(Note: This review is for the book only, not the cards!)

I had people warn me about this book. Now, I know why.

This is one of the worst cases of cultural appropriation I've seen. Every sentence it's "Great Mystery" this or "medicine" that. Somewhere along the way these words were the result of something translated from a Native language into English, but they've been so changed by context and misunderstanding that they barely resemble the original concepts. The whole book is basically one big hyperromanticization of the "Noble Savage", the idea that all Native Americans were and are still completely entwined with nature in everything they do, and everything is mystical and amazing and there's of course NO problem whatsoever (just ignore the problems on the reservations and in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, folks!)

In addition, the authors keep referring to "Native American" this and that. Well, can you be a little more specific? As in, what tribe? On page 221, where the bios are, the authors have between them (or so they say) Cheyenne, Crow, Sioux, Seneca, Mayan, Aztec and Choctaw learning and/or influence. Well, that's a pretty wide variety of individual cultures there, not to mention the subdivisions within each of those tribes! I don't believe I saw one single instance in the entire book where they referred to a specific tribe.

It would help, of course, if they'd taken the time to cite their sources. However, they don't even differentiate between their work and what they've gotten from others, so we have no way to really figure out if they're even genuine in what they're talking about. And, surprise, surprise, "We don't need no stinkin' bibliography!" No sources, no citations—there were so many times where I was wondering “Where in the world did they get this?!”

Feel free to read on for some specific examples....

"Every person has nine power or totem animals" (page 18) Where, might I ask, did that come from? Is that a given regardless of tribe or other culture? If it's something the authors came up with, they should SAY so.

Page 23 has a bunch of questionable mythology about how Native women are all incredibly intuitive and only men have egos.

Page 27 has a Druidic card layout (or so they say). Huh? What doe sthat have to do with "real live Indians!" 

"Thoth, the Atlantian who later returned as Hermes" (61) Ummm....

"Long ago, in tribal law..." (69) Whose tribe? 

"All of our petroglyphs speak of the Motherland, Mu, and the disaster that brought the red race to North America..." (201)  Again, I’ll let this speak for itself.

I think you get the picture.

I do have to say that within the individual entries on different animals there are some motes of really good information. However, they're buried in so much questionable material that I can't give this anything better than one out of five. I had to stop myself from throwing this book across the room a number of times. If you can swallow pseudo-Native garbage, go for it. Otherwise, avoid.

~review by Lupa

Jamie Sams and David Carson

St. Martin's Press, 1999

240 pp., $29.95