Wednesday, April 1, 2009

North American Indigenous Peoples

As I was cruising my email, I received a note about a very informative and eye pleasing (shall I say very eye pleasing) blog about Native Americans. I popped over and found it was author Skhye Moncrief's. She has studied Native Americans for years and has listed amazing resources. Here is her guest blog, and I blush at her reference to me. (Maybe not favorite but I'm in the top three.) Thank you so much Skhye...

Good morning! I'm Skhye Moncrief. Everyone's favorite Cactus Rose editor, Eve Mallary, invited me over to talk a bit about Native Americans. With the Earthsong series in the works, Cactus Rose is very interested in North American indigenous peoples. Whether the fact drawing you in is as intriguing as the Kiowa tradition of never cutting their hair being that the length of one's hair is reflective of one's spiritual enlightenment (resulting in warriors with hair that dragged on the ground), or the survival strategy of Great Basin cultures that required a family to split up during the hottest and most dangerous part of the year for survival, causing 8 years to fend for themselves in a rattlesnake-infested desert, you'll definitely find many cultural details about Native Americans to use to create fascinating pictures in your romantic tales with the reference books I've come to tell you about. And I'm known for rambling about reference books at Since the hero in my latest release is Native American, I thought I'd share my favorite resources with you.

My shamanic shape-shifting hero has more than one chip on his shoulder in the corner he painted himself into in our Post-Industrial world. You would too if the guys you were trapped with in the Army called you Cochise, but you weren't Apache. No. Cochise (named by his peers with what he considers a name representing a phase of his life in which he made very bad choices) is Lakota. Here's my model for Cochise--Mr. Drop-Dead Gorgeous Jay Tavare...

tavare.jpg JayTavare image by Sagemoon197 183746106_382363.gif jay tavare image by indira_aliyah JAYTAVARE1.jpg Jay Tavare 1 image by TLCc JAYTAVARE.jpg Jay Tavare  website image by TLCc

Sorry. I, uh, forgot what I was talking about... (Stop looking at pictures, Skhye!) Oh, wait. I remember!

I would like to state I absolutely hate it when cover artists depict a Native-American hero using a Caucasian model. This should be a sin. But who listens to Skhye?

So, what's the difference between Apaches and the Lakota? You're thinking they both lived on the Great Plains, rode war ponies, counted coup, and looked down-right gorgeous and tough in loincloths... Okay, you haven't read Thomas E. Mails' DOG SOLDIER SOCIETIES OF THE PLAINS. If you want to get the arrows right by culture or understand a culture's rituals, get this book! Each Plains warrior society is described in great detail. And if you're searching for a way to allow your female characters (captives or not) to wield weapons and participate in battle, this reference book will tell you who could get away with what. DOG SOLDIER SOCIETIES OF THE PLAINS is a college-level text. But it won't put you to sleep. Okay, maybe I should say it didn't lull me to sleep. ;) I've always been enthralled by Native Americans. And I've got over 80 hours of anthropology under my belt because of my addiction to those 500 nations. So, the geek in me knows I'm an outlying exception to the rule on the vast continuum of delightful to boring.

Another wonderful resource for all those writing contemporaries with Native-American characters is Hyemeyohsts Storm's SEVEN ARROWS. The easiest way to explain this book is to compare it to a self-help version of something akin to the Bible. First of all, you get the low-down on the four directions, medicine arrows, sacred colors, medicine wheels, etc. Then Storm begins the journey of the self. Each aspect of his belief system is taught by a story he tells. Chapter by chapter, you experience the sharing of his knowledge. And it's quite moving. The Bible put me to sleep. ;) I would like to add that archaeologists do NOT believe everything explained by Native Americans today is the way it was back before somebody got a wild hair to study a Native-American culture. You can't take a 1940s (methinks that is the decade) film like Northwestern Passage and model your historical culture after Hollywood's rendition of the local indigenous people either. We're talking New York Native-Americans dressing like lower Great Plains peoples and living in tipis. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! I can only think of one word... stereotype.

Another thought-provoking read is Frederick Drimmer's CAPTURED BY INDIANS: 15 FIRSTHAND ACCOUNTS, 1750-1870. I'm a big cheerleader for underdogs. I confess! This leaves me with strange interests... But CAPTURED BY INDIANS is by no means a handful of weird tales. Rather, it a collection of 15 true stories about white captives. So, you want to know what captives thought of Native Americans? Well, they often preferred living with them. ;) Curious?

