By Janet Stoica
At the age of 21, Larry Spotted Crow Mann had an awakening. He had been quite a serious drinker, and that awakening stopped his alcoholism. Now, many sober decades later, Larry Spotted Crow Mann’s new book Drumming & Dreaming will become part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s life skills training program to help educate teens, and hopefully prevent addictions of all types.
“Addiction comes from low self-esteem, having a lack of understanding of your identity, and a lack of direction in life” said Mr. Mann, speaking at a book launch party at the United Church of Christ in Webster last week.
“When I was 21 and sat there watching a PBS program on Christopher Columbus and how he’d brought alcohol to the native people, something happened within me. It changed me. I began asking my grandfather about the Nipmuc ways of life and going to pow wows with my mother, and I began to really educate myself about my forefathers and our history in our Nation.”
Larry grew up in Springfield, lived in Webster for many years, and currently resides in Grafton. He began his writing career after winning a writing contest in college. Since then he has written three books: Tales from the Whispering Basket, The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving, and Drumming & Dreaming. He has travelled Europe and Canada on book tours, including a visit to Sweden after winning their Storytelling Festival Award. Becoming politically active has been a great part of his education as well. He has written letters to the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs detailing the negative effects of past treaties with the indigenous people of North America and has become a tribal historian.
Spotted Crow is very proud of his most recent work, Drumming & Dreaming. “This book has been quite a journey for me,” he says. “This is a collection of tribal Nipmuc legends told through the eyes of Crow and Bear. I’m a fan of myths, whether they are Celtic, African, or European. Myths capture how our ancestors kept track of legends. Through “Crow,” the book’s spirit guide, we learn that every motif in our culture has certain guiding lessons that draw us to them.
“Bear helps Crow, who was flying through a storm and couldn’t find his family. Crow was searching for his dream and dreams are powerful in our cultures. Bear, therefore, inspires Crow and gives him his strength and I feel this is unique as it’s a continuous story. It’s about Nipmuc people and our land. It’s very important to me to keep this alive.”
Larry has dedicated this latest book to his mom, Caroline, with the following Nipmuc words, Wutche Okasuh, meaning “for my Mom.”
His first book, Tales of the Whispering Basket, describes a tribal historian who wanted to take on Thanksgiving. The book reveals much history and culture of the Nipmuc Nation. The State University of New York (SUNY) has used this book in its sociology curriculum and Tales has also gone into its second and third printing. With this writing Larry has been the recipient of the Best Young Adult Novel Award presented by the Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Everything in our world today has been compromised. Everything has been bought and sold. Our earth has been given to us and asks nothing in return. When we treat the land with respect and each other with respect, the land will continue to give back to us. When we take and take with no regard for the end result there will be nothing left. The stories in my new book are a reflection of how the people saw the land. The animals are our guides, we should learn from them and take a holistic approach in all we do,” said Mr. Mann, “legends can inform our world.”
Larry’s other occupation is with the Grafton Job Corps, where he works closely with young adults in education. A group of his students and teachers were guests at Webster book launch. At the party, Larry spoke about how he came to write his latest book and demonstrated a drumming ceremony complete with his clear and distinctive vocals of Nipmuc singing. He will begin a book tour soon.
Larry was recently chosen for a small part in the latest X-Men movie that will be released in the spring of 2018. Watch for him. “I couldn’t have done any of this without the guidance and assistance of my family,” said Larry, “I have to thank my mom Caroline, my sister Juaquina, my sister-in-law Lisa, brother Troy, and girlfriend Reina; and all my family and friends. Soon, I hope to write a more academic book. It will detail the plight of indigenous people and will be more of a poetry style, as that’s what I prefer.”
Drumming & Dreaming’s descriptions of the wind spirits and the Great Spirit is not unlike any other religion of the world and we are truly all one humankind who search for answers from omniscient powers greater than us—no room for atheism here. It makes you think of how small we are in the bigger scheme of the universe. Larry Spotted Crow Mann’s website is www.whisperingbasket.com; email: crowshield @hotmail.com