People of the Raven

Written by Kathleen O'Neal Gear W. Michael Gear
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Once again the Gears focus on a prehistoric population, this time people living on North America’s northwest coast 9,300 years ago. The world is growing warmer, and with glaciers melting, the shoreline species are dying, leaving fewer traditional resources. Although they’ve lived side by side in an exchange relationship as long as anyone can remember, the disrupted ecosystem upsets the uneasy balance between the fair-haired North Wind People and the darker Raven People, with violent consequences.

The Gears – archaeologists/writers – fill their pages with a myth-drenched fare of outcasts, violence, gritty realism and native spirituality. The happy resolution of this conflict results in marriages that ultimately swallow up the genes of the North Wind People. But there is no theory expounded by the Gears on how the two peoples came to live side by side in the first place. The fact that we never return for answers to the questions posed in the Prologue causes similar reader confusion. The Prologue is set in the recent past, when a modern native anthropologist and her great-uncle medicine man glean what they can from the Kennewick Man skeleton before the FBI pounds on her door. But maybe that is the Gears’ intention: to instigate us to learn more about this culture.

Although I was sometimes overwhelmed by the number of characters, the character of Tsauz, the blind boy who goes on a vision quest and hears the thunderbirds for the future of his people, stands out as a particularly interesting spiritual wrinkle in this complex book..