Jack Weatherford's NATIVE ROOTS: HOW THE INDIANS ENRICHED AMERICA is another essential eye-opening read for those working on historicals with Native-American characters. It's amazing how much fear and hatred was recorded in history--another expression of the bias one cannot shake in recording history.

Erdoes & Ortiz's thick AMERICAN INDIAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS has been around for a while. But I always flip through it when wanting to round out a character with a bit of ideology. What can this book do for you? The myths and legends are broken down by culture. Yes. You just skim the table of contents and find the tales you'll need to read to grasp the ideology you're working with. You would be wise to spend time reading the myths and legends of those peoples residing next to the culture you're researching too. Lots of conflict crops up between the peoples when they have ideological differences. Extra information about the cultures is located at the end of the book. I've used this book so many times that I recommend anyone writing a Native-American character own a copy. Ideology really rounds out a perspective.

In FORBIDDEN ETERNITY, Cochise is a modern who man raised on a reservation, exposed to many Native-American cultures, and gained an appreciation for different peoples. By the time FORBIDDEN ETERNITY takes place, he is quite worldly. But what makes him real to me are all of the myths and legends I've studied and the touching manner Storm shares his beliefs in SEVEN ARROWS. I've acquired a wealth of knowledge through the years and hope Cochise shares a bit of that information with readers. But his story is a dark paranormal...

Sometimes the forbidden proves the only cure.

In present-day Scotland, a shape-shifting shaman and a Druid embrace the forbidden to safeguard history from renegade gods bent on sabotaging history by kidnapping the Goddess of Time.

A woman Cochise despises is his only hope for a future. He has no choice except to swallow his pride and protect Druidess Mairi from a man who is blackmailing her into breaking time-travel Code by kidnapping her sister. But his presence tempts Mairi into risking her sister’s life in falling in love. A fairy hairball and a pack of Hell Hounds force the duo to hide on an astral plane where there is no resolution beyond facing their FORBIDDEN ETERNITY.

You're invited to read the 1st chapter:

And... Skhye's FREE READ:

Vow Of Superstition: Dragon's Blood

When legends speak of passion, Lady Lainy chalks all up to superstition until forced to take Dragon’s Blood at her arranged marriage. Will the beast’s poison herald a life full of love, or will she find myth loaded with lies when facing her father’s VOW OF SUPERSTITION?

"Arthur is a masterpiece..." He of the Fiery Sword's King Arthur ~Diane Mason, The Romance Studio

Thanks for having me over, Eve. ~Skhye


Paty Jager said...

This is the second time I've read this post. I may have to pick up some of the books, though I have a multitude of books on the tribe (Nez Perce) that I write about. I agree that learning more about the other tribes would be enlightening.


Celia Yeary said...

Hi, Skhye--I pulled up the blog to see if anyone had posted a new Cactus Rose. I was pleasantly surprised to see you here--and glad, too. I noted the reference books. Did you see the twinkle in the model's eyes, and his necklace winking at you? Clever. You, of course, hit on one of my favorite topics--except my interest lies with the Comanche.Thanks for dropping by--Celia

Tanya Hanson said...

hi Skhye, thanks for the great post. I developed a tremendous appreciation for the native tribes from my years teaching American Literature. I have interest (due to various wips) in the Apache, Kiowa and most of all, Nez Perce. The references you suggest will definitely be helpful. As for Jay, whew. Cold shower time.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Linda LaRoque said...

This is wonderful, Skhye. My hero in Flames on the Sky is also Lakota. I wish I'd had some of your books while conducting my research. I'll be checking the second hand book stores for some copies.
I can't wait to read FORBIDDEN ETERNITY.

Skhye said...

Hi, everyone. I didn't know this post was up until I came searching for the soggy popcorn topic. ;)

The twinkle in Jay's eyes are obviously added by someone who wanted it there. LOL. I'm assuming to post the twinkle on myspace...

Tanya, you definitely need the Dog Soldier Societies of the Plains!!! I bought my copy at HalfPriceBooks. Sorry, it was a steal. ;)

Linda, try too! You can pick your price and the shipping is set.

I'm glad I could be of some help, Eve.