“What can that mean, I and my family will have a ‘reserve of one square mile’?”
So asks Big Bear of Governor Morris, come to impose a square treaty on the round, buffalo-covered world of the Plains Cree. As the buffalo vanish and the tension builds to the second Riel Rebellion, Big Bear alone of the prairie chiefs keeps up pressure for a better treaty by refusing to choose a reserve. He argues, “If any man has the right to put a rope around another man’s neck, some day someone will get choked.”
It is Big Bear’s story – and the story of Wandering Spirit, of Kitty McLean and John McDougall–that is told in this novel with rare and penetrating power. Permeated with a sense of place and time, this eagerly awaited work by Rudy Wiebe reflects the author’s sensitivity to the Canadian prairies, their history, the minds and hearts of their diverse people.
Exploring Big Bear’s isolated struggle, Wiebe has encompassed in one creative sweep not only his hero’s struggle for integrity, but the whole range and richness of the Plains culture. Here is the giant circle of the prairie horizon, and the joy, the sorrow, the pain and the triumph and the violence of unconquerable human beings faced with destruction.
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