On the vast and indescribably beautiful South Rim of the Grand Canyon a young Hualapai boy faces a bleak future in 1902. River Thunder's mother has just passed into the Spirit World and his father has nothing left to give the boy except his hand carved flute and his magical gift for music. It is a time in America's history when Native American children were separated from their loving families, tribes and even their ancient and traditional cultures and sent to distant "Indian Schools" for re-education and vocational training.
River Thunder will carry his flute, courage and trusting innocence to the Hackberry Day School still standing today on old Route 66, while never once imagining how his fate will one day soar like an eagle over the magnificant Grand Canyon. His life's journey will carry River Thunder into a tender but forbidden love and the terrifying but exhilarating experience of aerial warfare fought in a World War I biplane.
RIVER THUNDER, Acknowledgements by Gary McCarthy
RIVER THUNDER was written as a tribute to the thousands of children who attended American Indian boarding schools during the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. While it is true that some students voluntarily came to these institutions, typically they were forced into leaving their families, friends, culture and reservations. In interviews and research, this author repeatedly heard heart wrenching stories of how families were torn apart and boarding school students were often changed in ways that prevented them from being comfortable adults either in the white man's society . . . or their own Native American societies.
The educational philosophy and policies that dictated the compulsory attendance of Indian children and the manner in which they were forced to live was well intended. However, the policy was insensitive and devastating to many Native Americans who still recall their years at the boarding schools with deep bitterness.
Finally, this book is dedicated to the extremely helpful and hospitable Hualapai, "The People of the Tall Pines" who live in the little settlement of Peach Springs, located on old Route 66 just south of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.