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Cranky1
05-27-2013, 09:29 PM
I am writing the first book of a five or six book series that are tied together by members of an American Indian nation. Only one book will focus on a tribal member who actually lives on the 'rez' while the other books have characters who live in urban centers.

There are a few reasons why I am doing this.

First, I can invent a language, ceremonies, and inner conflicts; using an existing tribe and its language, ceremonies, and inner conflicts mean that I am exposing the traditional values of that community to outsiders. It isn't mine to do so unless I used my own tribal community.

Second, I can create a complex history. I'll keep general external events the same such as the Dawes Act, relocation acts, and Indian wars, but I can create a unique relationship between the US and these respective tribes without needing to contact tribal and military historians.

Third, I don't want to add to the numerous books that talk about the Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, or Apache people as if these were the only tribes, or cultures, that existed.

Finally, if you are Native and you write about Native people, you will deal with identity politics regardless of your intention. Your boodlines will be examined. Your indianness will be picked apart. I hope that by printing under a pen-name and using these 'invented' tribes, I can bypass all of that.

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 09:39 PM
As a Native person, this would piss me off.


Finally, if you are Native and you write about Native people, you will deal with identity politics regardless of your intention. Your boodlines will be examined. Your indianness will be picked apart. I hope that by printing under a pen-name and using these 'invented' tribes, I can bypass all of that.

Are you Native?

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 09:42 PM
I'm a quarter blood. My tribe is located down in Oklahoma.

What would piss you off? The tribes or the identity policing?

susanielson
05-27-2013, 09:46 PM
I am writing the first book of a five or six book series that are tied together by members of an American Indian nation. Only one book will focus on a tribal member who actually lives on the 'rez' while the other books have characters who live in urban centers.

There are a few reasons why I am doing this.

First, I can invent a language, ceremonies, and inner conflicts; using an existing tribe and its language, ceremonies, and inner conflicts mean that I am exposing the traditional values of that community to outsiders. It isn't mine to do so unless I used my own tribal community.

Second, I can create a complex history. I'll keep general external events the same such as the Dawes Act, relocation acts, and Indian wars, but I can create a unique relationship between the US and these respective tribes without needing to contact tribal and military historians.

Third, I don't want to add to the numerous books that talk about the Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, or Apache people as if these were the only tribes, or cultures, that existed.

Finally, if you are Native and you write about Native people, you will deal with identity politics regardless of your intention. Your boodlines will be examined. Your indianness will be picked apart. I hope that by printing under a pen-name and using these 'invented' tribes, I can bypass all of that.
I am not native, bit I lived and worked on the Navajo Res for four year. If you should need an outsider's take on res life all you need do is ask.

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 09:47 PM
I'm a quarter blood. My tribe is located down in Oklahoma.

Why not write about them? Or another nearby tribe?


What would piss you off? The tribes or the identity policing?

Making up a tribe instead of using a real one.

I'm half-Zuni, and I feel many of the same fears and anxieties as you do.

But I don't think this is something you can take the easy way out on and still have it feel real and meaningful.

How do you identify? What's important to you? I think you need to answer these questions for yourself, regardless of what others may think, and write from there.

You're shying away from the truly difficult issues, and I think it will show in the series.

ETA: To do what you want to do, I think it would be better to use a completely fantasy setting.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 10:00 PM
I disagree that I am shying away from the real issues. I have chosen to highlight the issues that I don't think most non-Natives would know about.I'm predominately Black, but I have an Indian surname through my paternal grandfather. I was known as the 'Black girl with an Indian name' by my Native friends.

One of my 'tribal communities' include descendants of Buffalo Soldiers who were brought into the territory to subdue the other tribe. These two tribes now live on the same reservation even though they are historical enemies.

I did not wish to pursue the Freedmen route. I also did not go to the Northeast because I wanted the conflict between the tribes and the US government to be more recent history.

If you are familiar with the romance genre, then you know that Native characters are typically relegated to 'half-breeds' who struggle to find where they belong. This is legitimate, but the emphasis is typically on White/Indian dynamic.

I am not sure what the other half of your heritage is, but if you are part Black like me, then I am sure you have dealt with non-Natives questioning how someone can be bother Black and Native as if you can only identify with one historically oppressed group.

thothguard51
05-27-2013, 10:07 PM
To do what you want to do, I think it would be better to use a completely fantasy setting.

Non-native, but I have to agree with kuwisdelu. Reason... if you are inventing tribes, based on known cultures, someone is always going to make a comparison, and then complain that you did not get it right, or that is your limited experience.

In fantasy, so long as the believability factor is there, readers are bit more forgiving...

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 10:08 PM
Sorry, I'm outright dismissing fantasy.

I'm not using known cultures to detail my tribe. I'm using known historical policies to detail my tribe.

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 10:09 PM
I am not sure what the other half of your heritage is, but if you are part Black like me, then I am sure you have dealt with non-Natives questioning how someone can be bother Black and Native as if you can only identify with one historically oppressed group.

I'm not part black, but I think that would make an incredibly interesting story. I don't understand why you feel the need to make up new tribes in order to tell it.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 10:10 PM
Because it is fiction and I can create a fictional history of two complex communities.

thothguard51
05-27-2013, 10:13 PM
Write then and we'll see...

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 10:13 PM
Because it is fiction and I can create a fictional history of two complex communities.

Fictional communities.

If that's what you want to do, that's fine.

But if you don't want to deal with the difficulties that using real-life tribes presents, that makes it much less interesting to me, and kind of undermines whatever themes of identity you might present in your story, IMO.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 10:34 PM
There are over 500 tribal communities and each of them have their own unique inner conflicts. I can take real policies and programs to create the boundaries around my fictional communities.

I will talk about disenrollment. I will talk about using federal courts to resolve Indian issues related to tribal sovereignty. I will talk about one faction supporting casinos and another faction not supporting casinos. I will talk about Natives who enlist into the US military, the Army in particular. I think these themes are near universe across many, many tribes.

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 10:48 PM
There are over 500 tribal communities and each of them have their own unique inner conflicts.

But that's what makes them interesting.


I can take real policies and programs to create the boundaries around my fictional communities.

