Set in the midwestern United States between 1875 and 1890, this novel’s protagonists are Turtleheart, a Teton Sioux, and his young wife Evensigh, a white woman adopted into the tribe as a child. The story begins with their wedding and their subsequent capture, torture, and separation shortly afterwards. Believing Turtleheart dead, Evensigh resigns herself to her forced return to an alien white society. The narrative moves between both characters’ experiences over the next four years: he as a young Sioux warrior, she as a woman adjusting to a strange culture. Eventually they are reunited, and they embark on a harsh new life on the reservation until their deaths at the Wounded Knee Massacre.
The novel is written in 34 short chapters that present the main characters in a historically rich context without mythologizing them or their culture. It is a rugged and savage time, one of irreparable change for Native Americans. The novel’s reissue exemplifies the Native American spirit of courage and survival that the author captures so vividly in the book.