Sunday, 13 March 2011

Guest Blogger-Pamela de Leon

This Sunday our guest blogger is author Pamela de Leon author of The Savage River Valley.
A native of Catskill, NY, Pamela loves to travel, holds a bachelor's degree in Languages and History from Georgetown University and was awarded a master's degree from George Mason University. After living in the Washington D.C. area for many years, on a summer's day in 1997 she traveled back to the Hudson Valley to visit her maternal grandmother.

"As I was crossing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge with the glory of the Catskill Mountains rising before me, I realized there was really no other place for me. The beauty of the mountains and the river grabbed at my heart and soul. There was no turning back after that."

Savages, Indians, Squaws and White Men are all names that over time have stirred up much controversy in regards to “polite” usage. When first writing The Savage River Valley, I met with some raised eyebrows and pointed questions on the usage of such terms.  Of all the names mentioned, Savage, appearing in the title, is perhaps not as apparent as it seems. Readers initially assume from the title that, naturally, I must mean the Indian.  The true meaning of the word remains in doubt throughout the story and I leave it up to the reader to draw her or his own conclusions as to who really is the Savage by the story’s end.

In my book I weave a tale that centers on a modern day woman who is taken back in time to a Mohican Indian tribe in 17th century Hudson Valley, in the area that today is known as Catskill and Leeds. As a first time author I wanted to be careful of the words I used and possible connotations or interpretations. However, the more research I conducted, it was clear to me that Indians was much more widely accepted among experts than I had anticipated, especially my mentor, Mohican expert and writer, Shirley Dunn. My next discovery led me to the fact that Indians themselves referred to the women as squaws and that nothing detrimental was intended amongst the River Tribes by using such a name. In my attempts to stay as historically accurate as possible I did not scratch out the idea of referring to Indian women as squaws but embraced it. It is our modern day usage of the term that leaves us thinking it is a bad thing to say or write.

Which leaves the last name-White men or the Dutch in this case. When the Indian world of ancient times ended, the white man, pale faced, speaking a strange tongue, and wearing strange clothes, arrived, and he intended to stay.

As we have often changed our own perceptions of the names used in this book, the world of White Feather and his Mohican family is changed and influenced by the traders from some distant spot beyond the horizon, who brought copper bracelets from an unseen land and knives that exchanged hands many times and found their way south. The Indians now faced the challenge of fighting to defend their villages and lands and fire pits, as in time the white men would fight to protect his home, hearth, and fields. Just as the world of the Indians changed, followed by the world of the white men and on and on throughout history, so have the usage of names changed and their perceived meaning.

I invite you to an exquisite, intricate, and historically based adventure into the early days of our country and the magnificent chronicles of the Hudson River Valley and its Indian tribes!


Alison Stuart said...

Hi Pamela! Thank you for joining us on Hoydens and Firebrands. Your comments on the names is extremely interesting - we are victims of the "Hollywood" versions of native American history that is hard to know where fiction ends and fact begins.

Pamela De Leon said...

My pleasure Alison and thank you! I found it particularly interesting that when speaking to people in New York (historians and non) that native Americans is actually a term that they choose not to use, preferring instead to use the name Indian, although they feel this is a misnomer as well but the better of two. I learned so much when researching that I hopelessly fell in love with the "World of the Mohicans."