I will talk about disenrollment. I will talk about using federal courts to resolve Indian issues related to tribal sovereignty. I will talk about one faction supporting casinos and another faction not supporting casinos. I will talk about Natives who enlist into the US military, the Army in particular. I think these themes are near universe across many, many tribes.

I think you're trying too hard to be generic and universal, and that is usually detrimental to a story.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 10:58 PM
As you said, we shall see.

Going back to you being pissed. You made that comment and followed up with asking if I was Native. I wonder if your outrage was based on the assumption that I was a non-Native making this decision.

cornflake
05-27-2013, 11:08 PM
I'm not from a native tribe or related to anyone who is, to my knowledge, so from an entirely outside perspective I have a question which may be dumb but what the heck.

From what I know about the U.S. native tribes (which is basically from basic history classes and stuff and thus very little). there are a LOT of them - like it's not like Canada with the six First Nations main groups (could be wrong about that too, heh). So, basically, were I to pick the OP's theoretical book up and read about real historical events and places - how would I know the tribe wasn't real? Besides the basic little 'resemblance to persons...' disclaimer or what have you, I think I'd just presume it was real, which would seem to negate the point? I may be missing something on either side of the point though.

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 11:11 PM
I wonder if your outrage was based on the assumption that I was a non-Native making this decision.

Nope. I was asking because if you were, I wanted to ask this:


How do you identify? What's important to you? I think you need to answer these questions for yourself, regardless of what others may think, and write from there.

You said:


Finally, if you are Native and you write about Native people, you will deal with identity politics regardless of your intention. Your boodlines will be examined. Your indianness will be picked apart. I hope that by printing under a pen-name and using these 'invented' tribes, I can bypass all of that.

And I think this is something we have to confront head-on. You have to ask yourself whether you're writing as an insider, or an outsider, or something in between. What exactly is your own perspective and identity?

You also said:


using an existing tribe and its language, ceremonies, and inner conflicts mean that I am exposing the traditional values of that community to outsiders. It isn't mine to do so unless I used my own tribal community.

Would you be comfortable doing so with your own tribal community? With only certain parts of it?

Like I said, it kind of feels to me like you're trying to avoid making difficult decisions.

Also like I said, many of these are issues I struggle with myself, and you've reminded me of a thread I've been meaning to make...

mirandashell
05-27-2013, 11:22 PM
As a total outsider, can I ask a question? I've seen your other thread, Kuwi, and isn't Cranky avoiding the same problem you are talking about by creating her own tribe? A similar thing been done in SF for years. It becomes easier and often more interesting to reflect the human condition through another species. So is Cranky not doing the same thing?

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 11:24 PM
I've seen your other thread, Kuwi, and isn't Cranky avoiding the same problem you are talking about by creating her own tribe?

Yes, it's avoiding it, in a way that I kind of view as a cop-out.


A similar thing been done in SF for years. It becomes easier and often more interesting to reflect the human condition through another species. So is Cranky not doing the same thing?

That's why I suggested making it an entirely fantasy setting.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 11:29 PM
There is a difference between identity and identification. I am a member of a tribal community, a member of an urban Indian community, and a member of the Black American community. Identity is of your own construction, but it does not mean that others will necessarily identify you as such.

How others identify me will be different based upon their own knowledge of history, culture, and so on.

I have known full-bloods who have entered the room, scanned it, and then dismissed the room as non-Natives, because no one else looked full-blood. My community doesn't have a reservation; most non-Natives assume that every tribe lives and exists on a reservation. I have known people who grew up on the rez treat those from urban communities as less than because they came from an inter-tribal community. Well-known Native heroes have descendants and it has been my experience that the descendants divide themselves between who can legitimately speak as a member of that legendary person's family. These are inner community squabbles that Natives know about but many non-Natives won't understand.

The real question that needs to be addressed, and not why I would invent a tribe or not, is who is my audience? Am I writing towards other Natives or am I writing to the mainstream audience? I'm writing to the mainstream; those people who think that the only problems that Natives deal with are those related to violence, alcohol, and poverty.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 11:30 PM
As a total outsider, can I ask a question? I've seen your other thread, Kuwi, and isn't Cranky avoiding the same problem you are talking about by creating her own tribe? A similar thing been done in SF for years. It becomes easier and often more interesting to reflect the human condition through another species. So is Cranky not doing the same thing?

It's my thread. I find it rather disrespectful to pose questions about me to another poster.

You want to know my thought process, why not pose your questions to me? I do not need anyone else to speak on my behalf.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 11:33 PM
I'm not from a native tribe or related to anyone who is, to my knowledge, so from an entirely outside perspective I have a question which may be dumb but what the heck.

From what I know about the U.S. native tribes (which is basically from basic history classes and stuff and thus very little). there are a LOT of them - like it's not like Canada with the six First Nations main groups (could be wrong about that too, heh). So, basically, were I to pick the OP's theoretical book up and read about real historical events and places - how would I know the tribe wasn't real? Besides the basic little 'resemblance to persons...' disclaimer or what have you, I think I'd just presume it was real, which would seem to negate the point? I may be missing something on either side of the point though.

I don't know how many nations exist in Canada but there are many more than 6. I believe that there are as many or more tribal groups in Canada than in the US.

And you have really hit the true question on its head. Someone who isn't familiar with the various Native communities probably won't know that my tribal groups were invented until I said otherwise. Meanwhile, by reading my book, they will learn about some of the complex issues that many tribal groups deal with.

mirandashell
05-27-2013, 11:36 PM
It's my thread. I find it rather disrespectful to pose questions about me to another poster.

You want to know my thought process, why not pose your questions to me? I do not need anyone else to speak on my behalf.

Ah. I'm sorry if I've offended you but that question was actually to Kuwi, not you. As an outsider, I agree with what you plan to do and was puzzled as to why Kuwi objected to it. So the question wasn't to or about you.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 11:38 PM
Ah. I'm sorry if I've offended you but that question was actually to Kuwi, not you. As an outsider, I agree with what you plan to do and was puzzled as to why Kuwi objected to it. So the question wasn't to or about you.

Eh. My apologies. Now you know why I call myself "Cranky1".

