Brothers on Three

A True Story of Family, Resistance, and Hope on a Reservation in Montana

By Abe Streep
Brothers on Three by Abe Streep
Author: Abe Streep
ISBN: 9781250210685
ON SALE: 09/07/2021

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ISBN: 9781250210685
Brothers on Three by Abe Streep

From journalist Abe Streep, the story of coming of age on a reservation in the American West and a team uniting a community.

March 11, 2017, was a night to remember: in front of the hopeful eyes of thousands of friends, family members, and fans, the Arlee Warriors would finally bring the high school basketball state championship title home to the Flathead Indian Reservation. The game would become the stuff of legend, with the boys revered as local heroes. The team’s place in Montana history was now cemented, but for starters Will Mesteth, Jr. and Phillip Malatare, life would keep moving on—senior year was only just beginning.

In Brothers on Three, we follow Phil and Will, along with their teammates, coaches, and families, as they balance the pressures of adolescence, shoulder the dreams of their community, and chart their own individual courses for the future. And in doing so, a picture emerges of the challenges of growing up as Indigenous youth in the contemporary American West.

Brothers on Three is not simply a story about high school basketball, about state championships and a winning team. It is a book about community, and it is about boys on the cusp of adulthood, finding their way through the intersecting worlds they inhabit and forging their own paths to personhood.

From journalist Abe Streep, the story of coming of age on a reservation in the American West and a team uniting a community.

March 11, 2017, was a night to remember: in front of the hopeful eyes of thousands of friends, family members, and fans, the Arlee Warriors would finally bring the high school basketball state championship title home to the Flathead Indian Reservation. The game would become the stuff of legend, with the boys revered as local heroes. The team’s place in Montana history was now cemented, but for starters Will Mesteth, Jr. and Phillip Malatare, life would keep moving on—senior year was only just beginning.

In Brothers on Three, we follow Phil and Will, along with their teammates, coaches, and families, as they balance the pressures of adolescence, shoulder the dreams of their community, and chart their own individual courses for the future. And in doing so, a picture emerges of the challenges of growing up as Indigenous youth in the contemporary American West.

Brothers on Three is not simply a story about high school basketball, about state championships and a winning team. It is a book about community, and it is about boys on the cusp of adulthood, finding their way through the intersecting worlds they inhabit and forging their own paths to personhood.

Abe Streep
Abe Streep has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Outside, The California Sunday Magazine, WIRED, and Harper's. His writing has been anthologized in Best American Sports Writing and noted by Best American Essays and Best American Science and Nature Writing. He is a recipient of the 2019 American Mosaic Journalism Prize for deep reporting on underrepresented communities.

Brothers on Three Book Trailer

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Praise for Abe Streep

“An immersive portrait of a small tribal town where shared history runs deep, opportunity feels elusive, and basketball is a visceral expression of collective pride, hope and grit…By the end of the book, you’ll want to shout it from the rafters: Ar-LEE War-RIORS, Ar-LEE War-RIORS.”

The New York Times

“In addition to being great sports journalism that will touch anyone who loves high school sports, Streep’s book will appeal to readers interested in histories of generational trauma.”

Library Journal
Starred Review

“An action-packed yet reflective account of the quest for a high school basketball championship on and off a Montana Indian reservation… A thoughtful call for social justice as much as a story of striving for athletic excellence.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Meticulously-reported and exquisitely-written, Abe Streep’s Brothers On Three is a masterwork of immersive journalism. Streep’s integrity as a journalist and as a human shines through on every page.”

Eliza Griswold
Pulitzer Prize winning author of AMITY AND PROSPERITY and THE TENTH PARALLEL

“Streep is in top form with the on-court action and insights into the discrimination faced by Native athletes… This is a rousing portrait of a long-shot team beating the odds.”

Publishers Weekly

“A heart-stomping, heart-stopping read. Unsentimental. Unforgettable. Astonishing. Brothers on Three captures the roar of a community spirit powered by blood history, loyalty, and ferocious love.”

