In 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 are recorded in history. Depicted by Karl Schlesier in compeling detail, they yield a reluctant but engaging hero. The Nez Perce march of 1877 covered 1,200 miles across some of the most rugged mountain ranges in North America. Six bands, numbering 800 men, women, and children, herded more than 3,000 horses and fought thirteen engagements with armies sent to intercept them on their way to the Canadian border, where they sought a last refuge. Schleiser deftly weaves together their known story with vividly drawn personalities and a keen understanding of life and belief in a time and place long gone.
Karl H. Schleiser taught anthropology at the universities of Wichita State and Kansas for thirty years. His fieldwork has taken him from the central Pyrenees of France to the arctic slopes of northern Alaska and twice into federal court as an expert witness for the Cheyenne Nation. Among his other books are Plains Indians, A.D. 500--1500: The Archaeological Past of Historic Groups and the novel Josanie's War. His Trail of the Red Butterfly (TTUP, 2007) won the silver award in historical fiction from the Independent Publishers Association.