Yaotl and Sascho splashed along the shores of the behchà, spears hefted, watching for the flash of fin to rise to the surface and sparkle in the sunlight. Tender feelings, barely discovered, flushed their faces. Waving their spears they laughed and teased one another with sprays of newly melted ice water.
In the distance, the warning about the kw'ahtıı sounds, but on this fatal day it goes unheard; Yaotl and Sascho fall into the hands of the Indian Agents. Transport to Fort Providence residential school is only the beginning of their ordeal, for the teachers believe it is their sworn duty to “kill the Indian inside.”
All attempts at escape are severely punished, but Yaotl and Sascho, along with two others, will try, beginning a journey of 900 Kilometers along the Mackenzie River. Like wild geese, brave hearts together, they are homeward bound.
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Yaotl and Sascho are surprised to discover they care for each other as more than just childhood friends. They are part of the Thcho band of the Dene Nation who live in Northeast Canada; the reader is drawn into tribal stories; feasts; training to live in the wilderness; the natural beauty of land, sea and sky; and the necessity of evading the enemy, the white people, who are invading and destroying more and more of the land the Indian people love. The beauty of this story is almost beyond words. One sees the wonder of the landscape, smelling the pine trees and rivers and hearing the call of the snow geese and other animals. One follows the tales of the Thcho band regarding the animals and spirit world surrounding those who show respect and love, the sacred oneness of man and nature. The plot concerns the theft of Indian children, in the early 1950s, who are kidnapped and forced to convert to Christianity and learn white ways. However, the way of learning is far from loving and the suffering is life-changing to those who are forced to submit and serve the kidnappers. All in all, these children bound to a form of slavery with no chance to escape! Yaotl and Sascho with some other children manage to escape and begin a journey of frightening danger but also a healing time of reunion and restoration with their natural environment. There are conflicts and deaths but also the amazing assistance of a couple who are truly bears who become human to heal Indians in dire straits. To say more would be to spoil an enchanting, moving, and at times savage (but ironically not from the Indian side) story that reveres and celebrates the lives of the original people inhabiting a harsh but magnificent land of northern Canada. Great read for all ages; great historical fiction! Highly recommended as a simple yet deeply profound read!