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The Reluctant Pilgrim

A Skeptic's Journey into Native Mysteries

Roger L. Welsch

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Bison Books
Published: 05/2015
Pages: 264
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9780803274259


Forty years ago, while paging through a book sent as an unexpected gift from a friend, Roger Welsch came across a curious reference to stones that were round, “like the sun and moon.” According to Tatonka-ohitka, Brave Buffalo (Sioux), these stones were sacred. “I make my request of the stones and they are my intercessors,” Brave Buffalo explained. Moments later, another friend appeared at Welsch’s door bearing yet another unusual gift: a perfectly round white stone found on top of a mesa in Colorado. So began Welsch’s lesson from stones, gifts that always presented themselves unexpectedly: during a walk, set aside in an antique store, and in the mail from complete strangers.   The Reluctant Pilgrim shares a skeptic’s spiritual journey from his Lutheran upbringing to the Native sensibilities of his adoptive families in both the Omaha and Pawnee tribes. Beginning with those round stones, increasing encounters during his life prompted Welsch to confront a new way of learning and teaching as he was drawn inexorably into another world. Confronting mainstream contemporary culture’s tendency to dismiss the magical, mystical, and unexplained, Welsch shares his personal experiences and celebrates the fact that even in our scientific world, “Something Is Going On,” just beyond our ken.


Roger Welsch is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a former essayist for CBS News Sunday Morning and the author of more than forty books, including Embracing Fry Bread: Confessions of a Wannabe, available from Bison Books.


“Roger Welsch let himself be engulfed by the world Native people know and was swallowed whole in the waters of its deep and ageless sea. The Reluctant Pilgrim tells the stories of some of the things that have happened as a result. And it shows that the Spirits chose wisely when they tagged Roger Welsch as their own.”—Dawn Hill Adams, member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and co-president, senior scientist, and founder of Tapestry Institute