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Monday, August 22, 2016

Why Taldra’s Family is Iroquois (Updated 2/16/2019)

For Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, I created a Native American family that provides the heart of an expansive narrative. That novel takes place in an alternate reality where Earth (Valchondria) went straight from tribes and villages to the one-world government that rose up in Valcine. The descriptions of Valcine in that book and its sequel, Sons of Taldra, often imply that it parallels our New York City.

The problem with no countries is that I couldn’t refer to them as American Indians or Native Americans. And even First Nation or First People seemed a little off, though I considered them. Many Native peoples use those terms, but many other people wouldn’t recognize them. I settled for calling Taldra’s family (and many other characters) red-skinned. It worked for most readers, but some asked “As in red paint”? I didn’t mean it as racist in any way, and it’s a term many Natives use, so that wasn’t a problem, but it still didn’t quite get the idea across.

For Sons of Taldra, I went more into Taldra’s background and decided she is Iroquois. That didn’t conflict with anything in the first book, since I had never identified her lineage. More on that choice in a moment.

When I wrote the fifteenth anniversary edition of Degranon, I added references to other Native nations as well. I decided Taldra’s spouse was mostly Iroquois but with a dash of Navajo. The Navajo provide some of the mythology for Sons of Taldra, as I discuss in the blog entry The Navajo Influences on the Aliens in Sons of Taldra.

Back to my choice. The tribes of the Iroquois federation (Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca) have lived in the New York area for centuries, so that works with Taldra being a member, and with her son Telius encountering Iroquois on the other side of the temporal doorway. My alternate reality might establish them even earlier than real life, though, and it has them consolidated into a single Iroquois tribe, instead of just sharing the Iroquois language.

The Iroquois are a largely matrilineal culture, while the Taldra novels feature strong women throughout, often in leadership roles. Those parallels helped me make the characters come alive.

Though it’s a long-running debate, many people believe the Iroquois Constitution influenced the US Constitution. Some links about that topic follow in the list of resources below. That appealed to me because the Taldra novels focus so much on the Valchondrian government, with Taldra becoming Leader and impacting its laws. So, even if readers might disagree over the historical accuracy of that influence, it still resonates as part of my world-building.

I won’t explore it until the upcoming novel Argen, but I imagine events took place that caused the varied Iroquois to unite as one people under a Constitution. Other people travelled there from lands they sometimes referred to as North and South Turtle (North and South America, adapted via Native terminology). As Valcine became a trade center, other people kept joining them out of necessity, until the world united as Valchondria. It all seemed ideal, until the Degrans and the Maintainers rose. Read Degranon and Sons of Taldra to find out what happens from there.

More importantly, please take the time to learn from and about the creative, amazing Native cultures that we so often ignore or mistreat in the real world. They’ve inspired my writing, and I can’t begin to acknowledge their struggles or their accomplishments.

Related reading:

Engines of our Ingenuity: The Iroquois and the US Government

First People of America and Canada - Turtle Island

Indigenous People: Constitution of the Iroquois Nations

Iroquois Indian Museum

The League of the Iroquois

TeachingHistory.Org: Iroquois and the Founding Fathers

UPenn Gazette: Franklin and the Iroquois Foundations of the Constitution

US History: The Iroquois Tribes

Please also see the Degranon/Sons of Taldra glossary.