trees and hills

Friday, February 17, 2012

K.B. Schaller--Walking In Two Worlds

Everyone's Story's guest this week is K.B. Schaller. A member of the Native American Christian Church, K.B. is an award winning author, a journalist, poet, painter, and a former teacher in a Native American reservation academy. She has a lot to share with us . . . so we're getting right to it . . .


K.B. is generously offering a book giveaway of her first novel, GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY, but with a twist: a contest. To win this novel that has won the USA Book News Best Books Award For Multicultural Fiction and the President's Book Awards For YA Fiction, K.B. challenges you to write in 100 words or fewer, based on the synopsis below, why you would like a copy of this book. Please enclose within the comment, and include your email address. The winner (announced on 2/24/12) will receive the book, plus have their winning composition posted on K.B.'s website.
Synopsis of GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY
Cheha Youngblood disappeared without a trace from the Bitterroot Confederacy three months ago, and her older daughter, Dina, is determined to find out why.

What do the clues in her mother's journal mean? Who is the giant-winged creature that so terrified her mother, a Native Christian convert? Could any of the tales that are as old as the Indian nations and told in the blackness of deep nights in the South Florida Everglades be true? And why are owls beginning to perch outside of Dina's home?

Then handsome Marty Osceola, the son of the most powerful witch on the Florida East Coast, the boy Dina had a crush on in grade school, arrives back in town... 



Now, a few questions for K.B.:

Do you live in the Everglades or close by? Please describe to this Northerner what this area of Florida is like.  

I once lived in the Glades before my job took me to the Florida East Coast.  Probably the most picturesque description would be to Google the Everglades. It is derived from a Mikasuki word meaning "River of Grass". I lived in Belle Glade, taught in a little school in Pahokee (meaning "Grassy waters"). Both are basically farm towns near Lake Okeechobee ("Big Water"), the largest fresh water lake in Florida, and the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. You can Google pictures of the lake and the towns. For an idea of  what the the Seminole chickees (houses) mentioned in the novels are like, click here

Your bio on your website describe's your debut novel GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY as "An interplay of romance, mystery/suspense and religion, the story's heroine, Native American beauty Dina Youngblood, must make tough spiritual choices when tradition and Native Spirituality collide with mainstream faiths and values." In true life, are there many conflicts that Native Americans must face in embracing more mainstream Christian denominations? Why do you think these two worlds collide?

The tragic history of what many refer to as the Native American Holocaust was perpetrated by those who professed the Christian faith, but did not practice the love that it teaches. The reservation system confined Native Indians and was viewed by some as little more than concentration camps; while the boarding school era separated families by removing children frequently as young as 5 from their cultures, sometimes until they became young adults. The rationale/slogan was to "kill the Indian, save the man". Long story, and not very pretty.

For more information, I always recommend a brief study of Native American boarding schools and history of the reservation system. Movies such as "Geronimo" (with Native actor Wes Studi in the title role) are fairly accurate, historically. Also, "Son of the Morning Star"; and of course the iconic "Dances With Wolves". I addressed the issue in question in one of my blogs:  


Please tell us about your rescue cat? 

Chief, my kitty, adopted our family in 2002. He was about 4 months old at the time. We were attending a Wednesday evening prayer services on the Seminole Reservation. As we entered, he leaped from some hedges and befriended my husband, Jim, and me. Afterward, he was still waiting outside and once again, singled us out. His beautiful, irresistible green eyes asked, "Will you take me home with you?" Well, the rest is history. He and his sister, Sabrina, who is four years older than he, presently occupy a very special place in our home and hearts.


