Touched by Thunder was written in Ireland by Choctaw artist Waylon Gary White Deer. Invited to represent the 1847 Choctaw Famine donation as an Afri walk leader, he soon found histories and legacies similar to those of tribal nations in America, resulting in a bond with Ireland spanning almost two decades.
It is an extraordinary journey of remembering that resonates through issues like national identity, religious bigotry, and clashes over precious natural resources: concerns which impact both the Irish and First Nations peoples. White Deer has his take on them all.
The story transcends memoir and becomes a time train rolling through both Indian America and Ireland. There are stops along the way: childhood, tribal communities and ceremonies, Indian boarding schools, Irish presidents, celebrities, children, divorces, Irish America, tribal regimes, Indian art, Dublin, Mayo, Clare, Nationalist Derry. We hear old songs and stories, and the voices of tribal elders and priests, Irish and Muslim immigrants and even the prophet Bubba, and there are bold and luminous paintings set against the faint greys of the 1847 Choctaw donation to Famine Ireland. Each chapter is another train coach we enter visiting, laughing, observing, reflecting, at times pursued by grave robbers, rioters, pagans, zoogers, the RUC, tribal bureaucrats, American colonizers, family ghosts. All too soon the journey ends and we are left with an abiding sense that we have traveled far… and well.
‘Touched by Thunder is not a usual memoir, nor is White deer a usual person… His is the first indigenous memoir that truly captures the drama, the laughter, the wit, dangers, gifts and complexities of being a native person of our generation...’ – Joy Harjo, Mvskokee Nation, author of Crazy Brave.
About the Author
Gary White Deer, of he Choctaw Nation and Professor of Choctaw Studies at Bacone College, Oklahoma, is an internationally known painter, tribal chanter, and dance leader. He has received numerous awards and honors for his art, including Best of Show at the American Indian Exposition, and had held solo exhibitions around the United States and Ireland. He lectures and performs internationally and has appeared in documentaries for major networks, including the BBC, PBS, and National Geographic.