Saturday, July 7, 2012

Women of Fortune by Allison Bruning

Today's guest blogger is the delightful, Ohio-raised author, Allison Bruning. Allison likes to create stories involving Native American women back in the days when the British and French colonists were overtaking the Native lands. Welcome, Allison.

Women of Fortune

“What inspired you to write Calico when you’re not even Native American descent?” 

I cannot tell you how many times I get this question. To tell you the truth I absolutely love it, too. Growing up in Ohio I was bombarded with funny names such as Chillicothe, Wapakoneta, Mohican, and Cincinnati. The memorials of the Native American tribes who had once inhabited Ohio were in the names of our towns, camps (I went to Camp Wakatomika as a youth), and streets. Although my family had no Native American heritage I was often drawn to the history and culture of these people. As I grew older I began to realize just how one sided the American history books are when it comes to dealing with Native American history, especially in the media.
When I began to write Calico I had one thought in my mind. We often see the Shawnee in movies, television shows and books portrayed as bloodthirsty savages bent on raping women and killing men. It dehumanizes them. American history teaches us that the British and latter the Americans were rescuing women and children from the Shawnee. They’d raze their settlements, rescue the poor white damsel in distress then off they go back to civilization with the female where she’s joyfully reunited with her family. The End! Isn’t that a nice fairytale? The savages are defeated and our hero saves the day. 

But did you know that many of the women who had been “rescued” by the British or Americans actually ran right back to their captors? Why would these women go back to the natives who had captured them? Was it some sort of Stockholm syndrome? No, the white women of the 18th century often times left for their captors because they had more freedom in a native village than in a European colony. 

This thinking goes against what we have been taught about the native population. The media teaches us the natives were cruel to their women, especially the Shawnee. This is not so. A woman was valued more in native cultures than a man. When she was traveling with a man she would carry their belongings and be behind him. Why? So she would be protected! Think about it. The Shawnee were at war with the white man for a long time. He couldn’t carry his belongings and be prepared to fight should they be attacked. It was his duty to protect the women, children and elders. 

In camp, the women were in charge of the fields and housework while her husband was laying around. Why was the man so lazy? He wasn’t.  He was often hunting, fishing and protecting the village. Sometimes a man needs his rest but don’t think he wasn’t aware of his surroundings. In a moment’s notice, he would be able to defend his wife and family should the village be attacked. 

"But Allison, Shawnee men never looked at their wives when a white man was around."

Of course not, do you want your enemy to know which women meant the most to you? He ignored her to protect her. You never know just how far someone would go to hurt another. Another thing to think about. If the Shawnee did not value their women then why did their laws insist anyone who hurts a woman receive double the punishment than if they had hurt a man?
When I wrote Calico’s character I had decided to make her the daughter of a French Fur Trapper.  Why? Because I wanted to show my readers the truth. The British were so hell bent on saving every single white woman from the native population they never took time to consider whether or not the women was actually British. As long as someone looked white the British would retrieve them. The problem with this is that not all white women were actually British. Some of them were the daughters of French traders who had married into the population. A French woman would marry into the tribe to secure a tighter trade relationship between her father and the native population.
If, in the event, a European woman was ever captured she would walk the gauntlet and then be adopted into a native family. Why? To replace the dead wife or child of a native person. Men on the other hand were often considered a threat. The natives knew if a man was adopted he might cause more harm then good. It was all about survival. I wanted my readers to understand these points through the eyes of a female who lived with the Shawnee. 

Before I wrote Calico I had read a book called “Follow the River” by James Alexander Thom. I had watched the movie with my husband. While it was a good attempt to show a different side of the story that is to honor the Shawnee I felt it was lacking a lot. I decided to write Calico to fill in the cultural gaps this book left.
An interesting thing to think about is this as well. The natives were not the only ones who were kidnapping women and children. The British did so in order to provide labor for their slave market.  The native populations didn’t just attack a British village for kicks, they often times did so in order to free those who had been captured by the British.

Now it is time for us to hear a little more about Allison and her activities.

The Executive Director of the Kentucky Young Writers Connection, a non-profit agency of writers who promote young authors throughout the state of Kentucky, Allison originally hails from Marion, Ohio. Her father, Roland Irving Bruning, was the son of German immigrants who came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Her mother's family had been in the United States since the 17th century. Allison is a member of the Peter Foree Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution. Her linage traces to Private Reuben Messenger of Connecticut. Her educational background includes a BA in Theater Arts with a minor in Anthropology and a Texas Elementary Teaching certificate. Both were acquired at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Allison received National Honor Society memberships in both Theater Arts and Communication. Allison was also honored her sophomore year with admission into the All American Scholars register. She holds graduate hours in Cultural Anthropology and Education. In 2007 she was named Who's Who Among America's Educators. She is also the recipient of the Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards.

Allison lives with her husband in Kentucky.  Calico is book one from the series, Children of the Shawnee. It is available at She is currently working on the sequel, Rose.  She is also working on another series, The Secret Heritage, which traces the life of her great great grandmother at the turn of the 20th century in Ohio. Allison's interest includes Ohio Valley history, anthropology, travel, culture, history, camping, hiking, backpacking, spending time with her family and genealogy. Her genres include historical fiction, paranormal, romance, and suspense.

You can reach her at:

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Twitter: @emeraldkell

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