Sacred Sites

Sacred Sites

The Secret History of Southern California

Susan Suntree
Foreword by Gary Snyder
Introduction by Lowell John Bean
Photographs by Juergen Nogai

320 pages
30 illustrations, 1 map

Hardcover

October 2010

978-0-8032-3198-6

$37.95 Add to Cart
Paperback

June 2020

978-1-4962-1955-8

$26.95 Pre-order

About the Book

A history that is equal parts science and mythology, Sacred Sites offers a rare and poetic vision of a world composed of dynamic natural forces and mythic characters. The result is a singular and memorable account of the evolution of the Southern California landscape, reflecting the riches of both Native knowledge and Western scientific thought.

Beginning with Western science, poet Susan Suntree carries readers from the Big Bang to the present as she describes the origins of the universe, the shifting of tectonic plates, and an evolving array of plants and animals that give Southern California its unique features today. She tells of the migration of humans into the region, where they settled, and how they lived. Complementing this narrative and reflecting the Native people’s view of their own history and way of life, Suntree recounts the creation myths and songs that tell the story of the First People, of unforgettable shamans and heroes, and of the origins and migrations of the human beings.

Featuring contemporary photographs of rarely seen landmarks along with meticulous research, Sacred Sites provides unusual insight into how natural history and mythology, and scientific and intuitive thinking combine to create an ever-deepening sense of a place and its people.

Author Bio

Susan Suntree’s previous books include Wisdom of the East: Stories of Compassion, Inspiration, and Love; Rita Moreno; and Eye of the Womb. She teaches at East Los Angeles College. Gary Snyder’s literary awards include the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Turtle Island and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Lowell John Bean is an anthropologist and the author and editor of numerous books and articles about California and Southwest Native American cultures and peoples. Juergen Nogai’s work has appeared in magazines, books, and museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide.

Praise

“Make[s] the case for the book as an instrument of communion, even grace. . . .  Susan Suntree’s mythopoetic Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California weaves science, native legend, and natural history into a two-hundred-plus page poem. . . . [It comes] rooted in diversity and complexity, what many of the best books are about.”—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
 

"A geological and cultural human history of Southern California in verse? Impossible, right? Not so, as this is exactly what California native Susan Suntree has done. And to Suntree's credit, her performance of this "impossible" feat is not only competent, it shines."—Thomas Crowe, Bloomsbury Review

"In this book, meticulously researched geology, geography, history, and oral traditions are put in motion by a performer's touch. . . . Sacred Sites is an outstanding literary work, combining science with the spirituality of Native oral traditions."Jurgita Antoine, Tribal College Journal

"Suntree tells the story that is least often told, and for that alone readers can be grateful."—Brett Garcia Myhren, Western American Literature

“This symphonic epic in verse repatriates the four-billion-year history of Southern California to its native heart and soul. Scrupulously researched from hard-to-find sources of California Indian myth, song, legend, and tale, and completely committed to its diverse Native perspectives on human-land-animal relations, the work is funny, sad, mysterious, and wise. Here is an ambitious master myth of the grand vintage we thought went out with Charles Olson and Walt Whitman. After sailing through this triumph of literary montage the Southland will never seem the same—it has become Indian Country again.”—Peter Nabokov, professor in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places

Sacred Sites is a glowing monument to the magic that trails behind each one of us humans, a sweet testament to imagination and whatever God we may acknowledge. I have nothing but respect and awe for this absolutely unique work of art.”—Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers

Sacred Sites honors the power and beauty of our indigenous heritage and homeland. By knowing our history we better understand the present and our journey into the future.”—Anthony Morales, tribal chair, Gabrielino Tongva Council of San Gabriel

“Susan Suntree presents a readable and broadly accessible account of the history of the universe, Earth, and Southern California in this scholarly and creative blend of ancient myth and modern science.”—Raymond V. Ingersoll, professor of geology at the University of California, Los Angeles

"A history that is equal parts science and mythology, Sacred Sites offers a rare and poetic vision of a world composed of dynamic natural forces and mythic characters."—Sandy Amazeen, Monsters and Critics

“Susan Suntree demonstrates her love for the natural world along with her deep respect for the First Peoples of Southern California. The cultures of the Tongva and the Acjachemem are rich beyond measure and well documented in stories and traditions. We are not gone. We still exist. The wisdom and responsibility of being of the land is not taken lightly. Susan appreciates and supports this connection. Years of research and writing are shared with the reader.”—Rhonda Robles, member of the Acjachemem Nation

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations   000

Foreword 000

Introduction 000

Author's Note     000

 

Book One

The Origins of Southern California: Western Science

Part One. Light, Space, Matter      000

Part Two. Galaxy, Planet, Moon, Rain      000

Part Three. Wandering North America, Life, Death      000

Part Four. Reptiles, Flowers, Mammals, Rivers   000

Part Five. Southern California Coming: Mountains in Motion  000

Part Six. Southern California Ice Age: Bountiful Homeland   000

 

Book Two

The Origins of Southern California: Indigenous Myths and Songs

Part One. Universe, World, People   000

Part Two. The Great Captain Wiyot: Death, Spirit, Power     000

Part Three. Food, Feasting, Deer, Moon    000

Part Four. The First People   000

Part Five. Human Beings: Singers, Balance Keepers     000

Part Six. White People  000

 

Epilogue: Chinigchinich, the Spanish, the Yankees     000

PostScript  000

Acknowledgments   000

Notes 000  

Bibliography      000

Awards

Winner, 2011 Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Award,  nonfiction category

Winner, 2011 PEN Oakland–Josephine Miles Literary Award

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