Book Review: The Sacred White Turkey

This engaging tale opens Easter morning as twelve-year-old Stella, a Lakota girl living with her grandmother Hazel, responds to a knock at the door revealing an amazing, very rare white turkey. Stella firmly believes the turkey is wakan, Lakota for something unexplainable though frequently used to mean holy as well. Certainly, Stella believes the turkey to be special when a series of relatively minor events point toward the bird being anything but ordinary. Though the bird has transformed their lives, Hazel continues to insist the turkey is just an ordinary bird though secretly, she has some doubts.

As Hazel’s popularity as a traditional healer increases, medicine man George Wanbli grows ever more jealous. George hatches a plan to have Hazel’s animals killed, a plan that backfires rather dramatically when the crucified turkey refuses to die. As George continues to plot against Hazel, she stumbles upon an embezzling plot that could well get somebody killed. The white turkey has a big part to play as Hazel works up a scheme to force George to come to his senses and do the right thing.

Washburn has created an engrossing combination of traditional Native American beliefs, Christianity and BIA politics with a coming of age, mystery tale that grabs readers’ attention from the start and doesn’t let go. This sweetly told story leaves plenty of room for readers to draw their own conclusions about the turkey’s true nature while gaining a greater appreciation for the Lakota people and their culture.


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