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 neighbours, 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 realisation that his life had been influenced and enhanced by a shumix, or spirit partner, acquired in childhood.