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Parallel Worlds of Navajo, Anglo Cultures Discussed at Faculty Exhibition

Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013

Bob McPherson from USU Blanding speaks at USU library

Bob McPherson

Bob McPherson's book in library exhibit

McPherson's book was one of 34 faculty books on display in the Merrill-Cazier library showcasing the works of faculty authors during 2012.

audience at USU Merrill-Cazier Library faculty author event

The audience attending Bob McPherson's presentation.

The golden arches of McDonald’s are not necessarily arches to Navajos. They are also knees under the table while eating. A hitchhiker is a prairie dog. A massive ridgeline is the spine of Mother Earth.

This is an outlook on life that is filtered through metaphor and deep religious influences comprising the Navajo way. It is very different from the Anglo culture that surrounds them, said Robert McPherson, Utah State University Eastern history professor with the USU Department of History speaking at the annual Faculty Author Exhibition at the Merrill-Cazier library on April 10.

The Blanding Campus professor was on the Logan campus in conjunction with the Office of Research and Graduate Studies Research Week. The library hosted the annual reception honoring 34 USU faculty members who published books during 2012. In his keynote address, McPherson focused his remarks on his two most recent works: Dinéji Na'nitin: Navajo Traditional Teachings and History and Navajo Tradition, Mormon Life: The Autobiography and Teachings of Jim Dandy.

“Navajos traditionally put energy and emphasis into religious things,” he said. “They are experts at using supernatural and spiritual powers that we cannot explain or understand.”

The USU Eastern award-winning author said that Anglos tend to box and categorize religion while Navajos constantly look at everything through a religious lens. All that exists in the past, present and future are viewed through the eyes of religion.

He said the Navajo people are constantly amazed by the accomplishments of Anglos that range from heart transplants to trips to the moon. When they look at the culture that surrounds them, they see a people who are shaped by and who live in a physical and material world — a world they have mastered.

But they also recognize that Anglos can’t do what they do through the powers they control through religious teachings, he said.

“Those stories are metaphors and they hold power,” McPherson said. “It’s just as real to them as the physical things that Anglos accomplish.”

McPherson has authored several dozen publications and 10 books, the majority of which focus on the Navajo people. Among a number of awards and recognition of his scholarly work with Native Americans, he is winner of the 2009 Utah Book Award for nonfiction for Comb Ridge and Its People by USU Press. He is former vice president of the Blanding campus where he began teaching in 1977.

The complete list of 2012 faculty honorees:

Caine College of the Arts

-Kevin Olson (Simply Silly Songbook: Songs About Music)

College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences and Extension

-Richard M. Anderson, Jerry L. Goodspeed,  JayDee Gunnell  (Wildflowers of the Mountain West)
-Shih-Yu (Simon) Wang, Robert R. Gillies (Modern Climatology)

College of Engineering

-Craig Adams (Introduction to Environmental Science: Earth and Man)

-R. Ryan DuPont (Environmental Health and Hazard Risk Assessment: Principles and Calculations)

-Richard C. Peralta (Groundwater Optimization Handbook: Flow, Contaminant Transport, and Conjunctive Management)
-Blake P. Tullis (Hydraulic Loss Coefficients for Culverts)

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

-Susan Andersen, Bonnie Moore (Voices on Stage and in Print)

-Alan R. Blackstock (The Rhetoric of Redemption: Chesterton, Ethical Criticism, and the Common Man)

-Joyce Kinkead (Undergraduate Research Offices & Programs: Models and Practices)

-John E. McLaughlin (Shoshoni Grammar)

-Michael Sowder (House Under the Moon)

-Anne M. Butler (Across God's Frontiers: Catholic Sisters in the American West, 1850-1920)

-Robert S. McPherson (Dinéji Na'nitin: Navajo Traditional Teachings and History and Navajo Tradition, Mormon Life: The Autobiography and Teachings of Jim Dandy)

-Michael L. Nicholls (Whispers of Rebellion: Narrating Gabriel’s Conspiracy)

-Christa Jones (Cave Culture in Maghrebi Literature: Imagining Self and Nation)

-Charlie Huenemann, Harrison Kleiner (Great Ideas: Fragments of Western Civilization)

-Harrison Kleiner (The Perennial Conversation: An Introduction to Philosophy)

-Huiyun Feng, Kai He (Prospect Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis in the Asia Pacific: Rational Leaders and Risky Behavior)

Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services

-Brian Belland (The Role of Criticism in Understanding Problem Solving: Honoring the Work of John C. Belland)

-David Merrill (First Principles of Instruction: Identifying and Designing Effective, Efficient, and Engaging Instruction)

-Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez (Cultural Adaptations: Tools for Evidence-Based Practice with Diverse Populations)

-Yolanda Flores Nieman (Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia)
-Christian Geiser (Data Analysis with M plus)

-Gregory Madden (APA Handbook of Behavior Analysis)

-Scott L. Hunsaker (Identification the Theory and Practice of Identifying Students for Gifted and Talented Education Services)

-D. Ray Reutzel  (The Essentials of Teaching Children to Read: The Teacher Makes the Difference, 3rd ed. and Teaching Children to Read: The Teacher Makes the Difference, 6th ed.)

Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

-Randy T. Simmons (Aquanomics: Water Markets and the Environment and Green vs. Green: The Political, Legal, and Administrative Pitfalls Facing Green Energy Production)

-Eric Schulz (The Smart Marketer’s Toolbox: The Latest Marketing Innovations and How to Use Them to Grow Your Business)

S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources

-Todd Crowl (A Caribbean Forest Tapestry: The Multidimensional Nature of Disturbance and Response)

-Thomas A. Monaco (Invasive Plant Ecology and Management: Linking Processes to Practice)

Related links:

Robert McPherson’s lecture

USU Eastern Blanding

Contact: Dr. Robert McPherson, 435-678-8140;

Writer: John DeVilbiss, 435-797-1358;

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