Thursday, January 31, 2013

Standing Stone American Indian Cultural Center

This time around I want to tell you about something that's very close to my  heart. Last year I was greatly honored to be asked to serve on the board of directors of the STANDING STONE AMERICAN INDIAN CULTURAL CENTER in Monterey, Tennessee.

Of course, there wasn't one at the time, per se. It was an idea. But we've put in a lot of work this past year, and now we have a physical location (with a cool sign and everything!) In fact, we recently hosted our first class. We're now in a position to start planning the museum part and applying for grants... but we still have a ways to go. What is needed most is funding to provide rent, and if possible buy the property.

The lion's share of the work has been done by the Center's director, Robert Redhawk Edlridge... an accomplished orator  and performer who is a member of the Sappony tribe of North Carolina.

Robert Redhawk Eldridge, in front of Monterey's "Standing Stone"

Our goal is to eventually have, not only several classrooms where folks can sign up to learn hands-on about various American Indian crafts, but also a museum space with items and information about the Indians of the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee, as well as space for indigenous artists to display their work. We also hope to eventually be able to help fund a scholarship for promising American Indian students at nearby Tennessee Tech University.

Early American settlers in the area discovered a large monolithic stone on a sandstone ledge (reports on its height vary, ranging from 8 to 16 feet)- travelers described it as looking like a dog sitting on its haunches. Legend says the stone served as a marker on the Tollunteeskee Trail, which served as a trade route between several Indian tribes, and that it may have been a boundary marker between the Cherokees and the Shawnees (some say Chickasaws -the fact is, both Shawnees and Chickasaws claimed the area at various times.) We cannot say for certain whether the stone was worked into its reported shape, or was set in place because it had a natural similarity to a dog or wolf, or when it was erected. Or if it was erected at all, for that matter, or just occurred naturally. (I suspect it may have predated the Cherokees, and could have been put in place by the prehistoric mound-building cultures that inhabited the area before the historic tribes came onto the scene. But that's a guess.)

It did, however, definitely serve as a landmark for pioneers headed west. The wagon road called the Avery Trace followed the route of the old Indian trails, connecting the Clinch Mountains of East Tennessee with the settlements around Nashville. The Standing Stone Inn was a stopping point for many travelers in the early 19th century -many of whom rubbed the stone for good luck, or took pieces of it along with them for souvenirs. By the end of the 19th century only a 3-foot fragment remained, and that was blasted into smaller pieces by the railroad. In 1895 the citizens of Monterey placed what was left of the stone on a pedestal, where it has been a local monument ever since.

The stone itself notwithstanding, the Cumberland Plateau was a crossroads for American Indians before the arrival of Europeans. The trails that traversed it connected the area with the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the Great Lakes, and the Rockies.

The Center's museum will focus on the tribes whose presence impacted the region from the time of first contact with the Spanish until Indian Removal -primarily Cherokee, Shawnee, Creek, and Chickasaw. Some items have already been donated. Several fundraising events have also been held, including a concert last spring which featured indigenous performers.

Another great event is coming up on February 16- if you're in Middle Tennessee you should think about attending!

No matter where you are, though, if you care about history and American Indian culture, we can use your help. Contact Robert Redhawk for information about how you can donate or volunteer- . Honestly, every little bit helps, and it is a very good cause.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Western Fictioneers Focus on the Blackwell Saga

Cruise over to the newly revamped Western Fictioneers blogsite -content is being updated daily, with all kinds of cool regular features: Wicked Wednesday (focus on villains), My Favorite Novel (and also Short Story), Friday Five (each Friday a different western author answers five questions about themselves and their work), Cowboy Cooking, and many more.

Today the focus is on my Blackwell short story series. Go check it out, and follow the blog!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

First Blackwell Story of 2013- The Blackwell Gang

The latest Blackwell short is out- first of the new year!

Get it HERE

"Duke Blackwell, California outlaw, is trying to go straight -but his efforts are complicated by a string of stage robberies by someone impersonating him. Now he has to catch "the Blackwell Gang" before the law catches him... "