The Wooden Indian Resurrection, my newest book, traces a Native American woman in South Dakota who is as lifeless as the wooden Indian she impersonates at a mall until she faces whites who betrayed her and discovers it’s never too late to become who you are meant to be. The novel’s big question—who did YOU become?—is one I wrestled with.
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“A poignant reminder that we must face - not run from - our deepest fears. By doing so, we find the freedom we long for.”
~ Jean Snedegar, Reporter/Producer for BBC Radio and West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Deborah Running Bear lives at the edge of the South Dakota Badlands
Where did the idea of The Wooden Indian Resurrection come from?
At a reunion of high school girl friends at a historic cavalry fort. We were a little self conscious, perhaps each wondering, “What have I done with my life?” By the time I reached home from the reunion, I had a rough draft in scribbled notes that reflected the question we all eventually ponder: has my life mattered?
Deborah gets into big trouble with this statue!
Are you Native American?
No, and I’m not Jewish or Norwegian Lutheran either, as my other main characters are. But I had Jewish and Lutheran friends in high school, and I’m Dakota born and raised.
Washington High School, site of Deborah's senior year - and mine
Do you share any of Deborah Running Bear’s high school experiences?
LOL! I narrated a Synchronettes' swim program and got dunked in the pool; I received a barbecue-breath kiss in a drama, and I sang “The Impossible Dream” in chorus.
The Falls of the Big Sioux River - in the book, love breaks out here
What motivates you to write?
To understand our individual stories within a larger context. Life makes sense only in relationship to this bigger narrative, which I picture as a four-act drama:
Utopia - the creation of everything. Perfect.
Dystopia - the crash of everything. Broken.
Crosstopia - the rescue of everything. Sacrifice.
Newtopia - the re-creation of everything. Party!
South Dakota Black Hills, sacred land to the Lakota
Where are we in this larger drama?
A twilight zone between Act Three and Act Four. The historical Jesus of Nazareth inaugurated the new creation. But we’re in a strange time of “now-but-not-yet,” waiting on tiptoes for the restoration of all that is good and right.
Mitchell Corn Palace, one of Deborah's stops, where she ponders her heritage
Your book claims it’s never to late to become who you’re meant to be. Really?
Look at what Will Running Bear tells his daughter in the book: that we’re meant to rest in God’s love. In that resting place, we discover the particular facet of light we can shine in this broken world.
Wall Drug, where Deborah works as a wooden Indian
Another theme in your book is that even an ordinary person can be great. How?
By being faithful in the ordinary things, and isn’t that where most of life occurs? Like Deborah Running Bear says, we can take our simple acts of kindness and service, which may seem no larger than pebbles, and pile them up. Then we create lasting monuments of grace, of beauty.
Walking on the arm of the Crazy Horse Memorial