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 11:39 PM
The real question that needs to be addressed, and not why I would invent a tribe or not, is who is my audience? Am I writing towards other Natives or am I writing to the mainstream audience? I'm writing to the mainstream; those people who think that the only problems that Natives deal with are those related to violence, alcohol, and poverty.

If your audience is primarily people who don't identify as Native, then you probably won't have any problems.

I answered your question as someone who identifies as Native (but is surely not always identified as such by other Natives). ETA: Although now that I go back and read your OP, you don't have any questions at all, simply a declaration that this is what you're doing, which makes me wonder what the purpose of this thread was.

mirandashell
05-27-2013, 11:40 PM
LOL! You're cool. These things happen on messageboards. And at least you said it straight out so I could explain.

Cranky1
05-27-2013, 11:46 PM
The fact that you aren't identified as Native by other Natives is one of the main reasons that I am inventing the tribes and using a pen name.

I love my name. I think it is absolutely cool but how I look does not match the stereotypical image of a Native person. That isn't something solely restricted to non-Natives; Native people have bought into that, also. Truthfully, most every peoples do that to some degree.

Let's turn the dynamic.

I'm biracial but I'm Black and White. I happen to look more White than I do Black. I decide to write on being Black and living within the Black community. I can guarantee you that there will be people questioning my authenticity and whether or not I should be speaking from the Black experience because I don't fit the typical Black image.

Identity policing is grand!

kuwisdelu
05-27-2013, 11:58 PM
The fact that you aren't identified as Native by other Natives is one of the main reasons that I am inventing the tribes and using a pen name.

I don't understand.


I love my name. I think it is absolutely cool but how I look does not match the stereotypical image of a Native person. That isn't something solely restricted to non-Natives; Native people have bought into that, also. Truthfully, most every peoples do that to some degree.

Why is that a reason to use a pen name or make up tribes? Just because you're afraid people will say "this person doesn't look native"? Just because your perspective will be criticized?

How does a pen name and made-up tribes change any of that?


I'm biracial but I'm Black and White. I happen to look more White than I do Black. I decide to write on being Black and living within the Black community. I can guarantee you that there will be people questioning my authenticity and whether or not I should be speaking from the Black experience because I don't fit the typical Black image.

It sounds to me like you're surrendering to their expectations.

Amadan
05-28-2013, 12:08 AM
I'm biracial but I'm Black and White. I happen to look more White than I do Black. I decide to write on being Black and living within the Black community. I can guarantee you that there will be people questioning my authenticity and whether or not I should be speaking from the Black experience because I don't fit the typical Black image.

Identity policing is grand!


I just saw Nnedi Okorafor speak this weekend. She is a first-generation American-born daughter of Nigerian immigrants. She's written a couple of SF/F novels set in a sort-of fictionalized version of Nigeria, but revolving around very real-world issues.

She talked about how she has gotten a lot of flack from Nigerians and other Africans, from Nigerian immigrants, etc., for "appropriating" a culture she isn't really a part of, for "airing dirty laundry," etc.

I don't know what to say about making up a fictional Native American tribe. It does kind of seem like you're punting, so if someone calls you on your representation, you can just say "But they're not a real tribe, so I don't have to be perfectly accurate." However, using a real tribe would certainly be fraught as well, no matter how tied you are to the community.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 12:16 AM
To go back to the OP, I don't really know what you're asking. You don't seem to be asking anything.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 12:20 AM
I just saw Nnedi Okorafor speak this weekend. She is a first-generation American-born daughter of Nigerian immigrants. She's written a couple of SF/F novels set in a sort-of fictionalized version of Nigeria, but revolving around very real-world issues.

She talked about how she has gotten a lot of flack from Nigerians and other Africans, from Nigerian immigrants, etc., for "appropriating" a culture she isn't really a part of, for "airing dirty laundry," etc.

I don't know what to say about making up a fictional Native American tribe. It does kind of seem like you're punting, so if someone calls you on your representation, you can just say "But they're not a real tribe, so I don't have to be perfectly accurate." However, using a real tribe would certainly be fraught as well, no matter how tied you are to the community.

Thank you for this example. It is very much a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' decision. Speaking about my own community will lead to airing dirty laundry and open me up to scrutiny. Writing about someone else's community seems like appropriation to me; it isn't my tribe, my customs, or my culture, so why should I profit off of it. Creating my own fictionalized community may seem like an easy way out, but I will be creating clans, origin stories, and legendary leaders. No matter which direction I go, I will have to justify why I went there.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 12:30 AM
Thank you for this example. It is very much a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' decision. Speaking about my own community will lead to airing dirty laundry and open me up to scrutiny. Writing about someone else's community seems like appropriation to me; it isn't my tribe, my customs, or my culture, so why should I profit off of it. Creating my own fictionalized community may seem like an easy way out, but I will be creating clans, origin stories, and legendary leaders. No matter which direction I go, I will have to justify why I went there.

If that's what you're so worried about, I'll just repeat my suggestion to use an entirely fantasy setting.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 12:43 AM
If that's what you're so worried about, I'll just repeat my suggestion to use an entirely fantasy setting.

No thanks.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 12:49 AM
Alright. Well, like I said, I don't really like the idea, but seeing as I identify as Native, I'm not part of your target audience anyway.

But if other Natives are not your target audience, why are you worried about being scrutinized by them?

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 12:58 AM
Alright. Well, like I said, I don't really like the idea, but seeing as I identify as Native, I'm not part of your target audience anyway.

But if other Natives are not your target audience, why are you worried about being scrutinized by them?

I think your visceral reaction to my post is due to your own inner conflict. I said that I chose this route so that I did not have to deal with much of the scrutiny. Regardless of the route that I take, there will be scrutiny.

thebloodfiend
05-28-2013, 01:08 AM
It is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. My mother is quarter blood as well, though the rest is black. Her father is half Choctaw. She, however, isn't even allowed to register. Nor is her father.

I identify as black. However, I didn't grow up around other black people. I went to white schools and lived in white neighborhoods. In a way, whenever I write about black characters in urban settings, I feel as if I'm appropriating a culture. I change the name of the city, streets, and etc... to get away from that feeling.

You'll get criticism no matter what you do. I feel like it's best to just stay away from stereotypes, flesh out the characters, and so-on. You can't please everyone all the time.

