J's Reviews > Watch for Me on the Mountain

Watch for Me on the Mountain by Forrest Carter
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's review
Dec 02, 2011

really liked it
Read in December, 2011

This week has been a terrible week for weather - due to Santa Ana winds. The wind arrived and was relentless yesterday. My yard is littered with broken branches and the devastation brought about by the fierce winds can be seen everywhere. The predictions all week were that snow would follow on the heels of all this nasty weather. The prognostications are bearing out, and as I finished reading the final words in Watch For Me on the Mountain, puffy cottony snow has begun to fall.

I must admit, Native American culture and its rich collection of characters have always held a soft spot in my heart. Their tragic plight following incursions by arrival of Europeans to the New World has been dismal. Myriad pogroms aimed at eliminating them from the planet because they were deemed uncivilized savages stand as living testament to the limitless greed that marks the Human condition. Dubious claims based on the need to civilize and save souls were favored methods for subjugating and separating people from what is rightfully theirs. While I would like to believe that all Americans are aware of the outright holocaust perpetrated on Native Americans, such hopes are suggestive of a common delusion that all Americans share regarding the plight of those who have; those who elect to take what is not rightfully theirs; and the what they will do in order to satisfy the desire to possess and consume according to self-prescribed needs.

This story of the Apache War Shaman, Geronimo, written by Forrest Carter, explains what happens when two cultures collide and the lengths to which each side is willing to go in order to ensure survival of what they hold sacred. For me, Geronimo has always been a sympathetic character. I suspect it is because I see the world through the lens of cause and effect. While he has been vilified, it is short-sighted to reach such a conclusion without knowing the context of his actions. This is where Carter shines; he offers plausible explanations and although this book is considered a work of fiction, it is a story rooted in fact.

If you have read Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and were moved by it, then this is a story you will also want take in. Aside from its entertainment value, it does have facts that match the historical record and it does offer insights regarding Human nature. it is a well-crafted story and despite whatever reputation Forrest Carter garnered because of his questionable associations, it serves to remind me that when we are tempted to judge a man by our tempocentric considerations, we risk losing valuable information that could serve us better than when simply elect to couch our decisions, conclusions and judgements in the temples of our familiarity. This is not to say that I agree at all with his radical segregationist tendencies. It is ironic that someone so sympathetic perhaps even given to romanticizing the predicaments of one group of disaffected and disenfranchised could be so extreme in his fidelity with the platform of segregationists associated with George Wallace and even the KKK.

Nonetheless, just as the snow falls, and as it has followed a turbulent storm, I find myself pondering just how much we, as a people - American or otherwise - never really change. We are clannish, we are tribal, we are driven by emotion and we react in ways that are similar when we are experience stress and fear, particularly how we can be motivated by vengeance. This is why I am attracted to the kinds of books I read, the ones that always explore themes on why we do what we do.
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04/14 marked as: read

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message 1: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Edwards Interesting thoughts, Joe. Oh, and I love NM in the snow.

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