Joseph Bruchac lives and writes in the Adirondack mountains of Greenfield Center, New York. Though many of his writings borrow from the history of that place, Bruchac’s work has taken him around the globe to many different locations and many different peoples. His new book, “Brothers of the Buffalo,” by Fulcrum Publishing, tells of what can sometimes happen when many different peoples meet in the same place.
In 1874 the United States government, having not yet reached its first centennial, was still trying to determine the best way to deal with “the Indian problem.” While they had been successful in convincing a large portion of the native populations to move to reservations, many either refused or were dissatisfied with the living conditions and broken promises they were left with in their new homes. Unceasing encroachment of European settlers into previously virgin lands had an irrevocable impact on the culture and way of life of the various native groups being displaced. Firearms and alcohol were introduced and buffalo populations were being hunted in unprecedented numbers creating a powder keg that would erupt in the Red River War with repercussions still being felt today.
“Brothers of the Buffalo” tells the story of the Red River War from two perspectives, that of Private Washington (Wash) Vance Jr, a recently freed prior slave who, in an attempt to prove himself a man and provide for his mother and sister back home, joins the United States military and is deployed to engage, work with, and sometimes fight against the natives, and Wolf, a Cheyenne with similar goals, to care and provide for his family.
Bruchac writes in a way that is both inviting in its simplicity and convincing in its depth.
While the two of them begin on opposite sides of the conflict, they have more in common than not. Both of them are young and find themselves the heirs of conflict neither had a hand in creating. Both are minorities in a land where despite the many varied hues there are only two types of people, those who are white and those who are not. And both, despite what they are sometimes made to do, want nothing more than peace for themselves and their people.
Bruchac writes in a way that is both inviting in its simplicity and convincing in its depth. His decades of experience with both the native cultures of the United States and the several years he spent teaching in Ghana, as well as personal experiences in the American Civil Rights Movement all shine in equal measure between the covers of this story. Never is there a moment that the story or the language feels inauthentic, nor do any of the characters become caricatures or stereotypes of themselves.
Though “Brothers of the Buffalo” is a work of fiction, it’s foundation in history leaves the reader with a fuller knowledge of the complexities of United States history and a deeper understanding of the complex human relationships that set the stage for the world we live in today and hopefully, a deeper understanding of and compassion for their fellow man.
“Brothers of the Buffalo” is recommended reading for anyone interested in war stories, stories of the slave trade, stories of native cultures, early U.S. history, or just fans of good storytelling and compelling characters. A free sample chapter is provided for you below.
Big Shiny Robot also has a copy of Brothers of the Buffalo we’ll be giving away to a reader. Comment below with why you want the book, what about it sounds most interesting to you, a piece of trivia, a decent joke, or anything at all you’ve got on your mind. Any and all of these will be taken into consideration because at the end of the day, “Brothers of the Buffalo” taught me one thing above all others, humanity would benefit from trying harder to understand one another.