American Indians •  Biography and Religion

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Going Native

Tom Harmer

In a spiritual autobiography shaped by years of living with a band of Salish Indian people after the Vietnam War, Tom Harmer shares his hard-won knowledge of their world and the nature spirits that govern it.

Leaving behind college, military service, and years of living off the land as he drifted aimlessly and smuggled draft dodgers and deserters into Canada, Harmer came to the isolated Okanogan region of Washington state in the company of an Indian man hitchhiking home after Wounded Knee. Harmer was desperate to make something of his life. He settled down for nearly ten years close to his Indian neighbors, adopted their view of the world, and participated in their traditional sweatlodge and spirit contact practices.

From his first sight of Chopaka, a mountain sacred to the Okanogan people, Harmer felt at home in this place. He formed close relationships with members of the Okanogan band living on allotments amidst white ranches and orchards, finding work as they did, feeding cattle, irrigating alfalfa, picking apples, and eventually becoming an outreach worker for a rural social services agency. Gradually absorbing the language, traditions, and practical spirit lore as one of the family, he was guided by an elderly uncle through arduous purification rites and fasts to the realization that his life had been influenced and enhanced by a shumíx, or spirit partner, acquired in childhood.


Tom Harmer is also the author of What I’ve Always Known: Living in Full Awareness of the Earth. He lives in northern New Mexico


"(A) simple story of one man's sojourn among the Okanagan.... An evocative bridge to a world view that few have had the pursue....The personal chronicle of (Harmer's) self-discovery under the tutelage of Old Willie, Grandma, Clayton, and a handful of other remarkably sensitive and vivid....(Harmer) effectively leads the reader into grasping, or at least glimpsing, the Okanagan-Colville world view and its interrelationship with nature....Going Native is a defence, both passionate and reasoned, of the importance of...finding power in nature."


Dorothy Kennedy, BC Indian Language Project

"This is a great book, for Tom Harmer really is one who knows, as shamans say. I strongly recommend it to those interested in shamanism or Native American spirituality."


Michael Harner, Ph.D., author of The Way of the Shaman

"This compelling work provides a glimpse of the powers of the world and their interpenetration with dream reality, leading us into an understanding of relationships of spirituality with nature and community. It shows us a world in which family bonds run deeper than blood. It is a personal quest for integration that opens us to a perception of the powers of nature that lay hidden by the illusions of our rational mind. Powerful enough to bring out a longing for one's own spiritual awakening and development."


Michael Winkelman, Arizona State University, author of Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing

"The zone between Indian people and non-Indians is populated with many honest people and a stunning array of phonies from both sides. Tom Harmer's Going Native is an honest book about a real white guy amid real Indians. Accounts of reality in that zone are rare. And guys like Harmer who can really write are rare. What more do you need?"


Jake Page, author of Hopi

6 x 9 in. 296 pages 1 halftone