1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Purely by accident! I have always enjoyed writing the odd freelance article for a newspaper or magazine, but never even thought about writing a book – until now! I have spent over 45 years working for a variety of companies, from transnational giants like Unilever and Nivea, to small family-owned ones like the luxury perfumer Amouage. For a third of that time, I led those companies and, eventually, specialized in turning around sick companies. I have run businesses in over 40 countries around the world, dealing in a wide variety of products. However, all my life, I have had an inexplicable passion for the Native Americans, and read, researched and watched a mountain of material. Perhaps, the Great Mystery was gently preparing me, all my life, for this odyssey and the vicarious experience of re-living parts of their history, participating in their heritage. As is my habit, I made extensive notes in my diary during the trip – not least because I wrote a daily column from the road, for the leading English newspaper in the Sultanate of Oman. On my return home, I realized I had so much material that I simply had to try and turn it into a full-length book. And, I desperately wanted more people to know the real story of these remarkable people.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
The people I met, and their story. People like Carney Saupitty, Lisa Snell, Vernell White Thunder, Peter Catches, Mark St.Pierre and so many others. Theirs is a story of quiet heroism, of fighting impossible odds to regain their identity and proud heritage, of an elemental daily struggle. I realized they, perhaps more than anyone else, deserve a voice for the unborn generations. They must never be allowed to be forgotten or marginalized, but brought into the American mainstream instead.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
The thing that strikes me most powerfully is the sheer apathy (at best; frequently it is outright discrimination) of America, and the world, to them. The downright untruths of Hollywood created a fantasy savage, not even a noble one, while the media stereotypes present them as hopeless, violent, suicidal substance-abusers on miserable Reservations, subsisting on Government money. I hope my book will contribute something to showing people just how shamefully untrue and unjust this portrayal this is of a truly noble people winning small triumphs on their way to recovering their civilization from genocide. History cannot be true if written only by the victors.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
Strangely, it was not a conscious choice! Looking back now, it seems some sort of cosmic Force seems to have guided my life to this experience and the decision to write about it. The whole effort is as mystifying and intriguing to me as was my completely unexplainable experience on their very sacred Bear Butte. To me, it seems to be more important than anything else to disseminate a knowledge and awareness of the Native Americans, so they are never consigned to the footnotes of history.
5) For those who aren’t as well acquainted with the history of the Native American people and their history, why do you think it’s so important to understand the history of the Native American people and what they endured during the formation of the United States? What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have from a historical standpoint from that time period and the history of the Native American tribes overall?
If even a part of humanity is destroyed, all of humanity is damaged. The creation of the United States was, without doubt, one of the greatest achievements in human history, creating the most powerful military and economic entity in just a couple of centuries, something never achieved before. While admiring the people, and effort, that made it possible, it is equally vital not to lose sight of the disastrous cost of that effort. And, above all, the fact that the genocide was, in reality, completely unnecessary.
People usually think “the West had to be won” because the “savage Indians” stood in the way of “civilization”. The truth is exactly the opposite. The Pilgrims survived only through the generosity and welcome shown them by the Wampanoag. In return, the settlers enslaved these friendly people, killed their chief, and sold his wife and children as slaves for thirty pieces of silver. In later years, the children of Native nations were forcibly removed to distant Christian schools to be “civilized” – under such terrible, abusive conditions that well over half of them actually committed suicide.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that the West was “won” through the strength of American arms. In reality, the US Army lost most battles and frequently spun massacres of defenseless civilians into stories of victorious battles. Custer is the most famous such fantasy hero. In reality, about an equal number died on both sides, despite the overwhelming superiority of firepower and manpower with the Army. What actually defeated the Native Nations was the terrible scorched earth policy of General Sherman which almost entirely wiped out the buffalo, their only source of food, shelter, weapons, occupation, toys and everything else. Starvation, not bullets, brought them to their knees.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Its early days yet, but so far I think Facebook and Instagram have been useful in getting the word out. I have also been fortunate to benefit from the massive distributive reach of Ingram. My social media links are:
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
This is one of the steepest mountains you will ever climb, with huge amounts of pain – but it is worth it! Don’t lose heart and bash on. If you have something worth telling, there are people out there who are keen to hear it – it’s just a hard road reaching them! The only thing to do is enjoy the ride!
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Whew! After working on this book for well over a year, I am now going to pause for breath and see how it works out. I would, ideally, like to do another book on the same subject, as there is such a wealth of history and heritage to write about, and so many incredible misconceptions to try and uproot. Fingers crossed!
About the Author
Chandra Lahiri is an “Indian from India” who lives in the Sultanate of Oman. After many years as a global CEO, he now focuses on his lifelong passion for Native American heritage. His wife is a Special Needs Educator in Oman, and his two sons live in the USA. He loves hearing from like-minded readers, at www.dawnvoyager.com