The premise of this alternate history is that native peoples joined forces, discovered gold in California, gained weapons technology superior to that of the U.S. Army and so managed to maintain control of the American West. Interesting but – alas, poorly executed. We don’t, for example, have any real idea where any of this happens. Or even when, an important first step for any historical, alternate or otherwise. Let’s guess – first half of the 19th century, before white colonizers discovered gold. But even the physical details of the world are too vague to be much help in answering this question. And what is our genre if you take such telling details away? A simple “he wore Indian dress” doesn’t cut it. We read this genre to feel and smell what we’re wearing, what we’re eating.
The main tribe we are meant to sympathize with are called the Beothuk – for a Newfoundland tribe that went extinct in 1829 – but here survived to spearhead The People. The author indicates in a note that he did this on purpose: “outrageous liberties with time and place.” Outrageous indeed. We have no individual character we know for certain we are to sympathize with until several chapters in, not helped by indecision as to what to call him. Anything that can be shown is rather distantly told. How does Lieutenant Worth know what a “hogan” is? And what it means for the unity of The People – indeed what any of this means – is never explored.