copyright 2011, aaron paul lazar
I’ve always been fascinated by Indian* culture. Not from a touristy point of view, mind you, but more from a strong, unyielding pull that comes from deep inside me and seems to grow stronger with every year.
I’m not sure why this is happening, but I do know I have some native blood flowing in my veins. My grandmother told me that one of her French Canadian ancestors married a native woman. I’ve been proud of that fact all my life, but went along blindly accepting the fact without asking more questions until it was too late. My grandmother and father both died in the same year—1997—and there’s no one else to query about which tribe my great, great, great grandmother may have belonged to, or where she lived in Canada. I do know that my grandmother was born in a little town named Beau Rivage, near Quebec, and that it no longer exists because of an intentional flooding done to create a lake, or some such thing. I never asked my grandmother more than that. Sigh. I really wish I had.
But there’s something inside that draws me to the woods and outdoors with such a visceral pull, I can’t resist. I’m deeply happy when I’m hiking in the woods, tending my gardens, or sitting beside the Sacandaga River. I frequently imagine what life would have been like as an Indian brave—hunting, tending orchards, managing crops, running through the woods all day. It’s more than an occasional speculative thought. I seem to think about it a lot.
I believe God intended us to live as one with nature, managing our woods and fields carefully, without chemicals. This concept starkly contrasts with the lives many of us have now, sitting in an office behind a computer screen. Our bodies aren’t meant to do that, they’re meant to move and bend, with the strength and agility that comes from activity. If only we could somehow recapture the beautiful, natural ways of our ancestors who lived and nurtured the land, I know we’d eliminate high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and more.
When I started to write my new mystery series, Tall Pines Mysteries, I decided to make my Marcella Hollister’s husband, Quinn, half Seneca Indian. His father—a long dead British playwright—died when Quinn was a baby, bequeathing only his turquoise eyes to his son, who was subsequently raised by his mother, White Dawn, on a Seneca reservation near Buffalo, New York.
The Iroquois Nation, whose people call themselves the Hau de no sau nee, consists of six individual tribes located in the northeastern region of North America. The Six Nations includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. I chose the Seneca because I know people of this tribe once lived and walked on the same trails I frequent, and it seemed fitting, you know?
I’ve written two books in the series**, vaguely touching on Quinn’s Seneca background from time to time. In this third book, entitled SANCTUARY, Quinn’s younger cousin, Catori (nicknamed Kitty), arrives in the middle of one rainy night on their doorstep. Evil men from her reservation follow her there, and try to kill her. Although she arrived seeking sanctuary, Quinn and Marcella bring her to their own personal sanctuary, a rustic cabin in the Adirondacks on the beautiful Sacandaga River.
When I write these books, I feel most inspired while sitting by this river, in this cabin, and hiking the deep woods nearby. I picture the land before roads bisected its wild beauty, before electric poles marred its view, in a time when man had to rely on his skill and wit to survive.
Like I said, I’ve always been fascinated by this culture. In lieu of going back in time to live life among the trees and rivers, I guess I’m creating a new world, where treachery may lurk around each corner, but where natural beauty abounds, as well.
I’m taking my time and enjoying the ride.
You can read the first chapters in FOR THE BIRDS and ESSENTIALLY YOURS by clicking on the titles here. Let me know what you think in the comments, below, if you have time!
Best wishes for a blessed Sunday,
Aaron Paul Lazar
Author with grandchildren Gordie (who loves giving bunny ears), Julian, and Isabella.
*I’ve read a lot of books on Indians lately, and have been educated to discover that most tribes don’t like being called Native American, they prefer either their tribe name (like Seneca or Cherokee), or native people, or Indian. So I’m trying to dump the PA term from most of my discussions to honor them.
**FOR THE BIRDS (Nov. 2011) and ESSENTIALLY YOURS (March 2012) via Twilight Times Books