The Shining Mountains by Alix Christie

A chronicle of the shameful treatment of the native peoples of the northwest, this eminently readable and engaging novel is informative, touching and passionate, taken from the author’s own family history.

The Shining Mountains by Alix Christie
High Road Books
Hardcover | $27.95
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Most of us are aware of the despicable way the native people of this continent were treated, but reading the personal stories of their sorrows always brings the pain to the surface. This account, taken from historical and family records by a descendant of one of the principal characters in this novel limns the tragedy and heartbreak of the treacherous treatment endured by the people of the northwest portion of our country. It is “our” country, now, but it is well to remember that it was not always so, until whites quite literally stole it.


Angus McDonald, a refugee from his native Scotland and the oppression visited upon his clan there takes up a position with the Hudson’s Bay company as a trader in furs in what would become, eventually, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. An honorable man, he becomes enamoured of the ways of the Shoshone, Crow, Nez Perce and others of that corner of the continent and marries a native woman who bears him a large family and introduces him to her own family and traditions. His even-handedness, his honorable actions, his compassionate ways make him beloved to his wife’s people and he makes a great success of his position as a trading post operator. Soon, though, the tensions between the British and Americans both seeking profit from the burgeoning fur trade place him in the delicate position of either running across legal problems with the military commanders of the region or his own company’s managers. He walks a fine line between these warring entities, all the while trying to protect the tribal people he not only trades with but who are his relatives; uncles, aunts and grandparents to his mixed-blood children.


The story proceeds through two generations of McDonalds who are viewed with suspicion by both native and white society as being loyal to and part of neither one. A great deal of blood is shed but eventually, as we all know, the natives were betrayed, disrespected, displaced and marginalized into shadows of the noble race they once were. Written with a restrained passion but always with heart and a sympathetic inclination towards people to whom she is related, the author has produced not only a highly readable novel but a chronicle of white shame that should never be forgotten.