A Christmas Aftermath  by K.B. Schaller

I know. Christmas 2011 is gone. The trees are tossed, presents opened, I'm still recuperating from exhaustion, and a blog like this seems after the fact. But I wrote it because there are lessons here.
Firstly, there aren't many Native American Christians--only an estimated 3-8% are--so when church attendance falls it really shows. For a number of reasons, ours has fallen to less than half of what it was only a few years ago.
Several pastors have come and gone, so the remnant flock had not held a Christmas pageant--once a "biggie" in our little church--for quite some time.      
Then an Oklahoma Creek Indian minister and long-time friend to our congregation notified us that he would serve as interim pastor until a permanent one was installed. He asked no salary. He wanted only to see our struggling church re-embrace a sense of community. His message was simple: 
"Unless we love one another as Christ loved us, there can be no regeneration here."
The elders decided that a Christmas pageant complete with speaking parts, costumes and music would be just the spark to re-ignite and unify everyone again--because on "the rez", everybody comes to celebrations!
A friend reminded the elders: "KiKi(that's me) has a degree in performing arts and used to write and direct plays at our academy before it shut down." 
I live some eight miles from the rez, but it was a worthy project, so I placed my novel-in-progress on hold and took on a diverse cast of elders (the singers) to 'tweens, teens and 2 four-year-old actors in a church that opened for rehearsals only three evenings per week. More daunting, a lot of activities compete with rehearsal attendance during holiday seasons. And I had only two months to pull it all together.   
Script written, there was the challenge of presenting on a stage little more than twice the size of the average kitchen. Not to worry, though: a couple of seamstresses promised to make   costumes while others would handle props, scenery, etc. 
It seemed simple enough, but there was hardly a rehearsal where there were not absent performers: Soccer practice. Parties. Family outings. Furthermore, as our date inched nearer, involved in pre-holiday preparations, neither seamstress delivered a single costume as promised. Or donated even a yard of fabric.
Well, I'd learned, bed sheets from a Goodwill store could yield a lot of shepherd garbs--and even a red robe for King Herod (portrayed by the Oklahoma pastor). As I churned out some 18 outfits, most nights I didn't get to bed before three a.m.   
Then there was the woman who didn't understand fine-tuning a performance--to her, I was continually "changing things", being too demanding, while others bragged on the "great job" I was doing, but invested no sweat. 
Performance day drew closer. Key characters still flubbed their lines. Among the adults, tempers flared. Cliques formed. The very divisions we were trying to heal hovered as darkly as ever. I struggled against resentment, prayed for power to overlook. Forgive. Remain focused. And to keep faith.
But in the midst of my angst loomed yet another setback: just before our December 18 performance, our final three rehearsals were cancelled--they conflicted with too many other scheduled activities. We would face performance day "cold". I almost lamented having taken on a thankless project that had morphed into a living thing that was swallowing me alive.
The 18th arrived. There was the usual Sunday sermon, then members and guests gathered for a scrumptious-looking holiday luncheon beneath our thatched, open-air chickee. But for me, costumes needed ironing, the stage to be set up…   
Then finally, armed with cameras, beaming parents and others I hadn't seen for a time quickly filled the church. My mouth went dry. What, I wondered, would be the outcome? 
The music began. The sanctuary went quiet. I gave the cue. And only then, in that lifting moment, did the atmosphere lighten. Every actor's memory seemed to kick into high gear. With only a few whispered prompts to the youngest, that performance—that Nativity retelling (one of the three kings wore Indian Chief garb and headdress) was our best yet!
After the Indian Hallelujah finale, parents carefully tucked programs into purses and shirt pockets. Some stayed to chat. And upon most of us, a sense of community settled again. 
Will it sustain? Bump up membership? Yield the healing fellowship so badly needed? Only time will tell. 
The greatest lessons, I think, though, were of sustaining our faith in times of testing when God seems to be silent; and patience with others who are not in step with us--who are "marching to the beat of a different drummer." 
Author Bio:
K.B. Schaller, journalist, novelist , conference speaker, is author of Gray Rainbow Journey (National Best Books Award Winner, USA Book News; Winner, President's Book Awards, Florida Publisher's Assn., YA Fiction) and Journey by the Sackcloth Moon (both OakTara). She lives in South Florida, where she is currently writing a third novel in the Journey series. http://www.kbschaller.com/

36 comments:

  1. "Gray Rainbow Journey" sounds like a fascinating book. Growing up near a residential school and reservation, I was aware at a young age of the plight of Native people and it saddened me. Recently, with great difficulty, I read "Bright Eyes". I became so angry at how the Natives were treated by the American government and so-called Christians. People need to learn the history of Native Americans (and Canadians) to dispel the prejudice and open the door to true Christian witness to these beautiful people. I would love to read K. S.’s book because it brings both worlds together. dstephen@skynet.ca

