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River Marked was a book that I’ve been planning for a long time. Not the adventure part—that happened when my husband suggested that any body of water as large as the Columbia must have stories of giant monsters who lie beneath the surface (he was right)—but all the rest. I had known, almost from the beginning of the series, that I would need to work in more walkers and the Native American culture in our area.
However, I puzzled about how to do it justice until (in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss) my puzzler was sore. I don’t mind offending people—but only when I mean to offend people. Growing up in Montana (and especially working at the Museum of the Rockies) left me very aware of the exploitation of the Native American peoples and their cultures. My mother was a children’s librarian. I remember when traditional stories were revised for modern audiences until they bore only a nodding acquaintance with the originals, but were released as “authentic Indian stories” when they were, in fact, nothing of the kind.
So I worried and fretted. Then I decided to do exactly what I’ve done with Russian, UK, German and Norwegian (among others) myths, traditions and histories. I mined the treasure trove of stories, treated them with due respect, but used them in ways they were never meant to be used. I am not attempting to preserve culture, or record actual events or stories. Instead I bow my head in gratitude to those storytellers who have gone before and paved a way for me play in their stomping grounds. Doubtless those who want to be offended, will—allowing me to make them happy, too, which pleases me as much as it pleases them. Hopefully, though, most people will enjoy their glimpse into the native legends of the Columbia Gorge as much as I enjoyed writing them.