“Grandmother, you who listen and hear all, you from whom all good things come…It is your embrace we feel when we return to you…”
This traditional Lakota prayer to Grandmother Earth opens Joseph Marshall III’s newest work, a meditation on our connection to the land and an exhortation to respect it. Using a combination of personal anecdote, detailed history, and Lakota tales, Marshall takes us back to his childhood and shows us how we, too, can learn to love our planet.
Although he was educated in Euro-American schools, Marshall had the benefit of growing up with wise grandparents who taught him never to walk a path without knowing the trail from which he’d come: that the bow does not make the hunter, and above all, that the earth can be boundlessly generous—if we can learn to accept its gifts.
Part memoir, part cultural manifesto, To You We Shall Return offers a comparison between Euro-American attitudes, policies, and history regarding the natural environment to that of ancient native North American beliefs and practices in relating to and living with that same environment. Speaking from the cultural viewpoint of the Lakota of the northern Plains, the author discusses the evolution of native cultures to fit within the environment and adapt to it, as opposed to changing it drastically or wholesale to fit human needs and comforts. He suggests that changing our contemporary thinking in relating to the earth in a less harmful way does not mean a drastic change in lifestyles, but that revisiting the methods of adaptation to and coexistence with the earth will foster a renewed respect which will ultimately benefit mankind as well.