From Publishers Weekly
In a gracefully written and compassionate account of his return to a dark page in this country's past, Boye, who is white, relates one of the most poignant, if largely forgotten, tragedies of Native American dispossession in the 19th century. In 1878, some 300 Northern Cheyenne Indians, under the leadership of Dull Knife and Little Wolf, fled starvation and disease on an Oklahoma reservation in an attempt to return to their Montana homeland. Pursued by soldiers in running battles for more than 1000 miles, the Indians split into two bands, terrorizing settlers along the way with retaliatory rape and murder. When Dull Knife's band was finally captured near the South Dakota border, he resolved to defy the army's order to return to Oklahoma. Knowing that they faced certain death, the Cheyenne escaped again late one winter night; in the brutal fight that ensued, nearly half the band, mostly women and children, perished. Because of their determination, the survivors of the second band eventually received a reservation of their own in Montana. Boye greatly enriches this story by describing his own hardships retracing the exodus through a starkly beautiful landscape, accompanied by descendants of the surviving Cheyenne. Never mawkish or patronizing, Boye recognizes early on that both journeys belong more to his companions than to himself. By reaching back and touching the suffering of their ancestors, they begin what Native Americans call "a healing," a reconciliation of the past with the present. Sam Spotted Elk Jr., who took the journey with Boye, aptly sums up the tribal spirit that transcends generations: "What we leave behind is what the children pick up from us and carry with them." (Aug.)
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From Kirkus Reviews
A noteworthy mix of Native American history and memoir. In the aftermath of Little Big Horn, many Northern Cheyenne Indians were removed from Montana to Oklahoma, far from their ancestral territory. Beset by illness, famine, poverty, and corruption on the part of the government officials who oversaw their reservation, a band of 300 Cheyenne under Chief Dull Knife fled the reservation in 1878 and journeyed more than a thousand miles across the high plains to return to Montana; the federal government declared them to be renegades and sent thousands of soldiers to return them. In 1995 Boye, a professor of English at Lydon State College in Vermont, joined three of Dull Knifes descendants in a journey retracing the Cheyennes difficult road home. Boye is forthright about his reasons for undertaking the trip; when his brother remarks, Theres got to be an easier way to get a feel for history than walking a thousand miles, Boye admits, Even with the best of luck, I have less than half my life remaining, and I am dulled into believing that the safety of modern life will insulate me from the enormity of time. Boye and his Cheyenne friends are anything but insulated in their arduous trek; weather-beaten and exhausted, they nonetheless attract (mostly) friendly attention wherever they travel. Boye has a light, winning style, even when hes writing about matters of the utmost seriousness; he introduces and explains complex points of history and anthropology with admirable ease. His prose often attains moments of real beauty, too, as when he writes, All of us are haunted by ghosts, and to try and keep still the fear of their haunting is an endless task. Perhaps our lives are nothing more than a series of exorcisms, a series of delicate dances with the specters of the past. A true contribution to the literature of the Northern Cheyenne past. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.