Q: How did you meet Marcha Fox? You live in Montana and she lives in Texas.
A: I wrote a detailed article about sweet grass, a sacred medicine plant the Cheyenne use in all of our spiritual ceremonies. Marcha read the article in the Soaring Eagle Newsletter, then wrote me a letter and we eventually talked on the phone. She liked the way I wrote the article.
Q: What happened next?
A: We did an interview on the phone. My questions were:
- Why are you writing a book about Native Americans?
- What made you decide on a Cheyenne character?
- How do you want this book written?
- Will I be paid for my work?
She called back the next day and said, “I want the book written accurately so when another Cheyenne reads the book they will not be offended.”
After that, she received an A for the first three questions and an A+ for the fourth question.
I told her I had to read her book first to determine if I could help her. She assured me it would be easy.
I read her draft of The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon. I told myself, “Wow. If you decide to help Marcha you are going to change Charlie Littlewolf into a traditional Cheyenne. You will make him a Cheyenne medicine man and warrior and the grandson of an honored and respected medicine man.” I pondered it for a week, thinking it could help my grandson’s college fund.
Q: What convinced you to coauthor with Marcha?
A. Well, I felt confident that I could help. My question was how we would accomplish telling the story.
I began to understand she needed a Cheyenne medicine man to be a main character in the story. Still I had no answer on how. Then I knew: Ask the grandfather spirits for guidance.
I went to the sweat lodge alone and entered. I called the spirits and waited a long time before they came. The grandfather spirits spoke the truth to me. “You help this woman, she wants to do good things for our Cheyenne people. Tell her your story, only in the spirit of truth. You cannot do this for money, you will fail. Grandson, you have been chosen by Maheo to speak for your people.”
I then had a purpose to tell my story for my people. I went home feeling happy. I thanked the grandfather spirits for their guidance with wisdom and became the coauthor.
Q. You are from two entirely different cultures. Did you experience any challenges because of the cultural differences?
A. The greatest challenge was communicating the details of our Cheyenne spiritual ceremonies. The ceremonial sweat lodge requires detail and protocol. Ceremonial sweat lodge keepers have completed their vows for many ceremonies to earn their right to be a lodge keeper. So therefore they have high expectations of individuals who enter to focus on the purpose and protocol for the ceremonial sweat.
The Sacred Mountain fasting ceremony requires four days and nights on a buffalo robe with a sacred red pipe and the guidance of a painter who earned their right to guide you to complete your vow to fast at the sacred mountain.
The fasting ceremony requires a year of preparation with family support to set up camp and be there when your painter brings you down. Your vow is a commitment to fast without water and food for four days and nights for a purpose.
I came to understand and realize that I had not explained to Marcha who, what, why and how a medicine man became who he is. A medicine man inherits his medicine from his grandfather from a lifetime of teachings. A medicine man has great spirit powers with Cheyenne medicine to heal and clean people of their wounds, illnesses, curses, and call back lost spirits.
I realized how important it was for me to explain and continue to clarify my communications when the main character in the story was to become a medicine man.
We then were able to begin transforming Littlewolf into the grandson of Eaglefeathers, a true medicine man with great spirit powers.
Q. What agreement did you and Marcha have as authors of “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon?”
A. We did not agree on a plan, we just did it. Marcha offered to hire me as a subject matter expert and sent a payment in good faith. We did the hourly rate arrangement for a short time. I then offered the Cheyenne way. I told her, “I will help you write your story and when we are done you can give me a gift of your choice, to show what my work meant to you.”
Cheyennes gift a nice comfortable blanket. So we decided to do this, since Marcha felt this was fair. My grandfather spirits said for me to tell my story in the spirit of truth for my people and not for money. We became a team of good faith to tell a great story.
Learn more about Pete on his author page here.