Wisdom Sits in Places

Working with the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s collection frequently provides us with a blast of remembrance, recalling favorite books from many years ago. Books such as Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. Anthropologist Keith Basso lived and worked with the Western Apache for fifteen years when an elder asked him to make a map. “Not whitemen’s maps, we’ve got plenty of them, but Apache maps with Apache places and names. We could use them. Find out something about how we know our country.”
Basso took to the task and learned more than any one map could convey. As one of his Apache friends tells him: “Wisdom sits in places. It’s like water that never dries up. You need to drink water to stay alive don’t you? Well you also need to drink from places. You must remember what happened at them long ago…then your mind will become smoother and stronger…” Basso’s simple words speak volumes. This is a classic work on the power of place.

A Sampling of Apache Place-names

from Wisdom Sits in Places

Trail Goes Down Between Two Hills, Slender Red Rock Ridge, Eagle Hurtles Down, Whiteness Spreads out Descending to Water, Juniper Tree Stands Alone, Line of Blue Below Rocks, Big Cottonwood Trees Stand Here and There, Flakes of Mica Float Out.

Water Flows Inward Under a Cottonwood Tree


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