Lloyd Harnishfeger
Prisoner of the Mound Builders
1973

from the dustjacket:

Prisoner of the Mound Builders is the story of O-Tah-Wah, a young Indian hunter of prehistoric North America. Crippled from birth, O-Tah-Wah is rebellious and distrustful, an outcast among his own people. One day, while on a solitary hunting expedition, the young Indian strays far from home into the strange and terrible land of the Mound Builders. These cruel and sophisticated people have built a great civilization in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys, using slaves to erect the enormous burial mounds that give their tribe its name. While wandering in the unfamiliar territory of the Mound Builders, the careless O-Tah-Wah is captured, beaten, and forced into slavery.

Slavery is hard on O-Tah-Wah. His fierce pride earns him many beatings, and his deformed leg makes his work especially difficult. Angry and defiant, he vows to attempt the impossible — escape! O-Tah-Wah shares his dream of freedom with a huge fellow slave nicknamed Bruin, who nurses him through a long illness and teaches him how to survive in captivity. As the slaves labor to build the burial mound of the ailing chief Cotauna. Bruin and O-Tah-Wah become close friends. But as Cotauna's life draws to an end, the two friends realize that they too, will soon be threatened by death if they cannot escape from the Mound Builders. For when the chief dies, many slaves will be killed and buried with him, so that their spirits may accompany Cotauna's in the afterlife.

The odds against escape are great — armed guards, killer dogs, and the vast, frozen wilderness stand between the runaways and freedom. O-Tah-Wah is further handicapped by his crippled leg and his violent temper, which causes him to act recklessly. Nevertheless, he and his companions make a desperate attempt to save themselves on the very night before they are to join Cotauna in death. In the course of their terrifying flight, O-Tah-Wah discovers the limits of his own endurance and learns the meaning of real friendship.

THE AUTHOR

Lloyd Harnishfeger is an educator whose hobby is the study of life in prehistoric North America. His large personal collection of Indian relics, many of them found in a river valley near his home town, includes artifacts that are more than 4,000 years old. Mr. Harnishfeger's novels reflect his special interest in American prehistory and the special knowledge that he brings to the subject. His first novel, Hunters of the Black Swamp, received high praise from reviewers:

"Depicted here are the most basic struggles for existence that man has ever faced, including the mental fight to make sense out of the seemingly chaotic world around him. An absorbing and exciting book, it should strike a responsive chord in readers of many ages."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"... a rare find. . . . The author writes with authority about life in an Ohio valley during prehistoric times. And his explanations of the environment are carefully balanced against the rapidly unfolding story ...."

English Journal