Fiction, Historical Fiction, Social Commentary, Young Adult

#502 Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell and Elizabeth Hall

Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O'Dell and Elizabeth HallThunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell and Elizabeth Hall

In Scott’s final book he writes about the Nez Perce Indians, or as they call themselves the Nimi’ipuu, which translates to “the real people.” The name Nez Perce is a misnomer. The phrase actually means “pierced nose,” which was not a tradition of the tribe. The reason this was Scott’s final book is because it was the book he was working on when he died. He left instructions, notes, and what he had finished so far with Elizabeth Hall to finish up, thus the reason this Scott O’Dell book has two authors listed.

The main character in this story is named Sound of Running Feet. Her father is Chief Joseph. If you know anything about Native American history in the United States, you would know that Chief Joseph is kind of a big deal. The tribe was ordered off of their land, all due to white settlement and advancement. At first, Chief Joseph refused, but then he finally had to relent fearing the deaths of the entire tribe if they did not leave. Sound of Running Feet is reluctant to give up the fight, just as many are. Her fiance, Swan Necklace, has become a warrior and doesn’t want to give up just as much as anyone else.

The tribe leaves on horseback, with their greatest assets, their horses and cattle. Along the way some tribe members attack some white people and war breaks out. The tribe fights a group known as the blue coats. Many tribes members are lost along the way. At one point, they dig down into trenches and try to fight off the soldiers. In the end, Chief Joseph must surrender. The real people are led away to a government designated place.

Sound of Running Feet does not want to go with them. She determines to go north to Sitting Bull. She leaves with her fiance, but both of them do not end up completing the journey.

What I liked

The band of Native Americans that Chief Joseph led fought off the U.S. Army for three months. They were outnumbered and lacked many supplies. That’s quite impressive. This was all known as the Nez Perce war. You may think this happened in the 1700s or the early 1800s, but this all happened in 1877. I don’t have to tell you guys again that the United States has been persecuting Native American tribes for a very long time and this persecution continued way into the 1900s. It’s important to know about all of this.

We like to hold our country in esteem above other countries. We like to say how it’s a land of opportunity for anybody of any race or background. We like to say that we give humanitarian relief and that everyone has basic human liberties. Yes, we do like to say that, but that doesn’t make it true. The United States has a complicated history with humanitarian rights. I cannot even say that only non-Caucasian people were persecuted because at various times even various peoples of European descent were highly discriminated against in the United States, for example, the Irish immigrants. The United States has been pretty awful to people in general over its history to date. We say we’re so awesome, but in reality, we have a lot of problems.

Persecution and extermination of the Native Americans was where all of this started. Before people were ever brought over from Africa as slaves or before Asian-Americans were denied citizenship up until the 1950s, the Native Americans were the ones losing their land, losing their homes, and losing their ways. All of this is very important to remember. We need to remember this so future generations will realize that the previous generations weren’t doing so well with equality for all people. It’s a problem we need to fix. We need to be ever-vigilant in case our country slips into its old ways of persecution. Persecution is never really a good idea.

What I didn’t like

As much as I like the history of this story and the lessons it helps us to remember, I do not like that these things actually happened. This chain of events was awful. People were forced off of their land. They were sent to a reservation in Kansas. Their traditions faded. They lost a lot of people. Who thought this was a good way to treat people? Seriously, who decided, “Hey, you know those people who were here before us and have more of a right to this country than we do, let’s herd them up at gunpoint and put them in Oklahoma and Kansas where it’s flat and let’s take away their horses,” seriously, who thought that up? Why did people go along with it?

Here’s the thing, we didn’t have TV back then. There was no radio yet. There were telegraphs, but that’s about it. We had newspapers, but where did the news in the newspapers come from? How did you get the news for the newspapers? Information was more difficult to come by in this era. While some people, especially frontier people, probably knew how the Native Americans were being treated, a lot more people probably had no idea what was going on. Would people have been upset had the news been more widely spread? There were a lot of prejudices in the day, so it may be that people would not have cared even if they had known what was going on.

It makes a person wonder about us as humans of European descent. Did we treat other people this way before we left Europe? If we were British, did we shove a French person walking down the street? Did we chase that nice German family out of their home? What about that Polish group that just came to the country, what did we do to them? I do not know a ton about day-to-day history in Europe, but I know enough to know that we were always kind of jerks. What was with our ancestors? Somebody should go back in time and give them all chill pills, yes, I did say that, and, yes, I know it’s not the 1990s. Just hug. Don’t fight, just hug.


When I read books like this I’m proud that I have some Native American heritage, but I also get disappointed in my European ancestors for being jerks, obviously, mine weren’t as bad as some because they mingled with various Native American tribes.

Weigh In

Do you believe that we still actively persecute Native American tribes? If yes, why?

Do you admire Chief Joseph for holding out for three months or do you admire him for surrendering before his entire people were slaughtered? Which is the more noble in your eyes?

chief joseph, elizabeth hall, native americans, nez perce, nez perce war, nimi’ipuu, persecution of indians in the united states, persecution of nativer americans, scott o’dell, sound of running feet, thunder rolling in the mountains, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell and Elizabeth Hall
Fiction, Hall-Elizabeth, Historical Fiction, O’dell-Scott, Social Commentary, Young Adult


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