Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A passing.

I've just received word that John Mohawk, author, activist, and teacher, died yesterday in his home.

John was a professor of mine. I didn't work closely with him, and I didn't know him well. What I remember most about him is the way that he would sit in class or in meetings and listen with his eyes closed for a very long time, and just when I thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep, he'd make a brilliant, intuitive comment that would have me scrambling to write it down. And that I very rarely saw him get really angry, no matter how demonically the University administration behaved (and the administration's behavior, let me tell you, could fuel a whole 'nother blog). He would always manage to laugh - perhaps not joyfully, but I believe with genuine mirth at its various plots that he could see right through. I think he enjoyed the irony - there was always irony.

I will be posting more information when I have it, but for now, I'd refer you to this page to learn more about him and his work.

And I would also recommend two of his works to you. A Basic Call to Consciousness is a powerful text that can also serve as a primer for those interested in sovereignty of indigenous peoples (and why that's important!). This book is probably what educated me best and transformed my thinking most about these issues. Here's a link to excerpts.

An aside: John was on my oral exam committee, and the book was on my exam list. However, I didn't know he'd written it, as he is not credited (it wasn't safe for him to have his name on it during that time as the FBI was watching Indian activists closely). So, during my exam, another of my committee members turned to John and asked him a question about this book he'd authored, the one I'd been talking about unaware that I was sitting next to its author.

After I picked my jaw back up from the floor, I did a quick, mental recap of everything I'd said previously, to make sure that I hadn't said anything stupid about it. (It's a good thing that I liked the book.)

More recently, John wrote Utopian Legacies: A History of Conquest and Oppression in the Western World. This was a huge undertaking, as the title suggests - which is not surprising, given that John was one of the smartest men I've ever met.

His death is a tragic loss, not only for the University, but for all who knew him.

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