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October 23, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

RETURNING THE GIFT: Poetry and Prose From the First North American Native Writer's Festival edited by Joseph Bruchac (University of Arizona Press: $19.95; $45 cloth; 369 pp.) The essays, stories and poems in this collection grew out of a conference of more than 350 writers that took place at the University of Oklahoma in July, 1992. In his opening address, Chief Tom Porter (Akwesasne Mohawk) stated that by writing about their experiences, the authors were "returning the gift--the gift of storytelling, culture, continuance--to the people, the source from whence it had come." Most of the authors focus on ethnic concerns in works that range from the whimsical poem "Oh, Just Call Me an Indian" by Drew Hayden Taylor (Ojibway) to an anguished essay in which Duane Niatum (Klallam (Jamestown Band)) laments, "We have learned in our long battles with loss and denial and defeat that what is most difficult to face is not ourselves, but the pain of the ancestors in our dreams."

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