Aurora Crossing: A Novel of the Nez Perces

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9780896726369: Aurora Crossing: A Novel of the Nez Perces
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n ancient creation tales of Indian tribes of the American Northwest, nasawaylu, Old Man Coyote, was the spirit who finished the world started by the Supreme Being. A master of animals, holy person, and trickster, nasawaylu sometimes bestowed special gifts on an Indian youth seeking a guardian spirit. But in the 1870s young Nez Perce John Seton struggles to determine whether Coyote’s message is a gift or a trick. Reared first in an Anglo township in north central Idaho, then on the reservation, and finally on the Salmon River with the free-roving Lamtama band, Seton has always followed the fortunes of his mother. After her death he chooses to stay in the camp of old Hemene, a respected Lamtama leader. Still a novice in all three of the sharply contrasting worlds he has known, Seton is drawn irresistibly and irreversibly into the Nez Perce War of 1877. His quest to find a place in the clash of cultures is a magical saga, a search for meaning in the fabled Trickster’s message. The events to which Seton is an eyewitness—such as the Nez Perce march of 1877—are recorded in history, masterfully woven here by Karl Schlesier into a fabric of compelling fiction and human drama.

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About the Author:

Karl H. Schlesier taught anthropology at the universities of Wichita State and Kansas for thirty years.

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An author of Native American fiction and nonfiction both, Schlesier here deftly melds the two in an engrossing saga of the Nez Perces’ attempt to elude U.S. forces and escape to freedom in Canada. His fictional protagonist is John Seton, son of a white man who left when John was 8 and a Nez Perce mother. At 18 John is mourning his mother’s death and trying to find his niche in the Lamtama, a nontreaty band attempting to avoid removal to the reservation. The Lamtama are one of five bands heading east toward Plains country—approximately 810 Indians and 4,500 horses starting out on July 17, 1877, in a 4-mile-long caravan. Schlesier supports most details of previous accounts of this harrowing trek, with the exception of Chief Joseph’s role, which he minimizes. By means of his fictional characters, he incorporates precise details of traditional ceremonies, the constant search for food, and the intricacies of setting up and taking down hundreds of lodges on this long and arduous journey, and brings this moment in Nez Perce history vividly to life. --Deborah Donovan

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