Broken Trail

Broken Trail

by Jean Rae Baxter


  • Available February 2011
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-109-2
  • ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-124-5
  • 5-1/4″ x 7-5/8″ Trade Paperback, 240 pages
  • Young Reader Novel – Ages 9 to 12


Broken Trail is the story a thirteen-year-old white boy, the son of United Empire Loyalists, who has been captured and adopted by the Oneida people. Striving to find his vision oki that will guide him in his quest to become a warrior, Broken Trail disavows his white heritage — he considers himself Oneida. But everything changes when Broken Trail, alone in the woods on his vision quest, is mistakenly shot by a redcoat soldier.

Broken Trail is taken to the soldier’s camp and then sent south on a mission to deliver a message to Major Patrick Ferguson that could save many lives. Narrowly escaping being slaughtered in the Battle of Kinds Mountain, Broken Trail finds his long-lost older brother, who had been fighting for the British and has been captured by the rebels.

Seeing his brother seriously wounded, Broken Trail knows he must try to rescue him, but a choice must be made: do his loyalties lie with his brother, or with the Oneida who offer him the chance to become a warrior? And with his knowledge of both ways of life, can Broken Trail find a way forward that will benefit both peoples? A sequel to the best-selling The Way Lies North, Broken Trail is an absorbing and swift-paced story that brings to vivid reality one of the most exciting eras in North America’s past.

Click here to read Chapter 1 of Broken Trail

FOR TEN DAYS BROKEN TRAIL had fasted in the wilderness.
Only water had entered his mouth. He had chanted. He had
prayed with all his soul to see his totem animal, his oki, who
would be his protector throughout life. He had opened his
heart to the whisperings of the unseen spirits and his eyes
to the vision he would behold.

Broken Trail had completed all the rites of purification,
bathed in cleansing water into which boiled leaves and ferns
had been mixed, swallowed bitter emetics to remove every
bit of waste. Body and soul, he was clean. His uncle, Carries
a Quiver, had assured him that he would be acceptable to
the Great Spirit, even though white by birth. And his uncle
was the wisest man he knew.

Then why had no vision come to him? The only whispering
he heard was the wind in the tall trees. The closest thing
to a vision was a shower of falling stars. But that often happened
in late summer, when the stars shook loose in the sky.

His friend Young Bear had fasted nine days before his
vision came. His oki was an osprey. After the osprey had
spoken to him, the spirits revealed a glimpse of Young Bear’s
former life, when he had been a chief among faraway people
who hollowed their boats from logs. His vision had also
foretold his heroic death in battle. It was good to know these
things. At thirteen, Young Bear had already made up his
death song, to be ready in case his first war party should be
his last.

What if Broken Trail’s vision should fail? He tried not to
think about that. Ten days was a long time, yet he knew that
some waited even longer before their vision finally came to
them. It was rare for no oki to appear, but it did happen.
The man who dug the village garbage holes had failed to
receive a vision, so of course he could not be a warrior.

Broken Trail stood up and stretched. He had spent the entire
morning sitting under an ash tree beside a creek, doing
nothing but waiting and praying. His body was weak with
hunger, but he must not eat until his oki appeared to him.
Maybe he would not feel quite so famished if he filled his
stomach with water. A few steps away, there was a quiet
pool at a bend in the creek.

As Broken Trail leaned over the edge of the pool, a water
spider swam through his reflection. He studied the face that
looked up at him. Brown hair, blue eyes, skin bronzed by
the sun yet paler than the skin of his friends. I look like
Elijah, he thought, before driving the thought from his

Broken Trail imagined that he could hear Elijah’s voice
and feel his hand upon his shoulder. “I’ll take you hunting,”
Elijah had said. But he never did. All white men were liars.

I must not think about him, Broken Trail told himself.
He plunged his hands into the water, and the reflection
vanished. Lifting his cupped hands to his mouth, he drank
the cool, fresh water. Then he stood up, raised his face to
the sky and chanted the prayer that Carries a Quiver had
taught him:

O Great Spirit, my heart is open.
Let my oki come to me.
Let me see his visible form.
Let him promise me his protection.
My heart is open, O Great Spirit.
Show me a vision of my future.
Show me the path that lies ahead.

As he finished the prayer, his heart felt suddenly light, and
his head as well. A dizzy sensation came over him, but he
forced himself to stay on his feet.

“I’m ready,” he said. “Let my vision come to me.”

As if summoned, a wolverine walked out of the bushes
and stood looking at him—the biggest wolverine he had
ever seen. It had the shape of a bear and the size of a wolf.
Its shaggy fur was dark brown, with two broad yellowish
bands, one on each side, reaching backward from the shoulder
to meet at the base of its tail. Broken Trail smelled its
pungent musk. The wolverine looked at him sideways. Opening
its mouth, it showed Broken Trail its sharp yellow teeth.

Broken Trail waited, afraid to speak lest he offend it.

It spoke to him in thoughts, not words, so that he heard
its message not with his ears but with his mind. “Broken
Trail, I am your oki, come to protect you from all harm.
Hear what I say, and remember well.”

