The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions is a distinguished scholarly exposition of American Indian traditions with an emphasis upon women-centered tribal life. In Native American tradition, the Sacred Hoop, or Medicine Wheel, is the all-encompassing circle of universal life. The Spider Woman is the central figure who thought the universe into being and who continues to weave her web of existence. The first section, “The Ways of Our Grandmothers,” deals with her many aspects in tribal myth, tradition, and ritual. The genocidal impact through the centuries of patriarchal colonization upon the gynocracies is detailed. Allen also dispels several popular misinterpretations of Native American behavior toward women. The last essay in the section is a personal account of the author’s experiences as a Keres Laguna woman.
Oral tradition has been an integral factor in tribal survival, and the second section of The Sacred Hoop is titled “The Word Warriors.” Both traditional and modern tribal literature is studied in terms of Native American culture; thought, structure, symbolism, style, ceremony, and authenticity are among the analytic considerations. Allen not only explicates the tribal perspective but also clarifies the problems inherent in approaching tribal literature from a Western bias.
The final section of The Sacred Hoop, “Pushing Up the Sky,” concentrates upon modern American Indian women and the social issues (such as feminism, personal power, the female spiritual way, politics, lesbianism, and reformation of a gynocentric tribal structure) that affect them. “Pushing Up the Sky” is pro-female advocacy at its best. For women who lack a sense of continuity, community, self-esteem, or belonging, the essays in this section are healing words. For the self-alienated, The Sacred Hoop in its entirety offers the tools for survival.