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Native American Legends of Sacred Mountains

by Byrd Baylor
illustrated by Leonard F. Chana
Out of Stock Until Further Notice.

At the edge of the mountain
A cloud hangs,
And there my heart, my heart, my heart
Hangs with it.
—from the Tohono O'odham

Product Details

Reading is Fundamental

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ordering this book as a RIF selection

10-digit ISBN0-938317-26-1
13-digit ISBN9780938317265
Page Count64
Publication DateApril 1, 1997
RightsAll Rights Available
These tales go back to the beginning of tribal memory, but they are a part of the present, too. In the Southwest, several tribes are fighting legal battles even now for control of their own shrines and sacred mountains, trying (usually with little success) to keep mines and ski lodges and land developers away from the homes of their gods. The book is divided into 5 different sections:
  • Beginnings
  • Changes
  • Protection
  • Power, Magic, Mystery and Dreams
  • The Beings in the Mountains

  • There are dozens of versions of each story included here, and there are other stories not included because they were too private to tell outside one tribe. In collecting these stories, Byrd Baylor looked for the oldest sources and best translations and compared them with what people in different tribes had already told her. Then she looked at the mountains a long time.

    "I probably began this book years ago and without knowing it," Byrd said, "when an O’odham friend told me she felt safe wherever she could see Baboquivari Mountain. Now I too live where I see Baboquivari and I too feel safe."

    This book was originally published in 1981 by Scribners as A God on Every Mountain Top, Stories of Southwest Indian Sacred Mountians.

    There Are Certain Mountains
    Indians Know Are Holy Places

    You can tell which ones they are
    because storm clouds gather at their peaks
    and lightning strikes more often
    than it does on other mountains
    and eagles circle in the afternoons
    and winds beginup there.

    Those are the mountains
    where the power of ancient spirits
    still hovers like a mist.
    Those are the mountains
    where gods still live and plant their corn
    and dance.

    In the southwest, each tribe has a homeland
    marked off by sacred mountains
    and each mountain has a story.

    Call them myths—or call them truth.
    It doesn't matter.

    Just remember that people who have looked
    at sacred mountains all their lives
    say nothing is as real
    as the high thin music they have heard
    coming from inside the rocks up there.

    What is written here is what the people tell
    about their mountains.

    These are stories from a time
    when the world was new—and softer—
    and magic was much better understood
    than it is now.

    To tell them is to honor
    sacred mountains.

    Publishers' Weekly
    Baylor’s lyrical, economical style is ideally suited to such stories as 'Ceremony for Moving Mountains' and each gem in the collection. In 'Ceremony,' the Papagos’ medicine men invent magic from 'strong thoughts' and tell the people how to coax the mountains to push back, leaving room for planting in the valley. The story quivers with tension as the mighty peaks give way to faith.
    Tewa, Mohave, Navajo, Taos, and Apache creation myths and other Southwestern Indian tales 'from a time when the world was new' are retold by Baylor in her lean, forthright style. All the stories are linked to mountains held in reverence by the tribes whose stories she tells. Here, as with Baylor’s other more personal statements, readers are challenged to respect the land and hear what it has to say.
    Joe Hayes, reknowned award winning storyteller
    Here, in the firm poetic style that has established her as one of America's finest authors for young readers, Byrd Baylor tells some of the best Native American stories of the Southwestern mountains. As in all her work, her carefully crafted language reveals her love and respect for every part of this desert country—its people and plants and animals, its ancient stories and its mountains.
    Paula Gunn Allen, (Laguna Pueblo) poet and critic
    The Way to Make Perfect Mountains is a true story. All people of wit and good sense who have lived among their towering embrace must know that "nothing is as real" or as true as the sacred song the mountains sing. To the people who remember the true stories and give honor to the beautiful mountains, and to Byrd Baylor who collects some of the stories here, dha wah'eh. Thank you.
    Click here to view all the reviews

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