I’m working on the third book in the Brock Clemons series, tentatively named “Coyote Canyon.” One of the joys of writing this series, is doing the research, learning more about the time period, the people who lived in the Old West and the challenges they faced.
In the second book, “Coyote Creek,” I introduce two Indian tribes, both Ute. One is the Muache tribe and the other is the Weeminuche. Rather than simply use the traditional, and easily accepted, “redskin” stereotype, I dug a little further and found that the Ute tribes, which did live in the territory at the time the stories take place, have a fascinating history. While I couldn’t use all of it in the book, I did blend in much of what they faced, from the elements, other Indian tribes and the United States.
I took particular joy in using real names from Ute history, some from the time period I’m writing about and some from much earlier. While the characters are pure fiction, I believe any student of Ute history will be delighted to find significant real-life Ute names scattered throughout the book. I found that doing that forced me to go beyond any stereotypes and make these characters, for better or worse, fully developed people. I believe it led to a stronger book and I’ve enjoyed bringing many of the Weeminuche and Muache characters back in the third book.
Among the many things I learned (which are woven into the book) include: The Utes were a predominantly Southwestern tribe (present day Utah, Colorado and New Mexico regions), they fought a long series of battles with the Apache, teamed up in 1863 with the U.S. Army to fight the Navajo, had chiefs visit President Lincoln in Washington D.C. (receiving walking canes as parting gifts), battled the Mormons in what would eventually become the state of Utah and were one of the first tribes to own and master horses, which led to many early battle successes.
I also very much enjoyed developing a hard-won and hard-fought friendship between Brock (and now others from Dry Springs) and some of the Ute tribe members. It makes for a richer book and a more enjoyable writing experience.