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    1. Hello, Cathy,
      Thanks for taking the time to repond. You make a valid point that not all Christians abused Native Americans. My response, however, was to the question asked, "Why do you think these two worlds collide?"
      To paraphrase Shakespeare's words, the good is indeed often interred with the bones, while evil lives long afterward. So, thanks again for reminding all of the true Jesus Way!
      Sincerely,
      KB Schaller

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    2. Hello, Diane,
      Thank you for responding. Ours is indeed a sad history. But while we are charged to remember the past, we must also remember the healing power of forgiveness. It is only through such that we can build great tomorrows.
      Blessings,
      KB Schaller

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  2. Diane, thanks for visiting Everyone's Story. Hope you come back again. You're now entered in the contest :)

    You're so right! People throughout history have twisted and corrupted Christianity--not God. Imagine what this world would be like if all of our hearts beat in the name of Christ?

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    1. Elaine,

      You express my sentiments exactly, that people, not God, have corrupted a beautiful faith that preaches love, compassion, and forgiveness.

      KB Schaller

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  3. K.B.'s book sounds fascinating!
    Not all Christians abused Native Americans. Bright Eyes is someone who benefited from missionary help. When her school on the reservation closed, missionaries helped her continue her education in New Jersey. She went on the lecture circuit with Standing Bear after the trial that declared Native Americans were people. One sister became a physician, another became an advocate for the Omaha people, and her brother became an anthropologist.
    My book, Through Rushing Water, shows the events leading up to Standing Bear's trial. The conditions were holocaust grim, so it was difficult making a romance out of it. But I hope to share this important story with those who don't read non-fiction. In the research for the story, I connected 5 people from the trial with one church. Doesn't that say we should be working together in our churches for justice?
    Thank you KB for showing a part of life hidden from most Christians!

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    1. Cathy, thanks for joining us here on Everyone's Story. Blessings on your writing!

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  4. For many years, I have been interested in the melding of Native American mythology and Christianity.This book sounds like a chance to learn more about this from a Native American POV.

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    1. Caroline, K.B.'s story does sound intriguing! Thanks--always--for visiting.

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    2. Hello, Caroline,
      I thank you for taking the time to respond; but while the two roads of Native Spirituality and Christianity do indeed meet, they are distinct entities. And these differences are what cause my heroine's angst in having to choose between the two. I do hope you will read my book/s. Thanks again for responding!
      Peace and Blessings,
      KB Schaller

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    3. K.B.--now there's one fine plot twist with the two distinct worlds facing the heroine!!

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    4. Elaine,
      Glad you think that my storylines make for an intriguing read. The heorine, Dina Youngblood, does indeed struggle with the choices before her.
      There are also stories embedded within the stories; the messages being that no matter how we stumble, or however far we fall, God is always there to pick us up, dust us off, and let us know that, when we trust in Him, everything will be alright.
      KB Schaller

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  5. Back in the 90s I babysat for a friend who was Seminole. It wasn't so much that she told me (though amid conversations, we did talk about it and our red cards), but the things she did such as gathering the porcupine quills, the walking around shoe-less even in Downtown Albany, the bringing her car (when she finally decided to move back to Florida with her family)and leaving it with signed title along the street of the Oneida reservation so that some family who had less than she did would be able to drive themselves to work.

    I'm not worried about the contest. I would like to thank K.B. for her post here and hope that the strength she found stays with her.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Eden. Sounds as if this acquaintance of yours is a lovely, giving woman who has blessed many lives.

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    2. Eden,
      Hey, thanks for sharing your experiences and for your kind wishes.
      Sincerely,
      KB Schaller

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  6. Great guest post at your bay
    And a rescue kitty sure makes the cat's day
    Book sounds great too
    Had to make a rhyme come due..haha

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    1. So nice to see you, Pat! Love the cute poem.

