Essay collections are often a repository of an author’s lesser works, an attempt by publishers to milk every last penny from a well-regarded scholar. This is not the case with Jace Weaver’s new book Notes from a Miner’s Canary: Essays on the State of Native America (University of New Mexico Press, 2010). He is, indeed, a well-regarded scholar. As director of the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia and the author of a number of foundational texts in the field, Weaver can certainly command the academic gravitas necessary for published article collections.
But Notes from a Miner’s Canary is no mere repository. Weaver brilliantly harmonizes a number of diverse and compelling articles into a powerful primer for students and scholars of Native American Studies, moving deftly through environmentalism, NAGPRA, indigenous architecture, theology, literature, and far more. Grounded in a firm belief in the need for engaged scholarly work accountable to Native communities, Weaver writes with the passion of an advocate and the cool acumen of an intellectual. (Weaver is of course trained both as a lawyer and an academic)
If Weaver is indeed right that much of the field is a “mess” (a quote from the book’s previously published opening chapter which Weaver argues in this interview is often taken out of context), Notes from a Miner’s Canary is a formidable effort at creating a meaningful coherence: interdisciplinary openness, intellectual rigor, and political commitment.