identity. This book was especially interesting for m ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Siria rated it really liked it
This slim book is a very interesting look at how a community of Western Apache people—centered around the village of Cibecue, Arizona—conceive of their relationship with their past, the process of passing on their culture, and how they view the physical world around them. "Wisdom Sits in Places" is more than a catchy title; it is how the Apache themselves think of 'wisdom'. It's something which is gained from a long meditation on the symbolic dimensions of the physical landscape, and on the stor ...more
Alyson Hagy
Nov 30, 2011 Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it
I was introduced to this book by the writer Rebecca Solnit. It's a remarkable volume, carefully assembled by Basso, who is clearly a brilliantly thoughtful ethnographer. Some of the conclusions Basso draws about landscape, community, place names and identity may seem self-evident to contemporary readers who harbor (increasingly)the desire to lead lives "connected" by something more than bytes and bites. But Basso is a social scientist...and a gifted listener. His Apache sources present a complex ...more
Feb 06, 2009 Sam rated it it was amazing
This is one of the greatest non-fiction books I've read. Basso's book is a wonderful exploration of the language of the Western Apache. He doesn't delve into the culture so much as the language, of which the historical narrative takes precedence in this book. If you have any interest in other cultures and languages, want to learn just how much one's language shapes the way one thinks, want to learn how the Apache "speak with names", how to "stalk with stories", and how wisdom can sit in places, ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Sovatha rated it really liked it
A good ethnography of the Western Apache to read. Among the Western Apache, landscapes are imbued with meanings and histories. It is significant for men and women in the Western Apache to learn about the place-names in their country because their past lies embedded in the features of the earth which is endowed with multiple forms of significance and thus influences the way they view the world. These stories and meanings associated with the landscapes are wisdom that was passed on from generation ...more
Nov 21, 2010 Kim rated it it was amazing
I was assigned this book for class and was stunned by the intense lessons this book delivered. The language is almost lyrical and in some spots I had to go back and re-read for content because I had become so engrossed with the music of the words. It expresses the differences between how the Apache tell history vs how we tell history. Made me really wish my history teachers had been Apache - maybe I would have learned something when I was younger!
Nov 16, 2010 Jenny rated it really liked it
Shelves: owns, school
I loved the narrative sections. It brought life to what could have been a really dry read. After speaking with a linguist friend, I'm now a tad suspicious of some of Basso's conclusions, but I still took away a lot from this book about language, landscape, and narrative. I'm now interested in seeking out other books that discuss Native American narrative and literary traditions, particularly those that approach the subject from an anthropological perspective.
Sep 06, 2015 Colin rated it really liked it
Even though I've taught classes on etymology, and given lectures on place names, I've never thought about toponymy in quite this way before. The book has tantalizing images-- you want to plunge into them, drink deep. I just wish there was more. I feel like the tale is receding from me when I've only just come close to touching its meaning. Keith Basso, I suspect, knows how to leave the party at the right time, but I wish he and his consultants could linger with me a little longer.
Kim Harris
Jan 15, 2016 Kim Harris rated it really liked it
This book is a fascinating insight into the ethnology and language of the Western Apache people of Arizona. The concept that 'Wisdom sits in places' coming from the tradition of naming places and learning from the events that took place in them is clearly and sympathetically explained by Keith Basso.
Jul 20, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it
A profoundly valuable book which demonstrates a way of living with the land, of developing memory of place, and of creating an ethical landscape for a culture to thrive in — all this specific to the Western Apache. Beautifully and carefully elucidated by a sensitive, respectful anthropologist - the best in the field.
Jun 29, 2013 Bridget rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
This is an excellent ethnography. But more than that, it is an interesting linguistic perspective on the language of narrative, and how it can tie together the human experience of place across generations. This is one of those rare books that I find myself regularly recommending and/or gifting to friends and colleagues and anonymous book sharing shelves, because it's that good.
Jun 10, 2013 Whitney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-for-school
This book is a beautifully written ethnography about the Western Apache and their language and the landscape. I have had to read it for two separate classes and have enjoyed it both times. It caused me to think about me and my sense of place in the world. It is great book for the budding anthropologist.
Dec 22, 2007 Brianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in ethnologies
This book is simply the best ethnology I have ever read - and I have read a lot of em. Basso describes the notion of place and human wisdom in such a loving and exact way. I originally had to read this for a cultural ecology class in college, but at times, I find myself digging it out again just to read through it. It is beautifully written.
Maura W.
Oct 27, 2009 Maura W. rated it liked it
A fascinating and informative portrait of the relationship between land (place), storytelling, and history among the Western Apache. Recommended for anyone interested in Native American oral histories and/or Apache culture.

Basso does a fairly good job of using respectful language, but he occasionally slips and uses some extremely condescending or paternalistic phrasing.
Feb 29, 2016 Stephen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Brilliantly done. Basso's ethnography of Western Apache place-naming and its relation to knowledge and wisdom is an elegant and instructive examination of what it means to relate to the land more deeply. The Apache have layered the landscape with stories, appropriating it for use in moral instruction, so that the landscape becomes a means of attaining wisdom.
May 11, 2009 Darceylaine rated it it was amazing
I read this with my Eco Study Group. The style alternates between accademic and re-tellings of conversations and stories. I think it may be my only 5 star non-fiction on GoodReads. I've decided a book has to blow my mind in some way to get 5 stars, and this surely did. I've been thinking a lot about "sense of Place' for the last couple of years, and this added a whole new layer.
Mar 29, 2015 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Keith Basso has created a masterpiece. The subject of place names and how the Apache people communicate with them and also teach there children to be strong of mind and character through them is absolutely fascinating. I have to be honest and say that a few parts of this book went over my head, but what did understand was very well written, completely new and a must read in my opinion.
Apr 27, 2007 Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pachamama
I read this as part of an "international relations" class analyzing eco-religious critiques of a globalizing world. I was fascinated by the descriptions of how places--landmarks--nature tied together generations living on this land, so that looking at a place is looking back in time, receiving the knowledge of who to be and how to act in that society.
Oct 14, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
Read this for a cultural anthropology class and loved it. What I took away from the book was a better understanding of how different cultures view the landscapes of their homes and how they fit into those landscapes. The way a people define or name their landmarks can relate directly to their world view.
Aug 02, 2007 Naeem marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Patricia Price -- who wrote Dry Places -- says that 1) this is one of the best books she has read, and 2) that I MUST read it.

I haven't done so, yet. But if you get to it, tell me how it is. I don't want to pass up the advice of someone for whom I have so much respect and admiration.
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“Knowledge of places is closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one's position in the larger scheme of things, including one's own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is a person.” 4 likes
“one must acknowledge that local understandings of external realities are fashioned from local cultural materials, and that, knowing little or nothing of the latter, one’s ability to make appropriate sense of “what is” and “what occurs” in another’s environment is bound to be deficient.” 0 likes
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