The Holy Road
Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake has long been a favorite of mine because it tells the story of the journey of a man to find himself. I fell in love with John Dunbar and members of the Comanche Nation: Kicking Bird, The Holy Man; Ten Bears, The Chief; Wind in his Hair, Warrior, and the woman John Dunbar fell in love with, Stands with a Fist.
When I heard that Michael Blake wrote a sequel called The Holy Road, I was eager to spend time with these familiar characters once again. It felt good as I opened the pages of the book and started to read. But Michael Blake has taken a different direction with this novel. It is more about the journey of a people than it is about any one person. To be more specific, it is the journey of the demise of a people.
In the beginning, we are re-introduced to all our favorite characters and we find out what they have been doing during the interim years. But there is a sadness among the tribe brought on by the ever-present threat of the white man’s encroachment into their land. In fact the characters are divided as they each struggle in their own way to deal with the threat on their ancient landscape. It is incomprehensible to me how the white people wanted to harness an entire people and expect them to go along peacefully. I never understood why the land could not have been shared. Maybe I’m naïve but I believe that everyone has a right to live as they were born – free to choose.
The Holy Road of the title pertains to the coming of the Railroad which, as you know, changed the face of the West. But I think the Holy Road could also refer to Christianity as it also played a part in the transformation of the Native people into the ways of the white man’s world.
What made this book interesting to me was watching as the Native people are exposed to white civilization. All the things we now take for granted are seen through new eyes as Kicking Bird sees a house for the first time. He cannot understand why people need to feel enclosed and view the outdoors through a window instead of being physically outside. Ten Bears is very curious about his surroundings when he visits Washington D.C. He wants to know where human waste goes, and where their supply of food comes from. It is all very perplexing to him when he discovers the truth. After a time, it all becomes too much: too much noise, too many people, and not enough of the wide open spaces. He just wants to go home, where he plans to die. This too, is where the two people are different. The Native people view death as a natural part of the Mystery and accept it, unlike the white man, who fears death.
It’s interesting to note that while the Native people were willing, some may say forced, to understand the white man’s ways, no-where did the white people seek to understand the ways of the Comanche.
In a way, I am glad that many of my favorite characters did not survive to live the horrors of reservation life. I prefer to think of them running free among the stars. For that was the only Holy Road left for people of the Comanche Nation.