"We were given two ears so that we may hear both sides of every story," notes Bruchac at the start of this detailed, sobering account of the Navajo people's forced relocationon footfrom their homelands in what is now Arizona to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in the New Mexico Territory between 1863 and 1865. Writing initially in the present tense, Bruchac imagines a group of Navajos gathered around an elder. Their "circle of peace" is shattered by the arrival of American soldiers and their allies, the Utes, who will force the Navajos to abandon their lands and the "path of balance and beauty" to embark instead on "a trail of suffering and loss." He then chronicles the events leading up to the Navajos' displacement, beginning with their embattled relationship with the Spanish settlers in the 16th century, and he describes the horrors of the so-called Long Walks (the people walked over 470 miles) and of the makeshift reservation. The author examines the roles of U.S. leaders, such as General Carleton, who "did not listen to the native side of the story," and explores the conditions that led to the closing of the reservation in 1868 and the signing of "the first fair treaty" between the Navajo people and the U.S. government. Begay's (The Magic of Spider Woman) paintings, rendered with acrylics on clay board in swirling brushstrokes, convey urgency and emotion. His art reaches a new level of accomplishment and his captions, explaining his use of symbols, will help youngsters interpret the cryptic moments in his work. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The tragic story of the forced removal of the Navajo from their sacred land is told with compassion and honesty. Storyteller Joseph Bruchac begins his riveting narrative within a story circle, one that is broken by a raid led by Col. Kit Carson. With no escape, the Indians surrender to be taken to a faraway place called Bosque Redondo, described as "a barren place in the salt flats of eastern New Mexico." Historical background that led to this event is carefully detailed, recounting the harsh treatment and broken treaties. With restraint and a straightforward style, Bruchac tells of the 470-mile march through inclement weather with scant food, and Indians "nearly naked...and dying from dysentery." Throughout the account Bruchac examines the role played by key figures such as Narbono, the old warrior, sympathetic Indian agent Henry Dodge, and the zealous General Carleton. As a project, Bosque Rondondo was a failure and in 1868, the Navajo signed "the first fair treaty" with the U.S. government and were permitted to return to their homeland¾Dinetah. Told with drama, tension, conflict, and with a positive resolution the author gives dimension to "one of the greatest and least known injustices in American history." Shonto Begay has created extraordinary paintings using acrylics on clay board. They have an emotional intensity and eloquence. 2002, National Geographic Society,
— Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7 As Bruchac states, this story is one of tragedy and triumph that all Americans should know. Here, he and Begay offer an introduction to it. The book opens in 1864 with the peaceful Navajo world shattered by events beyond its control. The author then explains the circumstances leading up to the forced relocation of Navajo people, and their eventual return to their homes and way of life in 1868. Both the full-color acrylic paintings and duotone watercolor pictures evoke a sense of hopelessness and doom. Ultimately, they show the strength of the Navajo nation. Throughout, Begay comments on his illustrations. Beside one depiction, he states, "I can feel the cold chill in the bones of these battered and subdued people living on the brink of nonexistence." While Native words such as Dook'o'oosl''d are explained in the text, there is no pronunciation guide. With large type and larger illustrations, this title has a picture-book look about it, but it is aimed at an audience with some knowledge of Navajo history. -Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Joseph Bruchac is a writer and storyteller of Abenaki heritage who feels that his life’s work is sharing stories told to him by elders of various Native American peoples. Bruchac has been awarded Rockefeller Humanities and NEA Poetry fellowships and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. His more than 70 children’s books include Sacajawea: The Journal of Jesse Smoke, A Cherokee Boy on the Trail of Tears; and Native American Games and Stories, which he co-authored with his son, Jim. Bruchac lives in Greenfield Center, New York.