I wouldn't exactly compare it to using an alien species (or anthro creatures) to write about racial conflict. Unless it's historical fiction, I would probably make up a fictional tribe, as well.

But I don't think the OP is asking any kind of question. Just posting their thoughts on their MS for discussion, really.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 01:08 AM
I think your visceral reaction to my post is due to your own inner conflict.

Probably true to a certain extent. But if you're writing a novel that deals with identity issues among Native Americans, it seems odd to me that you would disregard Native Americans with identity issues as part of your target audience. In other words, it's just another book that isn't for someone like me.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 01:15 AM
It is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. My mother is quarter blood as well, though the rest is black. Her father is half Choctaw. She, however, isn't even allowed to register. Nor is her father.

I identify as black. However, I didn't grow up around other black people. I went to white schools and lived in white neighborhoods. In a way, whenever I write about black characters in urban settings, I feel as if I'm appropriating a culture. I change the name of the city, streets, and etc... to get away from that feeling.

You'll get criticism no matter what you do. I feel like it's best to just stay away from stereotypes, flesh out the characters, and so-on. You can't please everyone all the time.

Thank you. I think you understand where I am coming from.


I wouldn't exactly compare it to using an alien species (or anthro creatures) to write about racial conflict. Unless it's historical fiction, I would probably make up a fictional tribe, as well.

But I don't think the OP is asking any kind of question. Just posting their thoughts on their MS for discussion, really.

Thank you again. I'm offended (yes, again) by the multiple suggestions to go fantasy simply because I wish to create a fictional tribe. To me it's like I am being told that since I don't conform to someone's idea of how to write about a people then I might as well throw the baby out with the bath water.

thothguard51
05-28-2013, 01:19 AM
Try Historical fiction. Its still fiction but with historical elements...

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 01:21 AM
Probably true to a certain extent. But if you're writing a novel that deals with identity issues among Native Americans, it seems odd to me that you would disregard Native Americans with identity issues as part of your target audience. In other words, it's just another book that isn't for someone like me.

Your comments give me the impression that I should write to appease your own identity issues. As I've stated, I am Black and Native and I have experienced identity issues which are different than the issues you have dealt with. There are numerous books that feature a Native and White character who is struggling to fit into both worlds, but there aren't many mainstream books that feature a Black and Native person. It adds a third level of acceptance - that of Black people, Native people, and ultimately White people.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 01:25 AM
To me it's like I am being told that since I don't conform to someone's idea of how to write about a people then I might as well throw the baby out with the bath water.

Since you're writing about a fictional group of people, there's really nothing no ideas to conform to.


Your comments give me the impression that I should write to appease your own identity issues.

No. Quite simply, like I said, I would have expected other natives with identity issues to be part of your target audience, but apparently they are not. Or is that not what you meant?


As I've stated, I am Black and Native and I have experienced identity issues which are different than the issues you have dealt with. There are numerous books that feature a Native and White character who is struggling to fit into both worlds, but there aren't many mainstream books that feature a Black and Native person. It adds a third level of acceptance - that of Black people, Native people, and ultimately White people.

I don't understand how the black aspect has anything whatsoever to do with needing to make up a tribe.

Because you're black and native, you have to make up a Native American tribe, whereas if you were white and native, you wouldn't have to? Again, I don't understand.

But since I don't seem to be part of your target audience anyway, feel free to disregard me.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 01:28 AM
Try Historical fiction. Its still fiction but with historical elements...

My book is a romantic fiction. I don't understand why fantasy (assuming you mean creating an alternate world) or historical fiction (placing my story in a different period) addresses the problems of identity that I aim to write about.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 01:33 AM
Since you're writing about a fictional group of people, there's really nothing no ideas to conform to.



No. Quite simply, like I said, I would have expected other natives with identity issues to be part of your target audience, but apparently they are not.



I don't understand how the black aspect has anything whatsoever to do with needing to make up a tribe.

Because you're black and native, you have to make up a Native American tribe, whereas if you were white and native, you wouldn't have to? Again, I don't understand.

But since I don't seem to be part of your target audience anyway, feel free to disregard me.

You want me to write to you, to address your identity issues. You are White and Native and I am Black and Native. Simply because we are both Native does not mean that we share the same type of identify issues. You think that Natives with identity issues won't appreciate my story, but I believe that Natives who are part Black will identify with my story.

The reservation that I have imagined is located in the Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming region. There are stories of Buffalo Soldiers who had children with Indian women, but I wanted a community that had a large faction of members who were both Black and Indian. In Oklahoma, there are communities that I could tap into. If I went to the northeast or southeast, I could find those communities, but not in the Plains region.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 01:40 AM
You want me to write to you, to address your identity issues. You are White and Native and I am Black and Native. Simply because we are both Native does not mean that we share the same type of identify issues. You think that Natives with identity issues won't appreciate my story, but I believe that Natives who are part Black will identify with my story.

Nope. Your assumptions about me are totally off. I don't want you to write about me at all. You're assuming that in order for me to relate to such identity issues, I need characters who are white and native, which is just ridiculous. Otherwise I wouldn't see my own identity issues even in stories like X-men. One of the best short stories I've read in recent memory was about werewolf identity issues.


The reservation that I have imagined is located in the Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming region. There are stories of Buffalo Soldiers who had children with Indian women, but I wanted a community that had a large faction of members who were both Black and Indian. In Oklahoma, there are communities that I could tap into. If I went to the northeast or southeast, I could find those communities, but not in the Plains region.

Okay, now we're getting somewhere. The real reason you needed to make up a tribe is because you have an alternate history where there is a significant community of black natives. That makes more sense now. That wasn't explained at all from your original post and the initial reasons you gave.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 01:43 AM
Okay, now we're getting somewhere. The real reason you needed to make up a tribe is because you have an alternate history where there is a significant community of black natives. That makes more sense now.

I mentioned this earlier in the thread.

kuwisdelu
05-28-2013, 01:47 AM
I mentioned this earlier in the thread.

Where? I must have missed it.

In any case, if it's an alternate history, that's a bit different than what it sounded like.

