Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The History of Náápiikoan Winter

by Alethea Williams

I don’t remember how I stumbled on David Thompson's Narrative of His Explorations in Western America 1784-1812, but I do remember that it was in the days before internet searches and that I had to use interlibrary loan to borrow a copy from a library in Montana. I had never been much of a student of history, so when this book started opening up historical vistas I had little interest in previously, I was anxious that I only had two weeks to absorb all the richness of details of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in what is now the Canadian interior and Montana. So I spent $20, which at that time I couldn’t afford, to photocopy the whole book.

Later I found a discard copy at a library sale of Richard Lancaster's 1966 book, Piegan. Lancaster's book was helpful mainly as another example of a book about an outsider white man in Native culture, but also for his accounts of trying to learn the Piikáni language and his recounting the mannerisms and patience of one of the elders of the Blackfoot tribe. Many of the events in my story follow those David Thompson records in the last four chapters of Part One of his book, which deal with his recollections of a young clerk of the Hudson’s Bay Company trying to foster trade by living among the Plains Indians at about the turn of the nineteenth century, and in particular his dealings with the "Peeagans," one segment of the fearsome five-pronged Blackfoot Confederacy.

That is the story behind the second part of the book, “Rupert’s Land,” a fictionalized account of many of the true circumstances of David Thompson’s Narrative.

The first part of Náápiikoan Winter, “Nuevo Mexico,” is the story of a woman kidnapped by Apaches in what was Spain’s second attempt to colonize the New Mexico area, her subsequent capture by the Utes, and being traded again and again up the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains until she, too, lands with the Piikáni. The interaction of my fictional character, Donal Thomas, the Mexican/Piikáni woman Buffalo Stone Woman, and the passionate nature of a people depicted in popular fiction as emotionless, makes up the rest of my novel. The book is divided into two parts and the main characters figments of my imagination because I didn’t want it to be “her” story or “his” story. It’s the story of a small segment of history that came to have unimaginable consequences for the people who lived it: the conquering and settlement of a Native land by the Europeans.

I have to thank the many fine writers whose work I consulted in order to bring Náápiikoan Winter to life. There is a partial list of sources I used in the back of the book. Since the novel took 20 years to see publication, not all places where I found pertinent details of everyday life among Native peoples are included since I didn’t write down all the books I read while writing my own. 

Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant’s journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. In her second novel, Walls for the Wind, a group of New York City immigrant orphans arrive in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May Member News

Alethea Williams, Western historical Náápiikoan Winter is partially based on the writings of Canadian explorer and mapmaker David Thompson. The novel follows an abducted New Mexican woman and a Hudson’s Bay trader and their entanglements with the Piikáni people at the base of the Rocky Mountains in the final years of the eighteenth century. 

Sarah Byrn Rickman, WASP of the Ferry Command, (University of North Texas Press). The little-known story of 303 Women Airforce Service Pilots who initially were employed to move small aircraft from the factories to the flight training bases. By the time the war ramped up as 1944 began, the women had proved themselves and they began to ferry single-engine, single-seat pursuit (fighter) aircraft to the docks for shipment abroad to the battlefront. Forty of these women relate bits of their own experiences, bringing a personal touch to one of World War II’s lesser known but critical chapters.
Jennifer J. Lawrence, Soap Suds Row: The Bold Lives of Army Laundresses, 1802-1876. Not camp followers, but officially on the rolls of the U.S. Army, laundresses were unorthodox, spirited women in the midst of military action. Heroines, eccentrics, saviors, spies, prostitutes, cross-dressers, wives, mothers—they are a side of the military you’ve never read about.

Janet Jensen, Gabriel's Daughters, won the Body, Mind and Spirit award from Southwest Book Design and Production. It received a silver medal from Readers Favorites. It was also a finalist in Religious Fiction and Cultural Fiction in Foreword Magazine's IndieFab contest.

Sarah Byrn Rickman received two awards from the 119-year-old National League of American Pen Women, Inc. She was awarded First Place in the Vinnie Ream Letters Competition for her forthcoming WASP biography Finding Dorothy Scott, the story of a 23-year-old pilot who died in a midair collision while flying for the WASP in World War II. Sarah also won first place in the Eudora Welty Memorial Award for Fiction for her WASP novel Flight to Destiny, published 2014. While still a manuscript, Flight to Destiny won First Place in Historical Fiction at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in 2000.

Penny Rafferty Hamilton has earned a Bessie Minor Swift Foundation grant to partner with the Grand County Historical Association on the creation of a new children’s history book called A to Z: Your Grand County History Alphabet. Hamilton is the author of two Grand County history books, Granby Then & Now 1905-2005 and Around Granby. All profits from the new book will benefit Grand County historic preservation projects. 
Susan Tweit has been awarded a fellowship at the Women’s International Study Center in Santa Fe to work on her next book, which includes a one-month residency at the historic Acequia Madre house. 

Andrea Jones' Blog, "Between Urban and Wild" won top honors in the blog category of the 2016 Writing Awards sponsored by the Colorado Authors' League ( Comments from the judges praised the site for "Delicious writing, gentle and deep." Andrea blogs about people and land, gardening, wildlife, weather, horses, and writing from her home place in central Colorado.