Summary: Kit Fox has seen 16 winters in her lifetime and has grown up fearless and determined. When she has a dream that she will ride Eagle Flies Over Hills, her tribe’s horse, she manages to work around the objections others have and learns to ride him secretly, gently gaining the horse’s trust. Though female warriors among the Blackfoot tribe are rare and usually older, Kit Fox hones her skills and slowly helps her people adjust to new ways. Change is the future of the Blackfoot tribe though as getting used to Eagle Flies Over Hills and learning to use guns offered to them by the Cree takes time. War with the Snake People speeds up the progress though, as without Kit Fox, Eagle Flies Over Hills and the guns the tribe would not survive.
Number of Pages: 170
Age Range: 12-13
Review: What appears to be a relatively simple story about a girl named Kit Fox coming of age and finding her place in her Blackfoot tribe is actually an incisive look at the changes horses and guns brought to her people.
Kit Fox is a spirited character who follows her literal dreams and is the only fearless person in her tribe when it comes to trying to ride Eagle Flies Over Hills, the horse her people have captured in the spoils of war with the Snake People. But as a girl she is expected to take more traditional roles of staying close to the tipi and caring for her family instead of hunting and being a warrior.
But Kit Fox has a warrior’s heart, and she is determined to push the boundaries of gender expectations. It is she who learns to hunt with a bow and arrow, taking down her own buffalo, and she who goes for help when her tribe is ambushed by the Snake People. While she could follow her sister and co-marry the most handsomest warrior in the tribe, Kit Fox knows herself well enough to realise she wants to marry for love and be her husband’s only wife. She also knows that marriage isn’t something she’s quite ready for yet.
What I liked the most was that Kit Fox was able to be herself and her family and tribe were mostly supportive of her choices. She’s a wonderful role model for young pre-teen and teen female readers, and Dawn Rider can also be read as an anthropological look at the Blackfoot people. I learned about their customs and traditions, but also about the influence of the settlers on introducing metal and guns as trade items. It seems odd that a people reluctant to integrate horses into everyday life would be so willing to use guns, but Hudson walks her reader through their choices and adjustment.
I quite enjoyed the tale of Kit Fox and her people, and I hope one day I will be able to locate a copy of Sweetgrass to read as well.
“So had her people always lived, like eagle or wolf, in harmony with the universe. In her heart she gave thanks to the spirits of buffalo and deer, beaver and mink and marten. ‘So may my people live forever!’
If not for her people, the buffalo would shear the grass of the plains down to the roots – for not other creature hunted buffalo in any great number – and the dust would blow all over the world. Her grandmother said that. If not for the eagles, the ground squirrels and hares would nibble every green shoot, and there would be little food for the buffalo. Her grandmother said that. If not for the coyotes, the mice would consume all the seeds and nothing would grow on the plains in springtime. Her grandmother said that, too. All creatures had the places First Maker gave them, in the world’s harmony.” – Kit Fox from Dawn Rider by Jan Hudson, page 62
Dawn Rider by Jan Hudson is published by HarperCollins Publishers, (1990).