An involving, richly atmospheric historical novel about the clash of cultures in frontier America.
The uneasy juxtaposition between these worlds is handled with a great deal of confidence by Williams, who very skillfully humanizes the conflict through solid period research and a series of well-drawn characters. Recommended.
The author brings the old cultures to life with ... vivid descriptions and detailed narration.
" 'Naapiikoan Winter' is a historical novel rich in traditions and a bit of magic."
"The character development reflects the reality of flawed human decision-making, motivated by greed, emotions, and pride.
From the Author
by Alethea Williams
The principal sources for the second part of my historical novel, Náápiikoan Winter, were David Thompson's Narrative of His Explorations in Western America 1784-1812, and Richard Lancaster's 1966 book, Piegan. Richard Lancaster's book was helpful mainly as a narrative of a white man in Native culture,and for his accounts of trying to learn the Piikáni language. Many of the events in my story follow those David Thompson records in the last four chapters of Part One of his book, which deal with his recollections of the Plains Indians at about the turn of the nineteenth century, and in particular his dealings with the "Peeagans."
-Why isn't your primary male character named David Thompson?
Historical characters add flavor to my novel, but they only really serve to illustrate the opinions and mores of the times, both European and Piikáni. Although my novel is based on fact, the principal characters are entirely fictional. Donal Thomas resembles the young David Thompson of record in many aspects, but I wanted the freedom to place in the realm of fiction Donal's internal dialogue,the thought processes and motives that led to his decisions, and his growing awareness of the huge cultural differences he is supposed to surmount in order to succeed in bringing trade to the Piikáni at the close of the eighteenth century.
-Which characters in Náápiikoan Winter came from historical accounts?
These characters' names, their occupations, and some of their actions are recorded in David Thompson's Narrative of His Explorations in Western America 1784-1812:
William Flett, English youth in service to HBC
James Gaddy, leader of the HBC expedition to the Piikáni
The Black Indian, Nahathaway (Cree) guide
Saokohtoo(Straighten Out), the Orator of the Inuk'sik (Small Robes) band of thePiikáni
Saahkómaapi (Young Man), Beaver Bundle Man to the Inuk'sik band of the Piikáni ,the band's Dreamer
Kotonaa-áápi (White Kootenay), first war chief
John Charles, a schoolmate
I gathered other character names from modern and historical sources, many listed in the back pages of Náápiikoan Winter.
-So what does Náápiikoan mean? Why do you keep a title that few people can pronounce? Aren't you afraid readers will not be able to locate your book under a search for that title?
Variously spelled throughout history, Náápiikoan simply means white man. Retaining the word in the title implies that although the young white trader is a main character in the story, it is not just his story. His is not the only view of events that counts. He is an outsider. I think the cover of Náápiikoan Winter, by Brigida Blasi, shows why choosing that title works. "White Man Winter," of course,would have been easier to find in an internet search, but I hope no one has to put so much effort into looking for my book that they give up!
-What gives you the authority to write a book about the Piikáni people?
I have no "authority." Although it took more than 20 years for Náápiikoan Winter to see print, I was captivated by David Thompson's story at least that long ago. I found Richard Lancaster's book in a library sale, and although Native feeling about him today is ambivalent, I found much of value in a book written by an outsider living with the Piikáni. I sincerely admire Piikáni history, and hope my novel honors the people about whose heritage I have written in Náápiikoan Winter.