Native American tribes have names for the animal spirit guides that helped them deal with survival in the wilderness and protect them during conflicts. The spirit world was very real to them in all their activities. Young men and girls seeking maturity would go, alone, to wild places on spirit or vision quests. Often, they were visited by animal spirits. Sahaptin speaking people of the Pacific Northwest, such as the Nez Perce, called these animal spirits “wyakin.” The Wyakin Trilogy follows a spirit-bear-wyakin through all books along with the nineteenth-century America prevalent themes of racial and religious bigotry, hate, fear, and ignorance.
In Book One, Legend of The Wyakin, a prologue sets the scene with a father and son encountering an ancient grizzly bear and Jewish immigrant boy as specters in the wild Missouri River Breaks country of central Montana in modern times. This life-changing event causes them to research and tell the stories of the boy becoming orphaned and stranded by cholera, greed and murder in the gold rush period of Montana Territory of 1865. In his loneliness, the boy seeks the companionship of an ancient grizzly, and then acquires an Indian friend/brother. The grizzly brutally kills a murderer as it protects the boy, but the Indian boy is wounded. After taking the Nez Perce boy to his buffalo hunting band, the Jewish boy is adopted by his band’s shaman, who recognizes the strange boy, with his spirit-bear wyakin, as his predicted successor.
In Book Two, Legend of The Dreamer, the boy matures, learning to be a healer/shaman. The spirit-bear wyakin intervenes to save the boy and guide his decisions. Visitations from and into the spirit world cause the now-young man to adopt many beliefs of the cult known as “Dreamers.” A Christian Nez Perce girl enters his life, but their love is thwarted by religious and cultural conflicts standing in the way of marriage and happiness.
In Book three, Legend of The Shaman, deeply in love with the Christian Nez Perce girl, the now mature protagonist is torn by conflicts between his adopted people and the invading white man’s culture and religion. War erupts between the non-treaty Nez Perce bands and the army. Staying with his adopted people as the bands healer/shaman, the protagonist is finally able to marry the Christian girl. The army makes a surprise attack, and his wife of two days is killed along with his Nez Perce brother in a brutal massacre.
Still torn between loyalties, he continues with the Nez Perce bands as they trek across Montana toward what is now Canada. Following a final battle just short of the border, Chief Joseph surrenders his people, but the protagonist’s band continues on to join Sitting Bull’s Sioux in Canada. The protagonist completes his journey by returning to the Missouri River Breaks, much as he left it, 12 years earlier — without a people, but still watched over by his wyakin.
The trilogy uses log books and journals to fill in information and set the scenes in historic context.
For reader interested in the events of Legend of The Shaman, there is a very detailed description of the route taken by the Nez Perce band what were trying to avoid contact with the armies chasing them across Idaho and Montana in 1877. The web site is maintained by several federal agencies.and is called: “Nez Perce Trail Foundation. The site has detailed maps, pictures and background information. Legend of The Shaman follows events and dates very closely.