Cyia
05-28-2013, 02:07 AM
Until I saw the mention of Buffalo soldiers, I thought this was either fantasy or alt history. Is it contemporary fiction?



I think you're trying too hard to be generic and universal, and that is usually detrimental to a story.

^ This is something that sticks with me, too. When you create a blended / generic tribe "based on" existing issues/dynamics, rather than "rooted in" those issues/dynamics, then you run the risk of stereotyping. Or, you'll hit on something that applies to someone with one tribal affiliation, but not another and it will muddy your entire narrative.

Generalizations work better for satire than realistic fiction.

ETA: ah - you say it's alt. history. That makes much more sense. In that case, you might want to start with existing tribal affiliations and show (or at least mention) the branching point where your created tribes became their own nation.

cornflake
05-28-2013, 07:07 AM
I don't know how many nations exist in Canada but there are many more than 6. I believe that there are as many or more tribal groups in Canada than in the US.

And you have really hit the true question on its head. Someone who isn't familiar with the various Native communities probably won't know that my tribal groups were invented until I said otherwise. Meanwhile, by reading my book, they will learn about some of the complex issues that many tribal groups deal with.

The tribe, however, would be fictional, so wouldn't that be an issue? This seems backwards.

It's like saying if I had no idea about any races but saw a movie about purple people that had purple people being discriminated against, it'd be great because I'd understand that people deal with discrimination. However, I'd have come out of the movie talking about the purple people and how they had to sit at separate lunch counters and I'd feel like a right fool when I figured out there weren't any purple people. I'd be quite peeved and feel condescended to or something, I think.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 07:14 AM
The tribe, however, would be fictional, so wouldn't that be an issue? This seems backwards.

It's like saying if I had no idea about any races but saw a movie about purple people that had purple people being discriminated against, it'd be great because I'd understand that people deal with discrimination. However, I'd have come out of the movie talking about the purple people and how they had to sit at separate lunch counters and I'd feel like a right fool when I figured out there weren't any purple people. I'd be quite peeved and feel condescended to or something, I think.

The tribe is fictional but the issues they deal with are dealt with in many actual tribal communities. There are stories of tribal members being removed from the rolls because they are a rival family to the ones in power. There are multiple federal cases involving tribes seeking to resolve issues through federal court, in spite of being quasi-sovereign nations.

Many reservations are dealing with issues of gangs. I have known many families torn apart due to Child Protection Services being used as tools of revenge rather than protective measures. Issues can be universal or they may be community specific.

Lyra Jean
05-28-2013, 07:31 AM
You say your target audience isn't mixed race Native Americans. Why not? It seems like the type of story that would speak to them. Why is your target audience non-Natives?

As a non-native, I would find the novel interesting but I honestly don't think it would really impact me in any way.

Cranky1
05-28-2013, 07:38 AM
Neither my first or second novel involves a tribal member as the main character. In the first, they are a secondary character. In the second, they are a potential love interest. In the third, a tribal member is the main character and this is the book that takes place on the reservation. The fourth has a tribal member but the tribal member is deceased at the time of the story. Thus far, all of these books are contemporary. The fifth book goes back to the 19th century and focuses on why these two tribes become enemies.

Rachel Udin
05-28-2013, 06:54 PM
I think there are 3 things in play from reading the thread.

1. Scared and misconceptions about Pen names.

2. Misconceptions about making another tribe to hide your tracks.

3. Misconceptions about genre classifications.

So, on one.

Technically pen names, even the super protected legal ones do jack to protect you. Look at Gail Carriger. She had the super protected pen name and her real name came out and was put on wikipedia. Pen names do not protect you. The most they can do is create a shield for a few years, if you're lucky and also create a brand.

Also, if you're that scared about being called "Not real" then I think that'll hurt the book more than you think it will. While Nnedi was called those things, so have other writers who have written beyond their experience and it hasn't stopped them. There is a point where you need to grow thicker skin and realize that *some* of your critics you simply have to ignore. For example, "Why are you writing a black girl in this setting?" Or someone calling you a "fake Asian" or someone saying because you're white you're not qualified automatically. If you listen to those type of comments it'll just hurt you more as a writer.

I don't give those weight. I'll do my best to write for all groups I can reach. For the intolerant that can't understand, they aren't my audience.

I can respect choosing your audience based on genre, themes, etc. But not because you're scared of your reader. If you're scared of your reader you'll write nothing. It doesn't mean don't afford them respect--it means don't be so anxious that you let them rule everything.

2. I think this goes to both the South Asian Appropriation and the Fantasy thread in this section, which covered this.

A. Was pretty much, you need to research. Which means for you, you have thousands of tribes to research in North and South America in order to figure out and sort demographics in order to take off the serial numbers correctly. This is *not* easy. Not by a long shot, because tribes and peoples change over time, history gets lost, shuffled or over written, and occasionally you run into scum bags. People believe that Fantasy is easier to write because you can write anything, but when it comes to people, you can't hold back to research. The research in itself is daunting. Even with the groups I belong to, I have to research hard and long... so doing it on that many tribes with inner tribe nuances I would have trouble with.

How do you *not* make a stereotype? And really make the range?

As was said in the South Asian thread, narrow yourself down to an area.

Also, really, Anthropology will help in order to build a culture properly. I don't are if you've lived in it, it's not possible for you to say, know all of the names for China off the top of your head from foreign countries. Or All of the nations of Africa before the European split. Because a country/continent's range is vast and there are always sub cultures... Anthropology helps sort it. (Or at least basics of History and Sociology).

3. Genre classification

If you're "Making up" a tribe, then that's fantasy. Period. You could probably slide it into Science Fiction, but good luck with that.

Your main might be romance, but that does not preclude fantasy.

And as such, that really does mean that you can't cheat the research. It also means if you're making up a tribe to cheat the research, people will catch you that the only reason you made it fantasy was to cheat the research. (I've done that.) And Fantasy readers tend top get pissed at such things--half-baked world building will get you into loads of trouble. For the average romance reader, if they know a smidgen, I think they still will get ticked off, because people are that smart--it doesn't matter if they are part of the group or not.

If you're doing it to avoid scrutiny using your name--won't last long. Someone will figure it out.