      Folks, if you have time, please visit Pat's blog for a treat of clever rhymes and an awesome cat:

      http://rhymetime24.blogspot.com/

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    2. Hello, Pat,
      Sure appreciate your snappy poem. It made my evening! Thanks for sharing your talents with the rest of us. Will definitely visit your blog.

      Blessings Sent,
      KB Schaller

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    3. Me again, Pat. Visited your blog. The kitty on the floor is a clone of mine, who, incidentally, was the prototype for Eddie Was, the feline character in my books.
      The one on top of the world on your page exemplifies the sentiments on a plaque in my vet's office--Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

      KB Schaller

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  7. Just read--a day late--in Sunday's paper that a Native American woman from NY's Mohawk Valley in the 17th century (she was born in 1656) will be canonized in October. Kateri Tekkakwitha is the first Native American who has been chosen to sainthood. French forces burned down her village when she was 10 years old. She converted to Catholicism at age 20 and then moved to Canada where she helped missionaries convert Indians to Christianity. She died at age 24. Those attending her death said her body glowed and the smallpox scars on her face disappeared. She was known as Lily of the Mohawks.

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  8. A Native painter recently used Kateri Tekkakwitha as his subject at his art exhibit last year at the The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) in Santa Fe.

    Incidentally, the museum hosted one of my book signings in 2010. -- KB Schaller

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  9. I was very graciously asked to read this blog and post a comment.

    First off, I must admit a few things:
    1) I am not Christian and never have been.
    2) I am Canadian.
    3) I have several friends who are card carrying Native Canadians, and are pipe carriers and sundancers.

    I state these because these influence my opinions.

    I have to say, I've never met a Native North American who is also Christian. Considering the horrific distruction Catholicism and Christianity visited upon the indigenous population of the Americas, I'm quite surprised that there are Native North American Christians. I wonder, considering the vast and unique culture (which includes native religion) of your tribe, K.B., how do you manage to ride a river in two different canoes? Especially since more and more Native North Americans are returning to the religions of their peoples.

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  10. Hi Again, Karen,
    Thank you for responding. Your questions are valid, and I suppose if I based my beliefs on my observation of the actions of those who say that they are Christian but who do not exemplify its teachings, I, too, would find much to reject in the Christian faith.

    But I base my faith on Scripture, which condemns hatred, murder, the returning of evil for good, theft, thinking more highly of onself than is warranted (pride), not loving ones neighbor as oneself, and a host of other practices and beliefs. The promise of eternal life in a kingdom of peace and harmony is certainly not a deterrent to my beliefs.

    And while I do use the term "Christian", I personally prefer the term Jesus Way, since Christianity is a very broad umbrella, whiie the Jesus Way is a very specific example of how I choose to live my life.

    And, as one of the responders stated above, not all Christians persecuted Native Americans. Unfortunately, they did not get the "good press" that they deserve; instead, it seems that, then, as now, widespread violence and the sensationalism that it still spawns is what is remembered, rather than the good.

    As for the return of "the old ways", the characters in my stories, being torn between the two, struggle with these sometimes painful and difficult choices. And being faced with such choices is not unique to the Native American.

    Time and space limit so much more that can be said on this subject, including that, in Oklahoma alone, there are Approx, 250 Native Christian churches. Congregations tend to be small, but they are vital and thriving entities.

    You have my email address, though, so feel free to write me if you wish to further discuss the subject. I would be honored to engage in further dialogue. In the meantime, I offer you one of my blogs on the subject: http://blogs.christianpost.com/bindings/2011/04/a-native-american-christian-speaks-on-why-11/

    Again, thanks so much for responding, and expressing your honest opinion. Peace to you.

    Sending Blessings,
    KB Schaller

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  11. Today sadly marks the end of K.B.'s guest appearance on Everyone's Story. Thanks so much, K.B. for an outstanding week. You've shared with us both your heart and your fiction world and I know you've fascinated many viewers.

    The winner of your gracious giveaway novel, GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY, is Diane Stephenson. Yea, Diane! Diane has also won the opportunity to have her comment on why she wanted to win the novel posted on K.B.'s website. Diane--both K.B. and myself will be in touch with you shortly.

