Brothers of the Buffalo: A Novel of the Red River War

Written by Joseph Bruchac
Review by John Kachuba

The latest young adult novel from prolific Native American storyteller and writer, Joseph Bruchac, explores the 1874 Red River War through the perspective of two young participants in that conflict. Washington Vance is a cavalryman serving in the 10th Cavalry, US Colored Troops—a “buffalo soldier,” as the Plains Indians called African-American troopers. Virginia-born “Wash” knows what slavery is like, and he discovers that Mr. Lincoln’s emancipation did not necessarily erase racial bigotry and prejudice, even on the faraway Great Plains. Still, he is determined to serve with honor and to make a future for himself that would have been unthinkable before he became free.

Wolf, a young Cheyenne man, finds that life among his people is changing in drastic ways. Forced onto reservations, their old ways of life are dying. Worse, there are the incursions of white settlers and horse thieves, and the constant threat of warfare between the Cheyenne and the soldiers. He is challenged to find his place in the swirl of conflicting attitudes.

his is a fast-paced novel that artfully details the thoughts and motivations of two young men—both of whom are, by their skin color, the objects of racial injustice. Bruchac’s research is impeccable, as always, and he gives the reader an accurate picture of these people and events without falling back on stereotypes. Although categorized for YA, this novel is a great read for adults as well.