SNAHM Guest: Pamela Clare

Hi friends! Time flies, yes? Today we have Pamela Clare is visiting with us today, and I’m so excited to have her share. I don’t know if you’ve ever read her I-Team stories, but if not, you really have to, and especially don’t skip book 1 – Extreme Exposure – which is one of my favorites. Anyway, what a timely post, and lovely yet painful – like so much of Native American history.

Naked EdgeAs a writer of Native descent, I’ve tried to cover Native issues in ways that make them accessible to the outside world. As a reporter, I spent years traveling back and forth to the Navajo and Lakota reservations covering a range of issues from forced relocations to the struggles of traditional native people to hold onto their culture and languages. As a fiction writer, I put my years of reporting on these topics into Naked Edge (I-Team #4).

In that story, I tried to show how Native people who live in urban areas struggle to hold onto their traditions and their sacred sites. Katherine James was the heroine of that story. Half Navajo, she fights to find her place in the world and among her people.

Many of the events in that story were inspired by real life—the raid on the inipi (sweat lodge), for example. I was able to touch on a host of topic that were important for me—how hard it can be to walk the Red Road in an urban area, the exploitation of sacred sites and Native artifacts, and so on.

Kat was a special character to write, the only character I’ve written in a contemporary novel whose spiritual beliefs were essential to the story. I had to be careful in doing that because pop culture over-spiritualizes Native people and Native culture. I wanted to make her real. Not only did I want her to be a modern Indian woman; I wanted her specifically to be Diné.

I adored her, and fans of the I-Team series adored her, too.

With Dead by Midnight: An I-Team Christmas, I was able to get back inside all of my characters’ heads again, including Kat’s. It’s an ensemble story, which made it the perfect farewell to the I-Team series.

Here’s an overview of the story:

Dead by Midnight Marc and Sophie Hunter, Gabe and Kat Rossiter, Holly Andris and the rest of the I-Team gang find themselves in the same historic Denver hotel celebrating the approach of Christmas at different holiday parties. What starts out as a fun winter evening with friends soon becomes a brutal fight to survive when the hotel is taken over by a group of ruthless narcoterrorists who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

On the outside, Julian Darcangelo, Zach McBride, Nick Andris and others join together with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team in a desperate bid to free their friends, knowing that if they fail, the people they love will be…

Dead by Midnight.

Featuring cameo appearances by the men of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, a series by New York Times bestselling author Kaylea Cross.

In Dead by Midnight, Kat is heavily pregnant and goes into labor while being held hostage. Her captors are so cruel that her suffering means nothing to them. They refuse to release her, leaving her to struggle through labor in the worst of conditions.

I didn’t plan to go into Diné history when I wrote her scenes, but I was so into her thoughts and into her suffering that my mind flashed to The Long Walk, an event that holds the same place the hearts of Navajos that the Trail of Tears does in the hearts of the Cherokee.

Here’s an excerpt from that part of the story:

“I don’t want them to hurt my baby.”

Joaquin gave her hand a squeeze. “We’re not going to let that happen.”

Tears filled her eyes. “I wish I were on the dinétah.”

Both Alissa and Nakai had been born on the Navajo reservation in a clinic about an hour’s drive from her grandmother’s homesite. She’d felt safe there, surrounded by Gabe’s love and strengthened by her grandmother’s reassurances and prayers.

Sophie stroked her hair. “Maybe if you pretended you were home it would help.”

Kat’s temper flashed. “How can I do that lying on this floor surrounded by men with guns?”

And then it hit her.

Hwéeldi.

The Long Walk.

All Diné people knew the story. The US Army had forced the Navajo to leave their homes and walk 300 miles to captivity at Bosque Redondo, a place they called Fort Sumner. Many Diné had died along the way of exhaustion, thirst, starvation, disease. Grandma Alice’s great-grandmother had survived the Long Walk, but her great-grandmother’s pregnant sister had not. She’d been shot and killed by a soldier when she’d gone into labor and stopped to give birth.

This wasn’t the Long Walk, but Kat was a captive. Just like that soldier, her captors didn’t care what became of her or her baby.

Another contraction began to build—and Kat began to sing quietly to herself. At first she wasn’t even aware she was doing it, the words coming from somewhere inside her. Then she realized she was singing a traditional healing song, one she’d heard her uncle and grandfather sing when she was a little girl.

As pain tightened its grip around her, the walls of the Grand Ballroom faded, becoming the red mesas that surrounded Grandma Alice’s hogaan at K’ai’bii’tó. She latched onto the image of her home, felt Gabe standing there beside her, and Alissa and Nakai, too, the new baby out of her body and in her arms. Their spirits were together even if their bodies were not.

She thought of the young women who’d made the Long Walk, carrying babies on their hips or pregnant. She thought of another mother, one who’d lived long ago, who’d had no choice but to give birth in a pen for animals and place her newborn in a manger. Their strength became her strength.

Even after the contraction faded, she kept singing. Words had power, and the words of her people had come to her to help her through this.

~*~*~*~*~
Readers, who are eating up this story and giving it rave reviews, have asked me about the Long Walk and whether what Kat is remembering is true, and sadly it is. There were stories from survivors about women going into labor and being shot by soldiers, who didn’t care at all about them or their babies and who were, in fact, engaged in an attempt at extermination. It’s a horrible chapter in US history, one you don’t read about in the history books. And though I never write books to give history lessons, this lesson fit the story.

Of course, Kat’s story has a much happier ending than the poor women who died on the Long Walk. She has Gabe quite literally watching over her…

It’s strange to be leaving these characters I love so much behind, but there are other stories to write, other adventures to take. Readers are giving Dead by Midnight rave reviews, and that’s a great place to end any series.

With many thanks to the thousands of readers whose loyalty to the I-Team made writing these stories such a joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pamela Clare

There’s so much I’ve been learning – even recently about Native American history, and I’m glad these stories – albeit painful – are being told. They’re important.

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