How Our Culture Influences Our Lives Today
The great plains American Indians embrace many spiritual beliefs. One is that the air if filled with both good and bad dreams. Their solution for filtering out the bad are the lovely dream catchers which they make. These are hung in the tipi or lodge and on a baby’s cradle board.
“According to legend, the good dreams pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. The bad dreams are trapped in the web where they perish in the light of dawn.” This according to Father Steve of St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD. I am frequently the recipient of one of their dream catchers. I also purchase various styles when we travel through the west or the great plains and they hang in my office as well as in other windows. I should be well protected from bad dreams.
Because my father was of mixed Cherokee/White blood, I’ve always been fascinated by all Indian cultures. As a writer, this naturally effects the subject matter of my western historical romances, many of which are multi-cultural, which simply means that they evolve around stories from both the American Indian culture and the White culture,
I’ve researched and written about the Northern Cheyenne, the Cheyenne, the Cherokee and the Lakota Sioux in my earlier works. And so I learned many of their myths and legends, read of their respect for Mother Earth and the wild creatures that inhabit her grasslands, mountains, and streams.
The Cheyenne are an Algonquian speaking tribe of the Great Plains Culture Area. After 1680 they left their homeland in present day Minnesota and migrated westward into present day North and South Dakota. They continued to push westward along the Cheyenne River into the Black Hills.The Sioux Indians, also originally from Minnesota, pushed the Cheyenne farther south to the North Platte River into present day eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The Cheyenne separated into two groups, one which became known to whites as the Northern Cheyenne.
My book, Stone Heart’s Woman takes place during a time when the Northern Cheyenne, living a miserable existence on a reservation in Indian Territory, broke out and started home, pursued and picked off by the army. It was a tragic time in our history, but the survivors finally won out and settled near Lame Deer, Montana.
The Sioux consist of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. The Lakota, also known as the Teton Sioux, made their new home in the Black Hills region of present day western South Dakota, eastern Wyoming and eastern Montana. There are many bands within these three Sioux tribes.
The first book I had published, Montana Promises, is about Reed Bannon, whose mother was a Lakota Sioux. He fought alongside some 5,000 Indians in the Civil War under General McCullough. Escaping the dreadful defeat of the Confederate army at Prairie Grove, he started home, stole a horse from a Union Soldier and was shot. His escape sends him to a lonely soddy on the Nebraska Plains where a young lady who has lost her entire family, is stranded.
The Cherokee are an Iroquoian speaking tribe in the Southeast Culture area. Originally settling in the mountains and valleys of the southern Appalachian chain, much of the tribe was relocated to Indian Territory in 1839, driven like cattle along what became known as The Trail of Tears, called The Trail Where They Cried by the Indians. The tribe is scattered in many locales today, including the states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Oregon, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Their name means people of the different speech, taken from tciloki or Tsalagi, but their native name is Ani Yunwiya or real people.
In Dream Walker, I wrote about a young Cherokee woman who has inherited her grandmother’s ability to walk in dreams and soothe the spirits that often haunt the dreamer. She adopts a white name, Rachel Keye and dreams of living in her white father’s world. Daniel Wolfe served in the Mexican War and is haunted by those who died at his hand. Rachel stows away in his wagon when he joins the Cherokee/White businessmen’s train headed for the California gold fields.
So you can see the influence my father’s heritage has had on me as a writer. How do you feel your heritage influences what you write or the way you live today?