The Neiko Saga: Where Fictional Native Americans Meet Real Ones
Today’s post is a fun post as well as one to educate prospective readers about the Native American characters who make up the good guy (for the most part) cast of the Neiko Adventure Saga. This is to eliminate any confusion that ALL of the tribes in the books are existing tribes and nations of today to be interpreted as real. Also to separate fact from fiction as it were.
The Neiko Adventure Saga are works of fantasy and were never meant to be historical in nature, even in regards to one of the presently published ones that shifts into a real historical place. Ancient Egypt has been visited by some of our Native cast against their will and almost became permanent additions to that history–Neiko’s friends would be in unmarked graves in the desert wilderness, and Neiko would probably be in the Cairo museum beside her husband on display and therefore produce an alternate future reality. It’s not about focusing on all the historical sightseeing since the cast is more focused on getting out. That is the whole point of the story–it’s more about the adventure of being stuck in the past as opposed to taking in all the scenery. Neiko doesn’t get to see as much of the place as she does of her admirer Ramesses, who eventually gives guided tours when he goes somewhere for romantic getaways. There will be flashbacks in later installments about the scenery even though the scenery (the waterfalls of the Nile, the beaches of the Mediterranean) was hardly the motivation for the trips. Showing her the construction of Pi-Ramesses (aka Raamses) and Abu Simbal were a footnote as to what he was really up to which was better left implied since this is a book for teens, not adults. This part if the story was told off camera as her friends are trying to find a way back into Egypt to get her back. Some structures are being built while she’s there. That’s just it. He wants her attention on him rather than anything or anyone else. Neiko won’t be going back to ancient Egypt. It and its people follow her into the future. Ramesses will be back and sooner than Neiko thinks!
Science fiction and fantasy blur together in this series. It’s both–not either or,but more toward the fantasy as it were, and more scifi can emerge later. Historical figures and places can and do find their way into the series (some real, some not), but it is not really considered historical fantasy, and I am not going to get anal about acutely fine historical details, since I am not writing historical fiction (different genre, people). I suppose for the purposes for the nomination, Wisebear Books gave the best fit as possible as YA Historical Fantasy for the 2nd installment Escape from Ancient Egypt, but the series as a whole is best described as Teen/YA Fantasy/Scifi Action Adventure. For the purposes of pigeonholing, that’s the best answer, and some installments will incorporate time travel and other scifi stuff, but it also blurs with fantasy magic. Magic has been described as “unexplained science” or the science of other places. Some things on earth (like television) would be considered magic to a primitive world like the Five Lands where dinosaurs still roam, even though they have discovered lasers and rockets. They use guns and swords. There is travel to other worlds, other dimensions, some time travel, and immortality at some point. Some dead guys find their way to life and want a piece of that immortality once they find it’s available–no matter the cost.
Hawote is not a real place. Neiko’s tribe, the Desert Storm Falcons, is not real. Chang Battlehawks are not real. Black Antlers are not real. Creek, Blackfoot, Chickasaw, Chocktaw, Cherokee, Crow, and Seminole ARE real. They are just a handful of the many, many tribes and nations that exist in the Americas that ARE REAL. There could be many others who are fictional to go along with them.
Growing up, I had made-up Native American tribes based on the customs and common threads of real ones for my own pretend adventures. I loved reading about them and learning about them. Georgia, where I have always lived, is still rich in the landmarks they left behind: Rock Eagle, Rock Hawk, and burial mounds. I’ve visited the Etowah Indian Mounds. Rock Hawk is only ten miles from my house, and Rock Eagle isn’t much farther away. Still today when plowing up a garden or a food plot or walking at a creek or a river, you can still find arrowheads, spearheads, scrapers, and other stone tools and pottery left behind. The place I live at now was known to be a sliver of land occupied by the Creek in the Oconee River Basin, located between the Ogeechee and Oconee rivers.
A lot of rivers, creeks, swamps, counties and towns carry Native names. Etowah is one. The Okefenokee Swamp is another. Etowah, Oostanaula, and the two river examples above for others. It’s very common in the SE US and possibly in other parts of the country. Many residents of this geographical location have Native decent. I am no exception.
In Gwinnett County, there is an annual Indian Festival where tribes and nations all come together and mingle with the residents with their culture and their handmade goods for sale. They go to other festivals across the country. I mention this festival in Book #3.
For my made-up tribes of yesteryear that eventually evolved into our fictional Seven Tribes and other tribes, there are common threads among Native American tribes that I pulled together, even as a teenager (later post) when I started writing this series. Tribes and nations vastly differ from one another in their customs, beliefs, and language. No two are alike. Some bands within a tribe or nation can also differ. Some languages may have different dialects. For example let’s take the UK. Just because someone is from the “UK” doesn’t mean they are all the same. You have English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. They are all different in themselves, but they inhabit the same island (or if you want to PC, Ireland is its own island). They all speak English, but the dialect and such are different. The same can be said of regional dialects in the US. Do Australians talk the same way as the British do, even though they are more closely related to them than the US?
All Native tribes have lived in some form of harsh environment or another, so they all depend on each other for survival. They take bonds within the tribe very seriously, because it can mean life or death. There is some form of housing (no, they didn’t all live in tipis!) that pertain to the lifestyle. Examples: wigwams, pueblos, igloos, tipis, or longhouses. There is usually some amount of foraging and/or hunting (tracking, knowing what to eat, etc in one’s geographic location). Kids were taught very young how to do this. Women and children were ALL instructed in how to fight, because you never know whose raiding party might show up when you’re out raiding/hunting. Nobody will be “easy pickings”. Then there is the struggle to preserve those customs in today’s modern era as well as assimilating what they want to incorporate (part of surviving, isn’t it?). Natives don’t live like the Amish do. So, a lot of those threads were woven into the fictional ones.
