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Star Songs and Water Spirits: A Great Lakes Native Reader

A first-ever collection of Native songs, stories, sacred texts, and poetry from the beginnings of Native culture on the lakes up to the present. Organized by the seasons and filled with star lore, Star Songs is a complete compendium of Great Lakes Native literatures.


This title is being used as a textbook at the University of Michigan in Native Studies and Languages.

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Table of Contents and Excerpt (.pdf file)

The Great Lakes Native World


From the deep past to the present, here are the stories, songs, poetry, speeches, autobiography, fiction, and art of the Great Lakes Native nations. Set in the natural environment of the seasonal year, the selections explain cultural concepts and show how modern Native literature reflects tradition. Elders, war chiefs, religious leaders, and contemporary artists share

  • Sacred stories of the creation of the world
  • Stories of the stars
  • Tales of heroes and monsters
  • Narratives of hunting, fishing, and food gathering
  • Speeches and writings about war
  • Personal narratives and essays
  • Contemporary fiction and poetry

This collection surveys all the major types and themes of lakes Native literatures, enriched by music, the visual arts, and a detailed timeline of historical events.

What the Reviewers Say

Lake Superior Magazine
“Readers of this book will come away more enlightened and more connected to the region and each other.”
— Konnie LeMay (click here to read the full review)

Booklist Online
“Among the Indian nations of America, those of the Great Lakes are often overlooked in popular culture and, indeed, even in scholarly publishing. Much more literature is available about the pueblo nations of the Southwest, the eagle-feathered Plains Indians, and the whale-hunting Arctic peoples than about the dozens of groups who lived in the Midwest, making their living by fishing, hunting, and cultivating “the three sisters”—corn, beans, and squash.

“Yet those groups, including the Ojibwe, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Miami, Seneca, Huron, and others, have complex cultures rich in significant myths and legends. This impressively thorough reader is organized seasonally, showing the connection of myth to the land and its changes. Eloquent introductions provide context for the historical accounts, and poems from contemporary Great Lakes Native writers connect past and present. An excellent resource for all Great Lakes–area libraries and for others with active American Indian collections.”

— Patricia Monaghan

MENSA Bulletin
“Anyone with an interest in Native American cultures will find this book a delight.”

Grand Rapids Press
“The book provides a bridge from historic American Indians . . . to contemporary writers. [It] should be savored, one writing at a time.”

Ontario Historical Society
“A comprehensive collection of traditional and contemporary Great Lakes Native literatures—stories, songs, poetry, speeches, autobiography, and fiction—enriched by music, visual arts, and a historic timeline.”

Midwest Book Review Bookwatch
“A precious resource to encourage further exploration. Truly a beautiful patchwork sampler of many cultures and entities’ distilled knowledge and traditions in the form of their stories and literature. Perhaps it might be thought of as a Great Lakes Native American Norton Anthology, if that is not a demeaning comparison.”

Download the errata sheet for the first printing (books sold through April 1, 2012).