Welcome author and friend Paty Jager! I had the pleasure of meeting Paty four years ago in Clarkston, WA at a book signing and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. We have a common thread in our writing which includes Native Americans. She is specific to Nez Perce both from Idaho and Washington; I am to the Arrow Lakes band of the Colville Confederated tribes where Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce band resides. So my point of view for our time with Paty Jager
slants toward the Native American thread we share.
Here is my interview with Mrs. Jager:
Why include the Nez Perce in your writing? Whatis your connection to them?
I grew up in Wallowa County the summer and winter home of the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce. We learned little bits and pieces about the Native Americans who once lived there but mostly only through the rodeo that happened every summer called Chief Joseph Days. I found it frustrating that in school we learned so little about the Nez Perce who were so important to the history of the area and that they were restricted from the valley other than during the rodeo until recently. They now hold a powwow near Wallowa every summer.
The members of the Chief Joseph band and several Nez Perce bands were chased from their homes because they didn’t sign a treaty to have their land taken from them. The first treaty they signed allowed them to keep the Wallowa country. When the Whiteman discovered the lush meadows and good soil another treaty was drawn up without the Wallowa country as part of the reservation. Some Nez Perce chiefs signed this treaty but not the bands who lived in the Wallowa country. When the Army started pushing them to go onto the reservation, the bands who did not sign the treaty felt they were being wrongfully evicted from their homeland. Some hotheaded younger warriors killed some Whitemen and the chase was on. The chiefs were trying to keep their people free by fleeing to Canada. But by evading the Army for so long and outmaneuvering them, they made even deeper enemies of the Army and the U.S. Government.
When Chief Joseph finally surrendered, they were told they could go home. But because the Army was upset over how well these bands of Indians had outfoxed them so often, the government, instead, took them as far away from Oregon as they could. After eight years of living in weather they’d never experienced with diseases local to the Oklahoma reservations, people lobbying for the Wallowa Nez Perce and the other bands with them, convinced the government to allow them to return to the Pacific Northwest. However, fearing the Indians who had fled for freedom would get the ones on the reservation riled up, the government didn’t send them to their home in Lapwai, Idaho. The government made them move to the Colville Indian reservation in Washington State with twelve other tribes. That injustice and the more I learn about the tribe has been the catalyst that makes me want to write about this particular tribe.
How did you come up with the idea for Shandra to be a potter?
I wanted to give Shandra an avocation that was a nod to her heritage and that was part of the art world. My brother is a sculptor and I can gather information from him about the art world. Which makes research on a subject I don’t know much easier. He also knows a potter who uses natural clay in his work. I interviewed the artist to learn more about how Shandra’s vases are made and what all she needed to do to use the natural clay from the mountain where she lives. I believe with her using the earth and making vases that have Native American touches to them, helps to show her discovering her heritage. So through her art and her grandmother coming to her in dreams, she is slowly embracing her heritage and using it to help her solve mysteries.
What research did you have to do for this series?
Having made Shandra a descendent of the Wallowa Nez Perce, I’ve traveled to the Colville Reservation to see the area, how they live, and see it from the same eyes as Shandra. Carmen Peone, who lives on the reservation gave me a detailed tour of the reservation. She introduced me to some people and informed me on the different lifestyles and animosities among the different tribes. Carmen has also helped me make sure I depicted Shandra’s relatives correctly. I read as many books on the Nez Perce and reservation life as I can find and try to make sure I am depicting the life but not stepping on any toes of the twelve tribes who live on the Colville Reservation.
Double Duplicity: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery
Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.
Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?
Windtree Press http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/double-duplicity/
Tarnished Remains: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery
Book two of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Murder… Deceit… Greed…
Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer. The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame.
Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved.
Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit. Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?
Windtree Press: http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/double-duplicity/
Deadly Aim: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery
Book three of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Passion… Secrets… Murder…
The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveal Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles—deadly ones.
Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined that won’t happen.
Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?
Windtree Press: http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/deadly-aim/
Murderous Secrets: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery Blurb
Book four in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series
The accident that took her father’s life has always haunted Shandra Higheagle. When her dreams become too real, she knows it’s time to discover the truth. It doesn’t take long to suspect her father had been murdered and that someone is unhappy with her probing.
Detective Ryan Greer knows Shandra well enough to insist he be kept informed of her investigation into the decades old death of her father. When signs implicate her mother, he can’t withhold the information, even though he realizes it could complicate their relationship.
Windtree Press – http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/murderous-secrets
Excerpt from Murderous Secrets:
Aunt Jo took hold of Shandra’s arm. “Come in and sit,” she said, pulling Shandra to the last stuffed chair. Jo sat in the folding chair next to Shandra.
All eyes were on her. Shandra smiled even though her first instinct was to flee. The churning in her stomach resembled her first day of grade school, before her mother started using Adam, her stepfather’s, last name when she registered Shandra for school.
Velma arrived with a cup of steaming hot coffee. “Nothing like a cup of coffee on a cold day like this,” she said, pulling up another folding chair on Shandra’s left.
“Thank you,” Shandra muttered before taking a sip. She wasn’t a coffee drinker, but she wasn’t going to refuse something warm to hold in her hands.
“Josephine said you had some questions for us about Edward,” Velma said, leaning toward Shandra.
Velma didn’t move into conversations as slowly as Shandra remembered Ella and her friends had when Shandra had visited the summer she was thirteen.
“Y-yes.” Shandra scanned the eager faces. She directed her attention to the older women. The ones who were alive when her father followed the rodeos, became married, and died. “I ran into an old cowboy who rode the circuit with father. Since I don’t remember much about my father, I asked the cowboy questions.” She smiled. “This cowboy, Phil Seeton, had only good things to say about father.” Her heart filled with the memories of Daddy. His kindness. “How father always treated others with respect.” She frowned. “Even the ones who weren’t nice to him.” Phil had told her stories of how some of the Caucasian cowboys had harassed the Indians on the circuit.
“Your father was a good man. A good Nez Perce,” Velma said, nodding her head.
Clarice and Jo also nodded their heads.
“Is that why you’re here? To find your roots by starting with your father?” Velma asked.
“Yes, and no.” Shandra took a sip of coffee to stall for time to find the right words.
Everyone watched her. She didn’t want to tell everyone about her dreams and Ella coming to her in them. Velma and Wendy would understand the significance, but Jo had told her Clarice didn’t care for her sister’s belief in the seven drum religion.
“I am interested in my roots. But I’m more interested in justice.” She peered into Velma’s eyes. She knew! Shandra stared into the depths of the woman’s eyes and saw the same thing she witnessed in her dreams. The horses in a circle staring down at her father.
Velma nodded and took her hand. “I’ve been waiting for you to seek the truth.”
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.
You can learn more about Paty at:
her blog; Writing into the Sunset
her website; http://www.patyjager.net