On the subject of war, Native women were quite a bit different than those in a lot of other parts of the world. They learned how to fight. They did participate in tribal decisions. Some of them did become warriors and went on raids. They DID paint their faces just like men did. The ones who stayed back “held down the fort” when others were gone. They participated in work. There was no “women’s work” or “men’s work”. Everybody did what was needed to survive.
For further reading here are some articles on Women Warriors and examples:
Neiko’s creation was based a lot on these concepts as well as my own strength as a person (another blog post). Cherokee women were no exception, and my roots are in that tribe. They were very strong, in fact. The past of Neiko’s tribe was very war-torn when they fled from the west to flee the Aztec emperor (before the first cities were built/still as tribal people) Tezcatlipocacoatl (fictional), who was hellbent on destroying the Chosen One, if he was a man and enslaving them. The Falcons came right into the rising of the Crackedskull Tribe when they arose from the Cougar tribe (again fictional). One of the prequals will explore this, and I will also write a blog about that. When first created the name “Crackedskull” was a very chilling thing, but after Neiko and her friends got through with it, it became a joke.
With Neiko’s character being so strong, she has to be subjected to some pretty extreme circumstances, which has drawn a little critique from some people that someone “crosses a line” in hopes to get what they want from her. She can take it where others may not be able to. What happens is a very real life scenario that also happens among teen relationships (seen it, experienced it) and not just an “adult” thing (no it’s not sex). Despite her strength, she can be a little naive on certain things–which was to be made as a flaw–on purpose. If not, she may be on the verge of being too perfect. Anyone at the ages 18-25 doesn’t have “everything all figured out” in a nice little bow, and that’s what some people expect for some reason. Also, her naivete creates some humor, and she gets into some situations, but that is how she grows as a character and evolves. If she had everything all figured out all the time, then I really don’t see how she could grow when exposed to some of the fires she gets into, and she does change. Furthermore, if everyone is expected to act a certain way at a certain age for a certain occupation all the time, this is just absurd (think outside the stereotypical box). I talked about that in a different post. I would also like to add on that subject about Ramesses, who is 23 at the time the story takes place. He was filling his sandals into the man who was supposed to become, and his father had only been dead a year (according to the story). People make mistakes, and he didn’t have perfect judgement in 100% of the cases on any given area. I was trying to make him human. EVERYBODY misses a fine detail that in front of them now and again. Even Ramesses the Great makes mistakes, but he would make less of them in strategy as a 33 year old as opposed to a 23 year old and still dealing with the death of his father and taking on the heavy role of a king. If Ramesses had been 33, things would have been inappropriate for teen readers, and Neiko would have never gotten out. He may think he is a god, but he shouldn’t be expected to act omniscient and perfect. When you’re close to a loved one, and they spend a lot of time teaching you things, and they die, would you do everything perfectly, or would you have some room to grow? Even through Seti’s teachings, he didn’t out come a ready-made Ramesses the Great or as an Easy Bake Pharaoh. He became that over a lifetime. Considering the time he lived, he had a lot longer life than most. It was also a moment for Ramesses to show the reader something about his relationship with his father and that he still had some room to grow even though he was already a formidable opponent.
Not everyone 18-25 has the maturity of a 30 or 40 yo. How could a teen relate? I did write this for teens.
Generally, most Native tribes are polytheistic with the concept that there is a top power somewhere, and whatever they chose to call it would vary. They have their own legends about creation and the “spirit world”, and they each seem to have a concept of that and how to interact with it as well as the natural world. Since I am creating my own, who says they have to be polytheistic? Just what if there were some monotheistic ones? Who says there can’t be? This is a fantasy and my book. Don’t like it, that’s okay. Write your own darn book (Thanks for that phrase, Rachel Thompson). According to the story, these monotheistic tribes, like the Falcon tribe, remain undiscovered. Not every tribe and nation uses the moniker “Great Spirit”. Of course Yahweh (what several tribes call Great Spirit in the story) is not from any native tongue even though it could sound like it at times. There could even be anagrams among the make-believe tribes…
These fictional and real tribes intermingle throughout history and live together, albeit not always peacefully. Alliances are formed. The Crackedskulls become bloodthirsty (everyone has someone that can be bloodthirsty), become cursed, and intent on enslaving everyone around them and possibly all of Hawote. That doesn’t change unless they are totally defeated. In Modernity, not everyone is on the res. Some tribes have undetected bands that migrated elsewhere in Hawote to live among the fictional residents. One example is the Crow, which is mentioned in Book #3; they aren’t originally from the Southeast. The maps of Hawote and the US are totally different, and landforms may not have the same names! Furthermore, the reservations also become hotspots for underground Hawote operations and as fronts to keep the land hidden (it is dubbed the Hidden Land after all) as well as fighting for their tribal beliefs. All tribes and nations, fictional and real, made a secret pact to keep the land a secret and fight for one another’s beliefs. Of course, there’s always bad apples no matter where you come from.
Of course as one reviewer said (paraphrased), “You don’t have to go into a wardrobe or a secret door to visit Hawote. It coexists with the US, CA, and Mexico.” The next time you go to a remote area with a vast woodlands. There could be Indians there.
About the Author
AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.