Raised in Omak, WA, on the Colville Reservation is my True to Heart Trilogy cover model, Shayna (pronounced Shania) Ann Palmanteer. She is currently working on receiving her high school diploma after taking a couple of years off to work at the language house in Inchelium, WA and learning Salish––a young woman on a path to self-discovery.
Not long ago, I found myself on a journey to find a model for the cover of the remake of my very first book, Change of Heart.
Through my adopted-by-love Navajo daughter, who teaches Salish at the Inchelium language house, I was introduced to and teamed up with Shayna.
Her Native name is Stxcin, pronounced st – huh – cheen, meaning Tiger Lily. (The “huh” is a low blowing sound deep in the throat.)
Shayna has a tender spirit that is mentored by her best friend and sister, Monique Bourgeau, who if we look close enough may be a relation to my husband. Shayna’s mother is Cindi Williams. Her father, who passed away at the age of 35, is Eddy Palmanteer III. She was nine-years-old when her dad left this earth.
Her grandmother is Mary Ann Palmanteer and her grandfather is Eddy Palmanteer the II.
“Family is my everything,” Shayna stated. It was a rough time after her father passed. At first, she didn’t really realize what was happening, until it all hit her in middle school. “I was not happy in middle and high school and didn’t finish.”
Shayna is working on her GED and plans on attending college. “I’m interested in going to Northwest Indian College.” Where a cousin attends and will graduate with a BA this December.
“My family is what got me through after my dad passed.” Shayna gave me a small smile, her rounds eyes soft. The death of her father has not seemed to hinder her maturity and growth as a Native young lady. Quite the opposite, in fact, as she displays a quiet strength.
Even at her young age, Shayna is learning she has a voice and is beginning to use it. She and Monique travel as activist Indigenous women on issues concerning climate change, Washington Women Can, and No DAPL Movement (Dakota Access Pipeline). Elders are more than happy to sit with her as she learns the language, culture, and history.
To Shayna, “Language is a must.” She doesn’t know any other person her age who is learning her Native tongue on a fulltime basis. Last October, she left the language house and moved back to Omak with her family.
As a young girl, she spent most weekends with her Grandmother, Mary Ann, who she is named after, while her mother, Cindi, tackled college classes. Women are honored matriarchs in the Salish culture and that is exactly what has been passed down from generation to generation in the Palmanteer/Williams family––strong women who carry themselves in a respectful manner which honors their people.
“My grandmother is a real sweetheart.” Shayna’s face glows at the mention of the Colville-tribal woman.
To watch the sisters interact during the photo shoot at the creek was a magical moment. Shayna’s mentor is her sister Monique and describes her as “selfless.” Just the same, Monique adores her little sister and coined her as “genuine.”
As an Indigenous young woman, being Native to Shayna means, “A connection to the land where I grew up on. Being here and experiencing all we’ve experienced.”
Not having been there when offered, I asked Shayna what her first reaction was when her sister mentioned the modeling prospect for Change of Heart. Her answer? “No!” And went on to explain that she rarely even posts on Facebook. But Monique enlisted her sister because she knew Shayna was the perfect young woman to represent Spupaleena, the book and trilogy’s main character.
And Monique was right, her sister was the perfect fit – like an arrow to a bow. During the second photo shoot at a nearby creek (the same one Spupaleena often visits in the trilogy), Shayna made movements the same as Spupaleena does in the book, like clutching her braids.
In the end, Shayna admitted she had a lot of fun.
One highlight of the first photo shoot, and possibly the biggest highlight of both shoots, was when Shayna’s face lit up once on top of Buck, my Paint gelding who is the inspiration behind Bear, a character in the trilogy. It was the first time she’d been on a horse. With no experience, Shayna was a natural and “felt comfortable” around Buck and Cash, her fellow models for the trilogy’s covers.
When back at the language house for the interview after the second photo shoot and asked, “What does being the cover model of True to Heart Trilogy, a young adult series with a strong female character, mean to you?”
Shayna answered, “It’s awesome! Because they (the books) are based on this reservation with our language in it and having a Native woman going for what she wants and not allowing no one to hold her back.” Not only does that describe, Spupaleena, but I’ve learned it also defines Shayna Palmanteer – a young woman who knows the path she’s on and has the courage to take it.
Excerpt from Heart of Courage
“That is not the answer I hoped for.” He looked past her and waved someone over. An elder of the village with a baby in her arms halted beside Spupaleena. The soft but wrinkled face smiled, her beady eyes sparkling. She held out the baby who appeared to be a few moons old. Chubby brown arms waved in the warm breeze, feet kicking the air.
Spupaleena took a step back.
Skumheist motioned to the squirming bundle. “Take her.”
“Me? Why? Loot! I cannot…” She squeezed Rainbow’s lead rope, her body yearning to flee. What would she do with a baby? She could not train. The race. Three sunsets. She shook her head like a dog after a swim.
Skumheist stood, tore the baby from the old woman, and shoved her in his daughter’s arms. He shooed the bent-over woman away. With a chuckle, she waddled toward a lodge and picked up a cedar basket and root-digging stick made of wood and antler. Blue Jay appeared from inside the lodge and took the old woman by the arm. She gave Spupaleena a sorrowful glance before leading the old woman toward the hills.
“Blue Jay?” Had her childhood friend known this was going to happen? Why hadn’t she warned her? Growing up they’d been like sisters. Surely, there would be no secrets between them.
“It is time for you to learn the ways of our people. Your mother has been gone for a long time now. I have failed you, let you come with me as if you were a son. No more. She is now yours.” With a nod he moseyed away.
“But…” A roving little hand slapped Spupaleena’s face. The infant giggled, dark, round eyes looking at her. “Mistum!” Her father’s back faded into the village. “How will I feed her?”
Spupaleena clucked her tongue, and the infant smiled at her. “What now?”
Carmen Peone’s heroine, Spupaleena, is back, this time fighting her own internal battles as well as those imposed by her father, her culture and her need to follow her own path. Like the first book in the series, Heart of Courage never lets up on the hard-driving tension of the battle. Tensions, problems and dangers dog Spupaleena as she exerts grit and determination to follow her dream. This is just an outstanding story for young women who need to understand what it will take to claim their own victory in a world that favors men. As always, the author keeps the action so well paced through the first two acts, and then dives off the cliff in the final pages. Well done. Amazon Reader
Heart of Courage is the second book in the True to Heart Trilogy by Carmen Peone. It transitions beautifully from book one, Change of Heart. A treat for historical fiction readers, this novel delivers an entertaining account and perspective of life for a teenaged Native American girl during the 1800s. So relatable today, the protagonist, Spupaleena, challenges the feminine role in her society. The plot, including horse racing, is intriguing. Ms. Peone, a horsewoman herself, puts us in the saddle with Spupaleena and daringly lets us ride along as she steers the main character through incertitudes and disruptions. All of the vivid, well-drawn characters grab the reader emotionally. Heart of Courage is a show not tell sort of book….the best kind! The end of the story leaves the reader hungry for Spupaleena’s next adventure….a perfect way to end a novel. Amazon Reader