For a short book (208 pages), The Undying West carried two very distinct personalities. On the one hand, it was an incredibly readable, brief history of the Flathead Reservation from earliest history to today. On the other hand, it was a personal memoir with an unashamed philosophy of the union of human and the environment. Cross summarizes geologic, animal, and human history and weaves her own story as a descendant of early homesteaders into the story of the region.
Major sections of the book address Salish and Kootenai customs, as well as the role native tribes played in sustaining the fragile local ecosystems for thousands of years. She conducted interviews with CSKT members, such as Tony Incashola, Johnny Arlee, Frances Vanderburg, Micky Pablo, Marsha Cross, Bill Swaney and Alec Quequesah. Cross does not present a sterilized version of history, but confronts wrongs inflicted on the tribes in the area head on. She asserts that the future of the region depends on an understanding between cultures and cooperation to protect an area that people from vast backgrounds call home.
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical and personal memoir sections of this book, but was not as taken with some of The Undying West’s more philosophical sections. To put it bluntly, I felt Cross’ writing could come across as “preachy.” These sections were hard to read for more than a few paragraphs without losing interest and wishing she could get back to the main narrative.
Overall, the book seems to be a good choice for readers looking for a brief history of the Camas Prairie region of the Flathead Reservation.