Debra Magpie Earling
author of PERMA RED

Discussion Questions

  1. In part one, the administrators at Arlee Schools discuss the Adverse Childhood Experience test and the fact that the teachers often have such different scores than the students. What dynamic do you think this creates? How did this section make you consider your childhood and experience in school?
  2. The basketball games are some of the most exciting scenes in the book. Which was your favorite game and why? What made it come alive for you?
  3. What do you make of the shortness of chapter 13: It’s Not By Accident? How do you think the author’s statement that “not everything is for everyone” is a helpful instruction for the rest of the story?
  4. Consider Phil’s narrative arc. Do you think he finds success? What does success mean to you, and did this book make you think differently about it?
  5. This book raises many questions about the ethics of college sports recruitment. How can you see racism interwoven in the process? What solutions do the characters in the book pose, and what do you think about them?
  6. While The Warrior Movement was a powerful initiative for the team to lead, it also placed a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of teens. How could you see both dynamics at play in the story?
  7. On page 53, the author discusses the consequences of increased national attention on the Warriors, describing observers as “seeking bold-font answers where few existed, looking for some clean, bright redemption.” What is the redemption that he’s referring to? How does this statement make you reconsider what has become a familiar narrative of sports teams uplifting marginalized communities?
  8. Throughout the book—and particularly in the Author’s Note—the author grapples with what it means to be a white journalist writing about a community he is not a part of, and about the impact of his decisions. What do you think about the difficulties inherent in this kind of project? What do you think about the author’s strategies for how he approached this dilemma?
  9. What did this book tell you about life in the American West? If you reside in or are connected to the West, did it change how you view the region? If you do not, did you learn something new about the area?

Glossary of Terms

Arlee Warriors

The Arlee Warriors are the basketball team of Arlee High School on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. The Warriors play a variety of opponents, from other reservation schools to mostly-white private schools. The team, and the young players that constitute it, are at the center of Brothers on Three.

Manhattan-Christian Eagles

The basketball team of a private school located near Bozeman, Montana. The Eagles played the Arlee Warriors in three consecutive Class C championships from 2017 to 2019.

The Flathead Indian Reservation

Designated in 1855, The Flathead Indian Reservation is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The Arlee Warriors call this vast expanse of land surrounding the Flathead River and the southern part of Flathead Lake home.

Bitterroot Valley

The ancestral home of the Bitterroot Salish tribe, Montana’s Bitterroot Valley is a river valley between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains that plays host to a variety of towns. The beauty of this place and its brutal history of dispossession are integral to Brothers on Three.

The Warrior Movement

The Warrior Movement, spearheaded by Arlee Warriors coach Zanen Pitts, sought to combat the disproportionate number of suicides in Arlee and surrounding areas. Members of the Arlee Warriors often appeared in suicide-prevention videos and travelled to speak about their experiences with mental health struggles.

Class C State Championship

Montana’s smallest schools – including Arlee High School and Manhattan-Christian – made up the Class C division. While competing schools are small, the competition is fierce, and the championship can feel like the center of the universe for competitors and fans alike.

Arlee Warriors Team Roster
  • Zanen Pitts (Head Coach)
  • Francis “Franny” Brown LoneBear (Assistant Coach)
  • Andrew HeavyRunner (Assistant Coach)
  • Will Mesteth, Jr.
  • Phillip Malatare
  • Lane “LJ” Johnson
  • Ivory Brien
  • Greg Whitesell
  • Tyler Tanner
  • Alex Moran
  • Billy Fisher
  • Isaac Fisher
  • Darshan Bolen
  • Chase Gardner
  • Lane Schall
  • Nathaniel Coulson
  • Ardon McDonald
  • Sage Nicolai
  • Shadenn Stone
  • David “Tapit” Haynes
  • Trey Malatare
  • Cody Tanner
  • Troylin and Trey Tewawina (Team Managers)

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Celadon Books sat down with author Abe Streep to discuss his journey in reporting and writing this incredible story.

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