“I will,” the boy whispered.

At that instant, a rifle cracked. Within the rush of noise,
Broken Trail felt a sharp pain in his right thigh. He grabbed
at his leg, but his eyes were still on the wolverine as it raised
its head, turned aside, and loped into the forest.

As he watched it disappear into the undergrowth, Broken
Trail tried to call out, to summon it back. No sound came
from his lips. His mind was numb with disbelief. At the
very moment of revelation, he had been shot, and his oki
had run away.

Broken Trail felt his knees give way. For a moment his
eyes were still directed toward the spot where the wolverine
had slipped away. Then the pain of his wound forced him
to look down at the red stain spreading around the hole in
his legging where the bullet had entered. He felt wetness
run down his leg.

Should he go back to the village? He took one step, and
then another. Despite the pain, he could walk. But he was
not sure what he wanted to do. If he returned home, he
would have to tell his uncle that his oki had gone away before
revealing his destiny. Had such a thing ever happened
before? It might be a terrible omen. Yet the wolverine had
appeared to him, and it had spoken. His vision had not
completely failed. If the elders believed more was needed,
maybe they would let him try again.

Through the turmoil of his mind came the crashing
sound of men’s boots.White men.

Someone shouted, “You got him, Frank. We’ll find the
brute and finish him off.”

Broken Trail flinched. Better slide into a thicket where
they would not see him. But before he could hide, two men
burst through the undergrowth. Redcoats. Each carried a
rifle. Both looked ready to fire.

When they saw Broken Trail, they lowered their guns.
They stared at him. He drove the pain from his expression
to return their stares. They were young men. One was tall
and thin, with fair hair pulled back in a queue. The other
was short and sturdily built, with black hair.

The short soldier laughed. “Frank, that’s not a wolverine.”

“No. God forgive me. I aimed at a wolverine, but I shot a
boy. He’s hurt. Sam, what are we going to do?”

“We’d better see how bad he’s hurt.”

Broken Trail felt his body swaying. In a moment, he
would faint like a girl.

“Hey, there!” The tall soldier grabbed one arm, and the
short soldier took the other. Broken Trail tried to shake
them off, but they had a firm grip.When they had him sitting
down, Frank undid the thong that attached Broken
Trail’s right legging to his belt. He pulled down the top of
the legging.

“Not too bad.” Sam gently touched the area around the
wound. “The bullet passed in and out. A flesh wound. He’s
lucky it never touched bone.”

“But he’s bleeding, and he’s looking mighty weak. We’d
best take him back to camp so the surgeon can bandage
that leg. I shot him. I can’t just leave him here.”

“No!” Broken Trail blurted.

“Hey!” Frank exclaimed.“The little savage speaks English.”

Broken Trail looked up. Two pairs of blue eyes met.

“You’re no Indian,” Frank said slowly. “You’re as white as

Broken Trail decided not to say another word.

“There’s a mystery here,” Sam said. “Captain will want to
meet this boy.”

Click here to close the book excerpt.

Other Ronsdale books by Jean Rae Baxter:

Reviews and Awards

Winner of the 2011 Gold Medal, MOONBEAM CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS!

Best Books for Kids and Teens Selected, 2012.

“Historical novels should entertain, and Baxter excels in keeping her central character moving through the woodlands from one challenge to another. . . . Recommended.” —CM Magazine

“This well-written coming-of-age tale is highly recommended for American students interested in alternative (Canadian, Loyalist, and Indian) views of a historical period that Americans tend to see only in triumphant, patriotic terms. Broken Trail is an appealing hero who comes through a major battle, several violent skirmishes, and other tests of character—not to mention his original vision quest—with cool-headed courage and resourcefulness, never firing a shot in anger.” —voya magazine (USA)

Broken Trail is a gripping tale whose believable hero is genuinely torn between the Oneida people who have become his loved family and his earlier life before he was captured. His confusion and emotional stress, as he lies between care and duty to his injured brother, and his devotion to his new family and the need to prove himself to them, is thoroughly convincing. A tumultuous period in North American history becomes more real for young people through the adventures and loyalties of Broken Trail, his brother Elijah, and his companion in adventurer, Red Sun Rising.” —Deakin Newsletter

“[Jean Rae Baxter’s] careful research and lyrical narrative style bring to life a momentous time in North American history.
Although this is a sequel to The Way Lies North, enough information is provided to make the story quite accessible. In fact, I want to read the first one now!” —Resource Links

“Author Jean Rae Baxter has written an engaging, absorbing story — well-plotted, full of detail and full of sympathy and understanding of human nature. Broken Trail’s quest for his true identity is one every adolescent can identify with.” —Canadian Children’s Book News

Jean Rae Baxter has written her second novel with the same skill and sensitivity as her first. The reader can’t help but develop empathy for the native plight and respect for the customs and knowledge of survival that a boy must learn to become a man in this unforgiving environment.” —The Loyalist Gazette