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  • Writer's pictureColleen Hall

Wounded Heart Historical Background

I want my stories to be more than entertainment. Besides having my characters learn life lessons that hopefully will encourage my reader, I want to explore the historical context of the time during which my characters lived. How did society dictate what was acceptable and what was not? What national incidents affected my characters' lives? How did social norms and current events shape my characters' attitudes?

While doing research for Wounded Heart, I learned that life in the West during the Indian Wars was complex. Surviving day by day was a struggle, overlaid by the constant threat of Indian attack. The clash of the white settlers' culture with the Native American culture was long, violent, and filled with drama. There was right and wrong on both sides. During that time the issue of white women who were captured by the tribes was very real, and my research unearthed a wealth of information on the topic. I decided to explore that scenario in my story.

Not all of the tribes treated their white female captives the same. Some women experienced horrific violence, while others were met with kindness. Almost always they were raped. Some white women were kidnapped to replace a Native American family member who had been killed by white men and were adopted into the family in place of the dead relative. Often white captives married into the tribes and had families, adopting the tribal culture.

In white society husbands admonished their wives to always reserve the last bullet in their guns to take their own lives to prevent a "fate worse than death." Although not all communities adopted a censorious attitude toward rescued white women who had married into the tribes, the Victorian attitude that a decent woman would take her life before submitting to a Native American man pervaded the West. Women who were recovered usually had difficulty assimilating back into white society. Many never made the adjustment, and some ran away to return to their Indian husbands.

Shane's mother is a composite of all the captured white women whom I learned about in my research. I felt that her story, and of course Della's, should be told.


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