|Victoria Last Walker Ferguson
Stories involving Native Americans are compelling to read. After all, they are the original Americans. The rest of us are simply descendants of diverse settlers. Native American tribes are also diverse. Not only in where they live but how they live and what they believe. Writing about their unique cultures is often dependent on historical interpretations. That is unless you happen to find the real thing.
The Real Thing
While doing research for my latest novel, Moon Water, I met a special Native American, Victoria Last Walker Ferguson. Vicky is a member of the Monacan tribe, which is native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia. She is the Monacan Life Interpreter at the Monacan Village in Natural Bridge.
Vicky’s job is to help visitors understand Monocan life as it existed 300 years ago. She lives as they did, wears their clothes, and follows their day to day routines. She practices their ancient rituals and follows their traditions. Vicky's interactions with the natural world are amazing. She intuitively knows what animal life will surround her and when and where they’ll make an appearance She moves through the woods harvesting edible and medicinal plants with ease. And when sitting to rest, her hands are busy weaving baskets and rope.
Vicky doesn’t live on the Earth. She lives in it.
Vicky is also an exceptional oral historian. Her insight into the state-sponsored discrimination that devastated the Monacans in the early 1900s is powerful. The tribe worked diligently to reverse the racial integrity laws of that period. In 2018, they finally received federal recognition as Native Americans, which ensured their rightful place in US history.
Writing About Native Americans
Thanks to Vicky, I was able to create realistic Monacan characters for Moon Water. One character is Nibi, a Monacan medicine woman who has ability to see the unseen and know the unknown. Not surprising, much of Nibi is modeled after Vicky. That’s not to say Vicky has these surreal abilities, but she certainly sees life and nature with a clarity most of us do not possess.
When writing about a culture other than your own it’s not hard to find facts, figures, and descriptions in a library or online. However, if you want to understand the culture enough to create believable characters, take the time to find someone who carries the DNA. Someone who lives the life. Your search will be worth it.
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The Wiregrass became a bestseller. Her second novel, Moon Water, releases this month. Visit Pam at www.pamwebber.com.
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