1. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    I have questions about creating a Native American/white mix male character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by shambles, Sep 2, 2016.

    I want to create a Native American and white mixed male protagonist. For the most part, my reasoning behind this is that I am Native and white mix so I have a lot of experiences that I want to contribute to my character. Another reason is that I don't see all that many fictional books with Native or especially Native and white protagonists. I feel like they are very underrepresented in literature.

    I do, however, have some reservations about this, they are as follows:
    1) If I want to reference a specific tribe or reservation, should I discuss it with the chief or tribal council or another official? I don't want to instigate any assumptions about certain tribes, regions, etc.
    and
    2) Does anybody here have any personal advice, experience, or input on this matter.

    If it helps, I want the focus of my novel to be mostly on the poverty in Native communities and I want my main character to address it personally and to be fighting to escape and overcome poverty.

    Thank you all for any input!
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you a significant portion Native? Like, not 1/32 Cherokee or whatever, but a good part of your heritage is Native?

    If so, I really think you're in a better position to answer these questions than anyone else here is likely to be. Maybe you could tell us the best way to approach a situation like this.

    If not... it might be best to approach this as if you were a white author, rather than relying on a genetic detail that isn't a significant part of your identity.
     
  3. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    I'm approximately 1/3 Penobscot Indian and I grew up in the culture and such going to powwows. I just figured I would put this question out there in case somebody has had experience writing about it since I have not. I just don't exactly know the etiquette in writing about it is all and I would love any input on it if others have.
     
  4. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I worked with a local tribe for a short story once. My MC was a a white female who was interacting with a Nez Perce man. The tribe was very open and willing to help. Because I spend a lot of time on the reservation anyway, I understood the culture, at least from a white female perspective. What I needed help with was where to put all the accent marks in my Nimiipuutimt words, which is quite a bit different from what you want.

    Unless, it's a really tiny tribe the likelihood of talking to the chief is small. That's like saying you want to have you MC be a man from Montana, so you want to talk to the governor. Most tribes have some kind of office that does public relations & outreach, or a language & culture division. Those are the people you want to talk to.

    If I were you, I'd pick a specific tribe (Why not your tribe?) and use that. You will find that every tribe has a different flavor. I live between two reservations, the Nez Perce are a Plateau group and the Coeur d'Alenes are Interior Salish. Languages, customs, tribal governance, etc., is completely different between the groups. I think a lot of the push back comes from the "generic Indian" and there is no such thing. Each tribe is unique and this could be a really good opportunity to learn more about your own heritage.

    If you are looking for a good Native American author, try Sherman Alexi. He's from another local tribe, the Spokanes, and is among my favorite authors. He does a great job of capturing the life of Native Americans on and off the reservation. (And he's got us white folk pegged pretty good too.)
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I bet you've got way more insight than the rest of us. (I don't mean to discourage your questions; I just want you to value your own insights!)

    Who did you meet at the powwows? Anyone who could help you answer these questions? I bet there'd be some community leaders who could steer you on the right path.
     
  6. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    Thank you so much for your input! I have considered writing about my own tribe, but it is very small (only a few hundred members) and I didn't know how to go about it. I will for sure look into it more, but I'm glad somebody on here has had personal experience. My only issue and the reason I don't know a whole lot about my own tribe and such is because it was sort of ripped from me as a child and I was told to "be white" by my white family. I was really involved before then, but I was young and I have only recently been rediscovering my heritage. Thank you so much again!
     
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  7. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    The size of the tribe shouldn't matter. I'd wager a very small percentage of Australians have ever wrestled an crocodile, yet Crocodile Dundee was a huge success.

    This is a really common story. Being white was somehow supposed to be the key to a better life off the res. That's changing now as more and more tribes are focusing on bringing back important aspects of their cultures.

    I did a quick google search, and here is your starting point: https://www.penobscotnation.org/departments/cultural-historic-preservation
    As a tribal member with an interest in learning more, I'm certain you'd be greeted with open arms (or whatever the Penobscot equivalent is.)
     
  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, but the Aussies do hate being stereotyped like that...Now, you tell them they're obsessed with sporting success and you'll see those corks bobbing as they nod agreement...
     
  9. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Theres an interview kicking about somewhere (it might be linked from his website) with John Sandford about the process he went through when writing shadow prey (for those that don't know the antags in shadow prey are indians who are killing people who've discriminated against indians - slum lords, loan sharks, predjudiced parole offices etc working up to the director of the FBI) .. its quite intresting because sandford doesnt fall into the 'bad indian' stereotypes but instead presents his antags sympathetically , with the general vibe being that most of the victims needed killing but that his cop protag needs to catch the antags anyway
     
  10. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    I am using a real Native American as my main character and I am about as white as they come. I have asked no one's permission. He died over a 100 years ago but I still have my doubts whether or not its a good idea. His real life story just fits so well with mine but I suppose I could change his name to a fictional one if it comes to that. Maybe controversy will help sell my book?
     

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