Book Review: Charcoal’s World by Hugh A. Dempsey

Charcoal’s World by Hugh Aylmer Dempsey
Published by U of Nebraska Press on 1979
Genres: Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies), History, Native American
Pages: 178
Format: Hardcover

Charcoal’s World was bounded by the mountains, hills, and plains of southwestern Alberta. That was the homeland of his people, the Blood Indians, but Charcoal was not free to enjoy it as his ancestors had. For millennia, they had lived each day in the company of spirits, and even with the coming of the white man that much didønot change.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Charcoal’s World by Hugh Dempsey is the third in a trilogy of books I am reading for my Great Plains literature class this fall. This book, unlike the other two (Waterlily and Fools Crow), comes across as more of an historical tale first and story second. While the others were also filled with interesting historical facts, Charcoal’s World goes even further to discuss the laws and the individual lives of the people surrounding Charcoal all with the intent, it seems, of providing us the whole story.

But even more so than the historical information included in Charcoal’s story is the amazing survival nature that Charcoal possessed. He was on the run for weeks, evading, eluding, and sometimes even slipping under the noses of the police and the Indian scouts who were hunting him. He was on a mission, and even though those of us who have not been raised in the way Charcoal was raised may not understand how that mission could be so important, we can understand – through our own faiths and convictions, how desperately Charcoal sought to fulfill his own. He was a man of honor throughout his mission, he acted according to how he was called, and his journey ended up being as thrilling for this reader as it was tragic for Charcoal in the end.

While Dempsey’s writing is a bit more stilted and difficult to really get into than Welch’s and Deloria’s, Charcoal’s story is strong enough and fascinating enough to make up for it.

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