Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I just reread Peter Bowen’s Coyote Wind (1994), a book I’ve summarized on this blog before.

I suggested the book for our book group to discuss in November. When I got home, my wife said, “That book’s filled with dirty language. And you suggested it to a group of mostly religious old folks.”

Oh well. The language wasn’t what interested me. And I didn’t think about the language. I thought about what the book tells of the Métis, their code, the way they live, and the way Garbriel Du Pré solves a highly personal mystery.

Canada's constitution recognizes the Métis are one of the three aboriginal Canadian populations. They are descended from traders (mostly French) who took Indian wives. 

Métis went back and forth from Canada to the U.S. with some of them settling here.

Before more of the Métis migrated from Canada to the U.S. (following an unsuccessful rebellion), many Canadian Métis came here to hunt.

“The Métis drove the buffalo into stout blind corrals or drove the herds from swift surefooted buffalo ponies,” Du Pré remembers. “Make everybody meat for the winter. The carts sounded for many miles over their prairies. At night the men gambled. The leaders were all poor, like those of the Indians who were the lost generous and humble. Wealth was a sign of a bad heart. The more power you had, the less you owned. Nobody who ever wanted a chief’s job got it.
“Take that you white fools who want to be president.”

Out of their way of life came an ethic. And Coyote Wind illustrates that ethic.

Coyote Wind has so many good qualities. It is an excellent mystery set in the early 1990s. It has memorable characters. And it tells about a way of life that is, at the least, fading.

Even the dialect seems authentic to the group.

I’ve read Coyote Wind several times now, and I always enjoy it.

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