A twelve-year-old Iroquois boy searches for peace in this historical novel based on the creation of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Twelve-year-old Okwaho's life has suddenly changed. While he and his best friend are out hunting, his friend is kidnapped by men from a neighboring tribal nation, and Okwaho barely escapes. Everyone in his village fears more raids and killings: The Five Nations of the Iroquois have been at war with one another for far too long, and no one can remember what it was like to live in peace.
Okwaho is so angry that he wants to seek revenge for his friend, but before he can retaliate, a visitor with a message of peace comes to him in the woods. The Peacemaker shares his lesson tales—stories that make Okwaho believe that this man can convince the leaders of the five fighting nations to set down their weapons. So many others agree with him. Can all of them come together to form the Iroquois Great League of Peace?
Through 12-year-old Okwaho, who loves to make songs, Bruchac (One Real American) brings a fresh point of view to this briskly told fictionalization of the Iroquois Confederacy’s beginnings. Okwaho’s family is one of 14 who leave the big village of Onontaka—and the protection of Atatarho, a powerful warrior chief—to avoid “the conflict that never ended”: fighting among the five Iroquois Nations. But while trout fishing, Okwaho’s best friend Tawis is kidnapped by members of the Oneida, putting the boys’ small community at risk of reentering the cycle of violence. When Carries, of the Ganiekehgaono Nation, arrives, he brings with him a message of peace that he hopes to circulate among the nations—one that also helps Okwaho navigate his own conflicts. If the pace slows in the book’s second half, as Bruchac interweaves Okwaho’s narrative with Haudenosaunee stories of the Peace- maker—whom the Creator sent to end the warfare—the tales bring a depth and resonance to the life and history of the Iroquois Confederacy, as well as to Okwaho’s understanding of the world. Ages 9–12. Agent: Barbara Kouts, Barbara Kouts Literary. (Jan.)
Gr 5 Up—A fictional retelling of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy). Readers meet Okwaho, a young Onontaka boy who lives in the small village of Kanata. The book, written from Okwaho's perspective, is set during an undefined, pre-contact time of war between tribal nations. The arrival of the Peacemaker is a familiar oral tradition, and the book paints a picture of how the Haudenosaunee was formed by the Peacemaker to create unity. While Bruchac emphasizes the importance of the Indigenous origin of names for locations, tribes, and characters, he unfortunately fails to explain their meanings and significance, which may confuse and hinder some readers. Despite Bruchac's celebrated storytelling abilities on display here, the narrative sometimes meanders. References to how the Peacemaker story is still acknowledged and respected today by modern Haudenosaunee would have imparted a stronger sense of relevance for today's audience. The author's note and acknowledgements credit Haudenosaunee friends who shared their stories with him to help recreate this retelling. VERDICT Purchase where Bruchac's work is popular.—Danielle Burbank, San Juan Coll., Farmington, NM