Kent Nerburn

Wednesday, August 12, 2020
02:00pm EDT

Location CHQ Assembly Video Platform

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"Quiet Voices, Important Truths: Life Lessons From the Native Way"

Dr. Kent Nerburn has been called “One of America’s living spiritual teachers” and “one of the few American writers who can respectfully bridge the gap between Native and non-Native cultures.”  He is the author and editor of sixteen books on spiritual values and Native American themes, including the collections of spiritual essays: Simple Truths, Small Graces, Ordinary SacredMake Me an Instrument of Your PeaceNative Echoes, and Voices in the Stones, and the ground breaking creative non-fiction trilogy, Neither Wolf nor Dog:  On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder; The Wolf at Twilight:  An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows, and The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky. 

Neither Wolf nor Dog has been made into an independent film of the same name, and Nerburn’s recounting in Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace of his time as a cab driver transporting an elderly woman to a hospice center became an internet sensation, garnering over 5 million views and resulting in its purchase by New Line Cinema for production into a major motion picture.

Dr. Nerburn’s work has received praise from wide and diverse sources, both Native and non-Native. His book Letters to My Son, a collection of thoughts and essays about what constitutes a worthy manhood, was quoted by Prime Minister David Cameron in his annual Father’s Day address in 2011. The American Indian College fund called Neither Wolf nor Dog, “one of those rare works that, once you’ve read it, you can never look at the world, or at people, the same way again.” 

Abenaki writer and American Book Award winner, Joseph Bruchac, praised The Wolf at Twilight as “a poignant portrait of what it means to be a Native elder and a survivor of the often bitter experience of the Indian boarding schools of the twentieth century,” while Lakota writer, Joseph Marshall III, said it “offers a sensitive, insightful glimpse into a Lakota soul, a feat unattainable by most non-Native writers.”

Ojibwe author Anton Treuer said The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo “demonstrates Kent Nerburn's gift, not just to build bridges between the Native and non-Native world, but to transcend those differences with a narrative that speaks to the heart of the human experience." And Catholic theologian Richard Rohr has praised Voices in the Stones as a book that “speaks reverently of the bridge between our Judeo-Christian tradition and the spiritual gifts of the Native Americans.” From singer Robert Plant to historian Howard Zinn and novelist Louise Erdrich, Kent has garnered a following that makes him unique among American writers and cultural observers. 

In describing his work, Nerburn says, “Someone once called me a ‘guerilla theologian,’ and I think that is fairly accurate. I am deeply concerned with the human condition and our responsibility to the earth, the people on it, and the generations to come. I believe that we are, at heart, spiritual beings seeking spiritual meaning, and I try to honor this search wherever I discover it in the course of my daily life.”

Kent Nerburn received his B.A. in American Studies summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. in Religion/Theology and Art with distinction from Graduate Theological Union in conjunction with the University of California at Berkeley.  He and his wife, Louise, currently live outside of Portland, Oregon, with their geriatric yellow lab, Lucie, but think longingly on their days amid the lakes and pines of northern Minnesota and often threaten to return there.