In another words, put in the effort, stick your neck out, and don't live in fear of your reader. Really do choose your audience, but not based on some fears you have about how they will perceive you, but how you want to tell *this* story.

Besides, writing is an exercise in masochism anyway... you get criticized no matter where you are on the journey... from n00b to famous writer.

Corinne Duyvis
05-29-2013, 01:37 AM
If you're "Making up" a tribe, then that's fantasy. Period. You could probably slide it into Science Fiction, but good luck with that.

As a fantasy reader/writer, I strongly disagree with this. You can make things up in all genres of fiction--that's what makes it fiction. A book with a made-up town isn't automatically fantasy, either. You need some sort of supernatural element for that.

A contemporary with a slight element of alt history that barely impacts the actual story wouldn't qualify, and would disappoint a lot of fantasy readers who picked it up, while the intended audience might go, "eh, fantasy" and walk away.

Rachel Udin
05-29-2013, 02:06 AM
As a fantasy reader/writer, I strongly disagree with this. You can make things up in all genres of fiction--that's what makes it fiction. A book with a made-up town isn't automatically fantasy, either. You need some sort of supernatural element for that.

A contemporary with a slight element of alt history that barely impacts the actual story wouldn't qualify, and would disappoint a lot of fantasy readers who picked it up, while the intended audience might go, "eh, fantasy" and walk away.
Making up a town, does qualify it... Look up "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson which is considered Literary/Science Fiction. It may not be the high fantasy that people think, or thinking supernatural, but it does make it count. BTW, not all Fantasy contains supernatural in order to make it fantasy OR be set in the present (Supernatural fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy and NOT required for Urban nor contemporary fantasy). It has to contain the fantastic. That includes making up tribes that don't exist.

This is different from "fiction". It is a fantastical element to make up a tribe that doesn't exist on modern day Earth. It's not historical... and most Alt history fiction is thrown out of Historical Fiction into Fantasy, no matter how high or low it is.

kuwisdelu
05-29-2013, 02:34 AM
Whether it's specifically fantasy or not is probably a matter of taste and opinion, but alternate histories definitely fall under the general umbrella of speculative fiction.

thebloodfiend
05-29-2013, 02:44 AM
Making up a town, does qualify it... That's not true.

While Alt History is Spec Fic, simply making up a fictional town does not Spec Fic make. If that were true, half of the contemporary authors out there right now, with the fictional towns their characters live in, would be Spec Fic writers. They're not.

Every single contemporary story I've ever written takes place in a fictional suburb or fictional town. They're not, however, speculative fiction. Or fantasy. And no publisher or agent in their right mind would categorize them as such, either.

Amadan
05-29-2013, 03:12 AM
Making up a town, does qualify it...


I guess Middlemarch is a fantasy novel, then. And so is North and South, since Elizabeth Gaskell made up ManchesterMilton.


I think there are issues with making up a Native American tribe, but it doesn't necessarily make it a fantasy. Authors have been making up towns, countries, and people for centuries, without all those books necessarily falling into the category of speculative fiction.

kuwisdelu
05-29-2013, 03:27 AM
While Alt History is Spec Fic, simply making up a fictional town does not Spec Fic make. If that were true, half of the contemporary authors out there right now, with the fictional towns their characters live in, would be Spec Fic writers. They're not.

Every single contemporary story I've ever written takes place in a fictional suburb or fictional town. They're not, however, speculative fiction. Or fantasy. And no publisher or agent in their right mind would categorize them as such, either.

Making up a town is not the same as making up a people and a culture. Not even close.

ETA: Okay, realized the particular words Rachel used in your quote do specify town. I can agree with you there, but the issue in this thread does involve far more than a town.

thebloodfiend
05-29-2013, 03:29 AM
Making up a town is not the same as making up a people and a culture. Not even close.

And I never said the two were equivalent.

kuwisdelu
05-29-2013, 03:31 AM
And I never said it did.

Yeah. Sorry. See my edit.

thebloodfiend
05-29-2013, 03:37 AM
Though I wonder, how far can you go before it's considered Alt History.

Making up a fictional gang based on the Latin Kings? Probably still contemporary.

Making up a fictional popular mainstream band with a fictional music culture surrounding that? Still contemporary, as I've read books like this.

Making up fictional laws. Or fictional companies. Still contemporary.

I don't know if making up a fictional culture automatically makes something speculative fiction if it's based off of a real culture.

I think it depends on how far you go into changing the course of history. I think there's a huge difference between blurring Taino and Carib culture and calling that tribe something else vs Columbus never even landing on San Salvador, and instead, in Florida.

kuwisdelu
05-29-2013, 03:40 AM
I don't know if making up a fictional culture automatically makes something speculative fiction if it's based off of a real culture.

I suppose that's part of the question isn't it?

Is it based on a real culture?

Or is it based on a generalization of hundreds of cultures?

Nothing in this thread leads me to believe the made-up culture in question is based on a real one.

(And incidentally, for the record, making up a culture or a people pretty much automatically makes it spec fic for me.)


I think it depends on how far you go into changing the course of history. I think there's a huge difference between blurring Taino and Carib culture and calling that tribe something else vs Columbus never even landing on San Salvador, and instead, in Florida.

I could be wrong, but I imagine the Taíno and Carib might disagree.

If Zunis were merged with Navajos or Apaches, I'd absolutely call foul. That's pure spec fic.

thebloodfiend
05-29-2013, 03:59 AM
I suppose that's part of the question isn't it?

Is it based on a real culture?

Or is it based on a generalization of hundreds of cultures?

Nothing in this thread leads me to believe the made-up culture in question is based on a real one.

(And incidentally, for the record, making up a culture or a people pretty much automatically makes it spec fic for me.)I'd assume it was based off of the OP's own with pieces taken from the main tribes average Americans know of.

But my idea of a "culture" isn't simply relegated to something like Jewish culture, or Navajo culture, or black culture. I think you can easily make up a culture without it being spec fic.


The Godfather, to the best of my knowledge, makes up multiple fictional gangs and creates a culture around that based on "real" events. It's no more spec fic than The Outsiders, Rumblefish, The Warriors, or any other book that makes up a fictional culture based on a conglomeration of other real cultures. If I made up a gang based on MS13 and the Latin Kings, and called them Arizona Five, it still wouldn't be spec fic.