    Blessings to all,

    ♥ Elaine

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  12. Congratulations, Diane! I do hope that you will enjoy my award-winning novel, "Gray Rainbow Journey". I also hope that you will contact me after reading it and share your thoughts. Perhaps I can post "A Chat With a Reader" on my site also.

    Again, congratulations, and I wish you all the best!
    Sending Blessings,
    KB Schaller.

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  13. Elaine,

    Thank you so much for having me as your guest on Everyone's Story. I had a comment posted on my FB, but not here. So, people are visiting this site!

    Peace and Blessings,
    KB Schaller

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  14. Thank you so much Elaine and KB. I'm sure I will enjoy your book, KB. My novel title has rainbows in it, too! It's not published yet, though. I really appreciate you choosing me as the winner. I'm looking forward to receiving "Gray Rainbow Journey".

    God bless,
    Diane

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  15. You are so welcome, Diane. Your book has been readied for mailing. Again, thank you for commenting and congratulations on winning the copy of "Gray Rainbow Journey"!

    Peace to you,
    KB Schaller

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  16. Very interesting interview. Too bad I didn't see it in time to enter the contest. It looks like a very interesting book.

    Blessings,

    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack
    http://nightofthecossack.com

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  17. Hello, Tom,

    So sorry you were too late to enter the contest, but thank you for visiting and for your kind comment.

    Any chance that I can be a guest on your site, also? :)

    Peace and Blessings,
    KB Schaller

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  18. I just want to say "Thank you" again for choosing my post as the winner of "The Gray Rainbow Journey". KB, you asked me to post this bit of trivia I sent you, so here it is.

    I didn't mention in my post for the contest (not enough words to do it) that the poet Tekahionwake aka Emily Pauline Johnson was born not too far from where I was born. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother an English immigrant. My high school was named after her. Something else I didn't mention either is Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks (St Paul's) is the oldest church in Ontario, constructed in 1785. It is only a few minutes' drive from where I lived as a child. http://www.mohawkchapel.ca/history.html

    I'll post my comments on your book in a separate comment.

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    1. You're quite welcome, Diane. I'm so happy it worked out for you!

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    2. Diane,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share this information. I believe that it is important that others know that Native Americans have a long history of church affiliation even though their numbers are small; and also that it is their right to exercise this freedom of choice.

      Sending Prayers,
      KB Schaller, Author

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  19. I picked up the winning copy of "The Gray Rainbow Journey" from my mailbox about 4:30 on Tuesday when I got home from an afternoon prayer meeting. By the time I went to bed that night I had read half the book, and I finished it after I came home from prayer meeting last night (Wednesday).

    This is a riveting story and well written in every way. Dina, the young girl who narrates the story is a well-developed character who comes alive off the page. Her life is a tug-of-war between Marty, the handsome Indian stepson of the local and very powerful witch and her Uncle Donnie who, though not a Christian, knows the dangers of becoming involved with Marty and his witchcraft. Her fear at times is palpable and I entered into it. I lived with Dina as she rode a see-saw of emotions knowing what was right but desiring what was not. I was, figuratively speaking, on the edge of my seat most of the time. When Dina makes unwise decisions my heart goes out to her. She paid dearly in emotional pain for one major wrong decision she made, but her life is redeemed in a wonderful and surprising way before the story ends.

    I would recommend "The Gray Rainbow Journey" to anyone who wants to know more about native Indians, their religious beliefs and how they conflicts with Christian truths. It is not just a matter of cultural tradition, but often of demonic activity. It would also be good for young people who are contemplating or already involved in relationships that could lead to bondage and great pain. The decisions we make in life not only affect our own lives but those around us as well. We can learn from Dina's choices. Thanks, KB, for writing this book. And thank you once again for the free copy.

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    1. Diane, happy to hear that you enjoyed this book. I just began it the other night & am very much enjoying it.

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    2. Diane,

      Thanks again for taking your valuable time to share your thoughts on "Gray Rainbow Journey". So happy that you enjoyed it in its many layers of meaning.

      Your winning comment will be posted on my website any day now. Will surely let you know as soon as it does.

      Peace to you,
      KB Schaller, Author
      http://www.KBSchaller.com

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