Mean Spirit/ Linda Hogan/ 1990
Our story takes place on an oil-rich Native American town, called Watona, on a reservation in Oklahoma. The course of the story extends from 1918 to the mid-twenties.
There is a multitude of characters that accompany this story. One of the most important characters is Nola Blanket, a young teenager who is a full-blooded Osage Indian. She is a very delicate girl but still very strong. Her mother, Grace Blanket, is a very beautiful, well-liked young woman who is very outgoing and fun-loving.
Belle Graycloud is a feisty, strong-willed Indian woman. She is well respected and is the commanding grandmother of her household. Her family is very close to the Blankets, who are distant cousins. Belles daughter, Lettie, is a close friend of Grace. Letties lover, Benoit, is an Osage man that is married to Graces crippled sister, Sara Blanket; but he is more like a brother and caretaker to her than he is a husband.
Michael Horse is the fire keeper of the Osage tribe, but he also writes in his spare time. He is an old man who observes everything around him and writes it down in his journals.
Stace Red Hawk is a Sioux Indian that works for the FBI. He became a federal agent in hopes of helping the Native Americans and protecting them from being taken advantage of.
John Hale is a tall, lanky white rancher and oilman. He is trusted by the Indians, and seems to be a generous and helpful person.
Watona was a small Indian town that prospered due to the rich rivers of oil flowing beneath it. As part of the Dawes Act, each Indian was allowed to choose an allotment of land not already claimed by white Americans. Although the 160 acres of land per Indian seemed generous, the land was barren and dry. The government did not know, however, that black oil seeped up out of the earth, and many Indians became very wealthy because of their worthless pieces of land. As a result of the Indians wealth, hundreds of white businessmen, fortune-hunters, traders, thieves, and swindlers swarmed to the reservation to make cash.
When Grace Blanket is murdered by John Hale on a warm summer morning, it is made to look like a suicide and the local law enforcement passes it off as such. Nola and her friend Rena saw Nolas mother chased down and shot, but the Indians know that they must not bring it to the law or they will risk Nolas life. Belle takes in Nola as her own and sees that Nola is safe. Mysteriously, men from the nearby Osage tribe appear to keep watch over Nola in her time of vulnerability.
The story progresses as more murders occur and the situation gets more and more rotten. Sara Blanket is killed in an explosion and Benoit is framed as the culprit. Other local Osage people are found dead, inexplicably, and foul play is afoot. It is more than coincidence that many of these people had dealings with John Hale, who often benefited from their deaths. But nobody has any proof of the murders, so Mr. Hale gets away with his dirty deeds.
Stace Red Hawk is sent down from Washington, D.C. by the FBI to investigate the murders. As he spends more time with the Indian people, he slowly loses the ways of the white world and becomes in touch with his real self. He meets Michael Horse, who is adding his own chapter to the Bible because he feels that it has left out crucial elements. Horse is a seer, and he often foresees events that nobody else knows about. Horse is also trying to uncover the mystery that is tearing the Osage community apart.
After years of searching, the combined efforts of Stace, Michael, Belle, and Lettie yield enough clues to put John Hale on trial. John is convicted and it seems that everyone is finally safe. One night, Belles husband Moses wakes up, and he knows right away that something is wrong with his twin sister. He finds that her husband was in on the conspiracy and that he has shot her. The family realizes that they are still in danger, and they escape the house just before it explodes. They leave town with nothing but their lives, and they are happy for that.
I really enjoyed reading this story. It was a good insight on how the U.S. legal system was once so flawed that it allowed murderers and thieves to take advantage of the Indian nations. It angers me to know that to this day, many of the Native American people are still separated from what is rightfully theirs. We think that we are a civilized, compassionate nation, but it was less than a century ago that we allowed such savagery to take place. We didnt even recognize the Indians as people.
What I found to be particularly inspiring was the portrayal of the Osage religion and beliefs. I was fascinated by the Indians ways of life and their philosophies. I think the author did an excellent job of showing how right the Indians were in their beliefs.
There were some problems with the story; although they arent crucial to the plot, they did leave me feeling a bit cheated. The story switches around to a lot of characters, and there are a lot of subplots that open up. The book ends very abruptly, and that would not be so bad if it had tied up some of the loose ends first. It didnt though. I ended up following all of these characters through the story and then it got cut off, making it seem pointless to have focused on half of the people in the book. I ended up following them and then they didnt get any closure, so I feel like it took away from the experience. Its like watching the Superbowl, but never knowing who wins because the t.v. explodes during the last few minutes.
I have seen a few minutes of the movie Thunderheart, which I think might be based off of this book. I am actually interested in seeing it now because I know that both stories include an Indian FBI agent who is sent to investigate murders on a reservation. It will be interesting to see just how closely the two match up.