But I don't have a racial culture or identity, really. Yes, I'm black. But I don't have any ties to the culture. Or to any African cultures, either. So, I'm sure, it's different to you. But to me, culture is culture. Whether it's tied to race or interest or whatever.

I suppose you've got books like Things Fall Apart that are more closely tied to a real culture. And then you've got movies like Coming to America, which make up entirely fictional countries (Zamunda). Granted, it's a comedy, but it's still not spec fic, either.


I could be wrong, but I imagine the Taíno and Carib might disagree.

If Zunis were merged with Navajos or Apaches, I'd absolutely call foul. That's pure spec fic.:Shrug:YMMV.

I think it depends entirely on how you write it.

kuwisdelu
05-29-2013, 04:08 AM
The Godfather, to the best of my knowledge, makes up multiple fictional gangs and creates a culture around that based on "real" events. It's no more spec fic than The Outsiders, Rumblefish, The Warriors, or any other book that makes up a fictional culture based on a conglomeration of other real cultures. If I made up a gang based on MS13 and the Latin Kings, and called them Arizona Five, it still wouldn't be spec fic.

I wasn't really talking about subcultures like gang culture. I was referring more to ethnicities.

Sorry if I wasn't clear.


:Shrug:YMMV.

I think it depends entirely on how you write it.

It depends more on your audience, I'd say.

Merging two cultures that are traditional enemies but look similar from an outsider's perspective?

To an outsider, sure, it might seem perfectly harmless and normal.

But yeah, no, from an insider perspective that's going to be pure fantasy, and if you want your story to appeal to them, then pretending it's anything else is going to be offensive.

To an outsider, merging a few Pueblo tribes into a single tribe for ease of story-telling may not be a big deal. To us, it's basically equivalent to saying all of Europe is a single country and a single ethnicity.

Kim Fierce
05-29-2013, 04:19 AM
Well, I am working on a steampunk series with alternative history which focuses on four friends. Two of the four are Lenape, one is white, and one is black. Because of the alternate history, it's not exactly the same as creating a tribe, I don't know if there might be some comparison. On one hand I use as much of the Lenape culture as possible, and plan on doing more research for further sequels, but on the other I am writing about a version of America where the natives and non-natives are attempting to actually get along and co-exist as opposed to what really happened. Since in reality there were few, if any, Lenape left in the area I write in by the time my story occurs it is not 100 per cent true to history simply based on that. Right now I have the setting in the state of Delaware with a governor and sachem both leading the state, and lower sachems and other officials beneath them. But I think in the next stories this is going to change more. I am white, and for me your life experiences sound like they could really open some eyes, but I think any individual writer knows more than anyone else exactly why they want to write the things they write.

The MC of my first short story in the series is white and refers to the setting as Lewes, Delaware. The second story has a Lenape MC which refers to the setting as Unalachtigo, Lenapehoking (which is a much bigger area). I plan on a third with a black MC and a fourth with another Lenape MC. The final Lenape MC is not quite as accepting as the other about the way things are going and not as sure about whether the non-natives can actually be trusted. I felt it was important to include both opinions, and not realistic to pretend that even in the best of circumstances the people who lived here first would all just be completely accepting of a bunch of other people sailing on over here.

For me, I originally wanted to write a story set in the steampunk time period and include a diverse cast of characters, and a large part of the whole experience has now turned into me trying my best to respectfully represent the Lenape culture, even if it is fiction. I think maybe the problems that could lie in someone making up a tribe is when it is someone using a culture that is usually not their own, using miseducated or insulting stereotypes, but then saying "But it's a fictional race!" I think reading an example of your story could help us understand it the most!

Cranky1
05-29-2013, 06:23 AM
I'm at an advantage as I hold degrees in history (primary focus: medieval, secondary: minority - emphasis Native) and sociology. I've worked in a Native studies program under well respected historians, anthropologists, and authors. I also hold a degree in law and wrote most of my articles on policies such as the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Indian Arts and Crafts, the federal recognition process, and Indian education programs. I'm not an expert, but I have a fair grasp on many policies that impact all tribes and not a specific one. Again, using the policies that have shaped our communities, I will be framing my community.

Dave.C.Robinson
05-30-2013, 11:11 PM
Speaking as a former bookseller, I'd say that while the new tribes would technically make the book Alt. History, (and thus a subset of Spec-Fic) only an idiot would shelve it that way. Based on the description, the book sounds like it would be categorized for sales purposes under either General Fiction or Romance.

lolchemist
05-31-2013, 01:12 PM
Sorry, I'm late to this thread and this will be a little bit tl/dr but bear with me.

My initial response is "GURL DON'T DO THIS!" Not because of the feelings of other Native Americans but because non-natives are so damned ignorant about Native Americans in general that they will actually believe your book and think that these two made up tribes are actually real and they'll back this up by going "But a real Native American wrote it see! Look at her name! It's totally real!"

I also feel like Native Americans get such little attention and representation in the media as it is that finally when they DO get some, it's a bit sad it will be for two tribes that don't even exist. It really reminds me of when my cousin came from Turkey and was sad that there weren't any Native American food restaurants or stores and he couldn't see any Native Americans out in the street. He was like "Did they all die back then? I thought they were still alive??"

Another thing I was going to add is that you making up two tribes gives me the same feeling as when westerners are too lazy to actually research a Middle Eastern country so they just make one up and add a desert, a sultan with a harem, a grand bazaar, some camels and call it a day. Of course I'm sure at least you wont put any offensive and ignorant shit in there like they do but still, people will be bracing themselves and waiting for it.

All that being said, of course it's your book and you can do whatever you want and I think no matter what, this book will be an important addition. I'd rather it exist the way it is than for it to not exist at all!

Also, I was going to say that (as you surely know) there are TONS of African-Americans out there with Native American blood. I recently read a study that said that the average American black person is only 77% African. The rest of their genetics is either white or Native or something else. I really wish this *you're not this race enough/you're not that race enough* stuff would stop! No matter what other people think you look like, you are what you are!

It would be really cool to see a book from you about a black/Native American girl eventually!

