Having spent over 30 years teaching English at the high school and college levels, William Higbie has studied the Cheyenne culture extensively. He was awarded a Geraldine Dodge Foundation grant to explore the tribe’s traditions while living with a Cheyenne host family on their Montana Reservation. He has contributed historical and ethnological articles to several national publications and wrote a young reader’s novel, A Circle of Power (Eagle’s View,1991). He is a NRA certified black powder instructor and a member of the Western Writers of America. He is also a historical re-enactor known as Cap’n Billy.
“This fast-paced historical novel depicts life among the Cheyenne on the northern plains in 1796. Native culture is about to experience the upheaval wrought by white traders’ liquor and firearms (the iron bows). The author effectively creates a feeling of flux between the old and the new ways and illustrates some specific problems. In one instance, after a successful buffalo hunt using a mixture of bows and thunder weapons, two native hunters nearly come to blows as they both claim the same downed animal: unlike personalized arrows, lead balls all look the same and it becomes impossible to tell who made the killing shot. Not surprisingly, the advent of firearms on the plains also intensifies inter-tribal rivalries and contributes to an arms race. This novel is rich in native culture, including vision quests, naming customs, the value placed on valor in battle, contraries and He’emnane’e (half-men/half-women), courtship rituals, and horse raids. In fact, some of these features are skillfully developed into subplots. The author has studied Cheyenne culture in depth, and his knowledge comes through in both content and language. A judicious strewing of Cheyenne vocabulary (e.g., Ese’he-tsexe-heseme’enese, the rising sun) gives a ring of authenticity without interfering with the flow of the read.”
—Eric Bye, Muzzle Blast Magazine
“While this book is contained in only 217 pages it is quite complete. It’s a tale about a teenage Cheyenne Indian lad that is told from the Indian’s point of view and done very well in my opinion. The reader gets to follow, if not join him and his family and tribal members as he goes through the rituals of becoming a man where his vision gives him a new name, going on his first horse stealing raid, and following the steps that must be taken during courtship.
The author’s name, William Higbie, might sound familiar and rightly so because he has authored other books plus articles forMuzzleloader magazine.
This story is told in several short chapters that cover those 217 pages and it takes place at the time when the Cheyennes received their first introduction to firearms, at the hands of the Crows, and their first meeting with white traders from the Northwest Company.
While it is historical fiction, which means it is not based on actual fact, there is a very good chance that things might have happened much like it is presented in this story. The author has done a lot of research into the beliefs and habits of the Cheyenne and the situations the book’s main character goes through are told very well. Even though it is fiction, I learned some things from this book about the possible social life and structure of the Cheyenne.
The story is told very well too. There was no point in the story where things can be easily anticipated and that is important because it keeps the reader busy, keeps them reading. And, so you can’t really anticipate what the story is really about, I won’t tell you what the iron bow is. In order to find that out, you’ve got to read the book yourself unless you already know from other tales or from Indian lore.
Did I enjoy reading this book? Let’s just say I really hope there is a sequel because I want more.”
—Mike Nesbitt, Muzzleloader Magazine