A young woman seeks to avenge her brother's death by becoming an Apache warrior — and learns a startling truth about her own identity. After watching helplessly as Mexican raiders brutally murder her little brother, fourteen-year-old Siki is filled with a desire for vengeance and chooses to turn away from a woman's path to become a warrior of her Apache tribe. Though some men, like envious Keste, wish to see Siki fail, she passes test after test, and her skills grow under the guidance of her tribe's greatest warrior, Golahka. But Keste begins to whisper about Siki's father's dishonorable death, and even as Siki earns her place among the warriors, she senses a dark secret in her past — one that will throw into doubt everything she knows. Taking readers on a sweeping and suspenseful journey through the nineteenth-century American Southwest, Tanya Landman draws on historical accounts to imagine the Black Mountain Apache as a tribe in a fight for survival against the devastating progress of nations.
Siki, a fourteen year old Apache girl, witnesses the murder (by decapitation) of her four year old brother during a Mexican raid. Set on avenging his death, she sets out to become an Apache warrior. Siki vows to use her brother's spear to kill his murderer. The tribe notes how unusual it is to allow women to train to be braves, but it is later decided to let her try. She will need to complete four missions to be eligible for warrior council. The fourth mission puts her between a rock and a hard place, as she is forced to choose between honoring wishes of the Chief or the loyalty of a true friend.
To become a warrior, first must one learn to observe and supply the needs of others. This is the way of the Apache.
Geared toward a YA audience, I Am Apache is a solidly entertaining introduction into YA Historical Fiction. Author Tanya Landman writes in clear, straightforward prose while also developing a strong sense of Siki's environment. We learn of beliefs, customs and maybe just a touch of Native American feminism, as Siki breaks through traditionally male ranks. It's fun to be in on Siki's thought process, not to mention her intelligence and dedication to training, as she outwits cocky warriors during her missions. I also loved the student - teacher banter between Siki and Golhaka (reminded me a bit of Mulan and Li Shang).
...warriors must know and understand all the tasks of the tribe lest they should ever need them: they must stitch and sew and cook as well as any woman, as indeed the women of our tribe must shoot a bow and use a knife as deftly as a man.
For such a short story, Landman successfully takes her readers through the gamut of emotions:
* Humor : Scenes discussing a love of coffee
* Strength: Siki's skills with hunting, Golhaka commenting, "I would not want her for an enemy."
* Tension: The darkness that surrounds the rivalry between Siki and star warrior Keste
* Romance: Siki's good friend Dahtet (female) hiding deeper feelings for her
* Sadness: Learning that survivors of raids were not allowed to bury their dead but instead expected to just walk away, never look back.
A strong read all around! It's actually inspired by the true story of Lozen, a female warrior who rode beside Geronimo as one of the last truly free Apache. Her mother had been killed in a raid similar to that of Siki, her brother just ten months old. Lozen's father was killed when an Apache party attempted a retaliation ambush on the Mexicans.
Lozen was eventually captured by the US military, dying of TB while in confinement in 1889.