At the turn of a new century, changes unimagined are about to unfold.
I stumbled across Alethea Williams as I browsed a few blogs I follow. Each blog was highlighting several interesting books. NÁÁPIIKOAN WINTER happened to stand out. The blurb sounded fascinating, and so I did a Google search of Williams and ended up adding her three books to my TBR shelves. Coincidentally, after following Williams on her social sites, she contacted me on Twitter and offered to send me copies of each of her published books. I'm always so appreciative of those authors that reach out to me to share their stories. To be honest, I'd never heard of Williams or her books but the historical aspects completely captivated me. One of my favorite books of all time is Love is a Wild Assault, the extraordinary story of legendary Texan, Harriet Potter, written beautifully by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland. I loved the primitive Western-wildness of Potter's story. The synopsis of Alethea's stories reminded me of that favored book and with little hesitation, welcomed Williams offer. Yes! Please send them! And so she did. I began with her latest, this one, and I'm happy to report that I was not disappointed in the least. What I don't understand is WHY haven't more people read this book? I see I'm the first person on Goodreads to review NÁÁPIIKOAN WINTER and I hope I do it the justice it deserves. Divided into four parts, it's outstanding and offers an intriguing look into the past, when Western America and the Northern Plains were just beginning to be explored by the English and the fur traders that followed.
Part One begins in Nuevo Mexico at the hacienda of Don Emilio Ramirez y Santiago, grandfather to eight-year old Isobel Ochoa y Ramirez. Isobel is wisked away in the middle of the night by her father, who plans to start a new life for himself and his only child. He hopes to give Isobel the life she craves and he promises Isobel that they're running away to better lives, the finest education for Isobel and riches from his newly acquired silver mine. Her father, Don Armando Ochoa, had not expected his daughter to be so difficult during their escape and the aventura is almost over before it begins when one of her grandfather's Indian workers, San Juan, appears before father and daughter as they are saddling the horses for departure. San Juan insists they remain at the hacienda but Don Armando will not be stopped. He and Isobel begin the long ride under the turquoise sky of Nuevo Mexico, en route to the silver mines and Pueblo mission, Gran Quivira. It will be an ill-fated decision. The valleys and deserts of the Rio Grande during this time were largely inhabited by fierce Indian tribes, among them the Apache, who did not hesitate to scalp, torture, or enslave their captives.
Part Two introduces the reader to Donal Thomas, a young Englishman who winters with the Piikáni (Blackfoot) hoping to learn their language and open trade with the local tribes. Saahkómaapi, Beaver Bundle Man ( a seer or Dreamer) to the Inuk'sik band of the Piikáni, is immediately suspicious of the Englishman and predicts great change will come with this white man's visit. Thomas and Saahkómaapi try desperately to understand one another but their differences are immense. Donal Thomas is completely foreign to the Piikáni customs and a misunderstanding will lead to punishing accusations with severe consequences for Thomas, a beautiful Piikáni princess named Sweetgrass Woman, and the Piikáni medicine woman, Buffalo Stone Woman.
Williams weaves a wonderful tale of adventure, giving an absorbing account of life within the Piikáni. I admit to knowing very little about Indian customs, relations, hierarchy, and the many bands of Indians. All so very fascinating and Alethea Williams must have extensive knowledge about a time in American history when the West was wild and the Indians were keepers of the lands. Brilliant.
Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant's journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. Her second novel, Walls for the Wind, about a group of orphaned immigrants arriving in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first in the Laramie Awards Prairie Fiction category.
Thank you for sharing your stories with me, Alethea. I deeply appreciate it.
Nitsiniiyi'taki. (I thank you.)