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What: “A Season on the Reservation”
Author: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
This is a very readable account of a journey by a basketball Hall of Famer to the land of famed Apache warriors Geronimo, Juh, Nana, Victorio and Mangas, to Arizona’s White Mountain Apache Reservation, where he was an assistant basketball coach at Alchesay High.
It is Abdul-Jabbar’s fourth book, following “Black Profiles in Courage,” “Giant Steps” and “Kareem.”
In this one, he is partly in search of his roots, pointing out at the outset he is one-quarter Native American. He writes as much about Apache heritage as he does about basketball, particularly of his interest in the buffalo soldiers, African American U.S. Army troops engaged in the Indian wars in the Southwest after the Civil War.
Abdul-Jabbar writes about a desire to return to coaching, about “feelers” he had unsuccessfully put out to pro teams and universities. So why start at an Apache reservation high school? And as an assistant coach?
Because a friend, Edgar Perry, who shares with Abdul-Jabbar an interest in African American and Native American history, asked him. His salary? One dollar. An 1878 Morgan silver dollar, to be precise, a coin chosen for him because of his interest in the buffalo soldiers.
At the outset, Abdul-Jabbar expresses puzzlement over why Apaches play the game without talking to each other. He arrives at a conclusion that seems a stretch:
“I realized there were historical reasons behind their actions, things rooted deeply in the story of their own survival for many centuries in a harsh landscape. In order to ambush people or escape from their enemies, in order to stalk food while hunting, their ancestors had mastered the art of silence.”
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