‘Killer of Enemies’ Brings Apache Warrior Lozen to Life
Q: How did you develop Lozen, the main character, she is so incredibly dynamic and strong?
It's been my good fortune to have had strong, dynamic Native women in my life ever since my early childhood. My sister Marge, for example, is the head of a new Native Studies program she’s been asked to put together at the University of Pennsylvania. And it’s been my good luck to have as friends and sometimes work with such dynamic Native women as Susan Power, LeAnne Howe, Gayle Ross, Joy Harjo... it’s a long list.
More specifically, though, my (if I can call her mine) character of Lozen embodies a lot of what I’ve seen both historically and in the present in the spirits of Native women in the southwest. It’s the sort of strength and dynamism that I want to celebrate and call to people’s attention. I spent several years researching—not just through books, but also traveling, visiting Apache friends in the Southwest—Chiricahua culture and history for an historical novel of mine that was published in
2006 called Geronimo. So I had a bit more background than most have in terms of an awareness of appreciation of Apache people and history than the usual popular stereotypes.
Their tenacity as a nation is astounding when you consider just these two facts. First, that in the second half of the 19th century every Chiricahua family had at least one family member who was enslaved by the Mexicans. (A good reason to be at war with the Mexicanos.) Second that all the people of the Chiricahua nation, including the men who were commissioned as scouts for the American army, was sent to Florida as prisoners of war in 1886 and never allowed to return to Arizona.
Q: Tell me about Lozen, who was she to the Apache people?
The historical figure of Lozen was a very interesting person, a woman who dedicated her life to defending her people. She was the sister of Victorio, an important war leader. Not only did she ride to battle by her brother’s side, she was also an important advisor and leader in her own right.
She was able, though her power, to locate enemies—by holding up her hands, she could sense where they were—and lead her people to safety. She never married and survived to be among those sent in captivity to Florida and then to Alabama where she died of tuberculosis in 1889.
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