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The fiery bicultural adventures of remarkable Mohawk war chief Joseph Brant (1742-1807) are here blanched to a bland but decorative and readable fictional memoir--from childhood and the portentous visitation of the Great White Owl (signaling a life apart from the tribe) to peaceful scholarly old age, with generally fastidious accounts (except for some lusty sex) of years of warfare and painful diplomacy. Brant was the protÉgÉ of military whiz Sir William Johnson, superintendent of Indian Affairs for all the English colonies--who's seen here as a bombast of good will, a hammer of justice, and a paragon who cherishes people above property. Brant is proud to be his adopted son, and happy that his sister Molly is Johnson's wife (without benefit of clergy--at her own request). Attendance at Eleaser Wheelock's Indian school in Connecticut starts Brant on his career of translating the ""magic"" words of Bible and Prayer Book; but most of the narrative--when not tied up with domestic life (three wives) and bedroom conquests--is concerned with talk and tomahawks, as Brant devotes his life to keeping the lands of the Iroquois Nations intact despite British, French, and American greediness. Brant's search for guarantees takes him twice to London, where he's entertained by a fascinated aristocracy--from King George to a lascivious lady fond of ""savages."" And finally, old and brooding, Brant takes wry cognizance of the threads he thought might bind Indians together: ""a governor's promise, a king's smile, a boatload of lead and powder."" Hine's attempt at the waistcoated prose of an 18th-century English gentleman may reduce this Mohawk Chief to a chatty, urbane, chap-next-door; and the pace is hardly in the thundering-hooves division. But Brant remains a rich subject, wired here to a firm, familiar message. Overall: flawed but worthy.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday