Broken Arrow: The Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac
In October of 1777 a battle between a war party of Indians loosely allied with the English generals and significant assemblage of American settlers did not take place.
On the eve of the pivotal Battle of Saratoga, a confrontation between the English generals and the rebel forces seemed certain. Loyalists and rebels both sought support from Native American tribes in the regions, and innocent Indians and settlers were slaughtered in terrorist raids on small villages throughout the region. Indians loyal to the French in what is now known as the French and Indians War were being hastily recruited by both sides in the ongoing struggle with what the British held to be an insurgent rebellion.
Into this setting of hostility and unsettled loyalties Bruchac puts his two characters. Sam is a Quaker boy of fourteen, who is stung by the charges of cowardice hurled at his family by the supporters of the rebellion and who is determined to fight, against his faith's injunction against violence, in defense of his family. Stand Straight is an Abenaki boy of the same age, whose family was killed by the English, and whose uncle Sees-the-Wind is leading a scouting party in rebel territory in a loose alliance with these same English forces.
When the armed Indians, accompanied by two French allies, approach a large log structure filled with settlers, they do not know what to expect. Inside the rough shelter an assembly of Friends prepare to hold a regional meeting with the noted Quaker leader Robert Nisbet. As the Quakers wait in their customary silent worship, seeking inspiration from the "light within," the Indians approach the structure. Noting that the door has been left open and the settlers are unarmed, they enter quietly. Surprised to be welcomed with the usual egalitarian handshake of the Friends, the scouting party take seats among the congregation quietly and seem to join in the silent worship. Later they share a simple meal of bread and cheese with the Friends, and leaving an arrow shaft, feathered but with the point removed, over the door as a sign of peace, quietly leave.
The event, revered in Quaker history as the "Easton Meeting," is one of the few instances of peacful encounter in what was a series of bloody and vengeful skirmishes between the army of the Crown and the American rebels. Bruchac tells the true story simply and with insight into the minds of both sides through alternating narratives of the boys who witnessed the peaceful meeting. In a time of war, in which the combatants demonized each other as irrational, souless, and murderous, The Arrow Over the Door tells another story of thoughtful humans finding an inner light of peace and understanding in each other.
The Arrow Over the Door is a short, suspenseful piece of historical fiction which should appeal to middle graders because of its skillful use of exciting setting and characters who face the kind of moral decisions which engage young readers.