The Indian Prophet is Special Collections' Featured Book for November 2013

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the Special Collections featured book for November is The Indian Prophet: Bilingual Poems From the Ahtna Athabaskan by John E. Smelcer.
Dr. Smelcer received his Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from Binghamton University, where he received the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Research. He is a son of an Alaska Native father from the Ahtna Tribe of Alaska. All his life, Dr. John Smelcer was raised in Alaska to know traditional Indian ways and pursued a largely subsistence lifestyle. He has dedicated his life to preserving his Ahtna heritage, language, traditional Indian knowledge, archaeological sites, and he has taught literature, creative writing, public speaking, and Native Studies for over twenty years. Dr. John Smelcer’s novels, short stories, poems, essays, screenplays and articles, anchored in Alaskan culture, have been published and translated worldwide. 

Dr. John Smelcer. Photo from
Dr. John Smelcer. Photo from

The Ahtna People inhabit eight small villages, mostly located along the silty, glacial-fed Copper River, from which the word is derived (‘Atna’ tuu). The Ahtna are an Athabaskan languages speaking tribe of the Subarctic Cultural Area, which classifies them as both Athabaskan and Subarctic Indians. The total population of Ahtna is estimated at around 500.
Other books by Dr. John Smelcer in the Bartle Library include: An Ahtna Noun Dictionary and Pronunciation GuideAlaskan : Stories From the Great Land, and Beautiful words = Kasuundze’ kenaege’ : the Complete Ahtna Poems.

Zen Raven

Raven wanted to learn patience.

So he sat amid stones

on a mountain

for a thousand years –

neither he nor the stones

saying a word.

To read more poems from The Indian Prophet, visit Special Collections located on the second floor of the Glenn Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room). There is also a copy of this work in the circulating stacks.

To learn more about Dr. John Smelcer, visit his website.