Lyra Jean
05-31-2013, 04:07 PM
Basically what lolchemist said. Unless you obviously make it on another planet aka Avatar or some other extreme like that people are going to think that your tribes are actually real.

I have a BA in history. We talked all the time about historical fiction and historical movies and how the average person believed the movies or fiction books more than they believed the actual facts.

There are Seminole Indians who write papers on the Seminole Wars and how the escaped black slaves came to live with them. Then when when they were captured turned on their Seminole allies so they wouldn't be sold back into slavery but still claimed they were Seminole. They called it culture stealing or something like that. I wish I still had the paper. The Seminole Wars happened back in the 1830s.

So honestly I would pick two real tribes and the stuff you can't talk about just make that part up or try and gloss over it.

RichardGarfinkle
05-31-2013, 04:49 PM
There is also an unfortunate tendency for made up tribes and nations to perpetuate the idea that some peoples are generic and interchangeable.

For a European example consider the fictional country of Ruritania, made famous in the Prisoner of Zenda.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruritania

It was based on a generic attitude toward Central Europe (lots of small Germanic states with vaguely creatable histories).

For much worse examples, consider the creation of African peoples for every god awful story set in Africa with a great white hunter (or the equivalent thereof).

While a person who is very knowledgeable about particular peoples can do an excellent job creating cultures that draw upon those peoples and their histories, it does perpetuate the sense of those experiences as generic rather than personal to those peoples.

One can, in creating alt histories or fantasy worlds or SF worlds, use those experiences in modeling other world societies, but placing such in our world is a more delicate operation.

There is a scale at which it is okay to create instances of a common experience. For example, there's nothing wrong with creating individual people and families within a society, or towns and villages caught up in something larger. But that only works if there is an overarching experience and culture that one is working from.

Isn't one of the problems Native Americans face the false idea of such an overarching culture?

Cranky1
05-31-2013, 05:36 PM
Can any of the last three posters name a tribe that isn't Cherokee, Sioux, Lakota, Cheyenne, Apache, Choctaw, Creek, Ojibwe, Chippewa, Iroquois, Mohawk, or Navajo?

As mentioned previously, there are over 500 tribal groups in the US and over 600 in Canada. I honestly couldn't tell you how many exist in Mexico and in other central American or South American countries. If one is truly interested in any of these cultures, they will do their research and learn about them. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was set in a fictional town located in Alabama. When I read it as a youngster, the town didn't matter to me, but the issues highlighted in the novel did. The fact that it was located in some Southern community mattered to me.

I will state in an Author's Note that the tribes are fictional, but the issues and policies that divide these groups are not; they exist across many tribal communities. Frankly, I have only briefly mentioned that the stories are tied to together by a tribal members, but no one has actually asked what the stories are actually about yet this leap to "create another world" persists. I'm not interested in that.

RichardGarfinkle
05-31-2013, 06:33 PM
Can any of the last three posters name a tribe that isn't Cherokee, Sioux, Lakota, Cheyenne, Apache, Choctaw, Creek, Ojibwe, Chippewa, Iroquois, Mohawk, or Navajo?

As mentioned previously, there are over 500 tribal groups in the US and over 600 in Canada. I honestly couldn't tell you how many exist in Mexico and in other central American or South American countries. If one is truly interested in any of these cultures, they will do their research and learn about them. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was set in a fictional town located in Alabama. When I read it as a youngster, the town didn't matter to me, but the issues highlighted in the novel did. The fact that it was located in some Southern community mattered to me.

I will state in an Author's Note that the tribes are fictional, but the issues and policies that divide these groups are not; they exist across many tribal communities. Frankly, I have only briefly mentioned that the stories are tied to together by a tribal members, but no one has actually asked what the stories are actually about yet this leap to "create another world" persists. I'm not interested in that.

Haida, Kwakiutl, Seminole, Tuscarora, Zuni, Hopi.

Is that okay for a start?

Williebee
05-31-2013, 06:58 PM
Finally, if you are Native a writer and you write about Native people, and anybody reads it, you will deal with identity politics regardless of your intention.
Fixed that for you.



I hope that by printing under a pen-name and using these 'invented' tribes, I can bypass all of that.

You can't, and you won't. If you piss people off enough, they will find you.

All of your appeals to authority may comfort you, but they may not mean zilch to the reader.

If you feel strongly enough about your point of view, and the story you want to tell, you won't let that stop you.

After that, it's up to the market and the readers.

Alessandra Kelley
05-31-2013, 07:22 PM
Cayuga, Oneida, Onondoga, Seneca, Tuscarora, Arapaho, Winnebago, Huron, Potawotomi, Kwakiutl, Haida, Tlingit, Wampanoag.

That's just quickly off the top of my head, and I realize that I'm not one of the previous three posters.

But you're dealing with real people here. Inventing a nation of people that are supposed to interact with others is not the same thing as inventing a town within a society.

Cyia
05-31-2013, 07:59 PM
Commanche, Caddo, Arapaho, Chiricahua, Blackfoot, Pawnee, Auachita, Pueblo, Nez Perce, etc.

Yes, plenty of people are familiar with more tribal nations than you think. Different areas of the country will get you different answers. (I doubt many people had heard of Quilette before Twi1ight, but if you live in that part of Washington, it's probably the first name that comes to mind.)

AW Admin
05-31-2013, 08:42 PM
Can any of the last three posters name a tribe that isn't Cherokee, Sioux, Lakota, Cheyenne, Apache, Choctaw, Creek, Ojibwe, Chippewa, Iroquois, Mohawk, or Navajo?

Abenaki, Nipmuc, Passamaquoddy, Squamish, Salish, Snoqualmie, Tulalip, and Puyallup.

I can describe the differences in their languages as well. In other words:

Dude first, you can quit with the attitude; PoC is absolutely the wrong place to cop a attitude about cultural appropriation.

Second, you asked a question, you got answers you didn't like. Move on.

Write whatever you want. And get used to people telling you they don't like it.

Also?


It's my thread. I find it rather disrespectful to pose questions about me to another poster.

It isn't "your" thread. Go read The Newbie Guide to Absolute Write (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66315)

I'm locking this thread; Kitty27 and/or KittyPryde may decide to unlock it.

Or not.