I Left My Heart At Wounded Knee
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
My name is Rosetta Diane Hoessli, Ronni to my friends, and I'm a writer. I've been a writer for years, but I didn't find a home for my first novel until New Years Day, 2021. Once that news sank in, I couldn't help but think back to how my book, Whispers Through Time, came to be.
One of the most amazing experiences of my life took place in the autumn of 2000, when my husband, Kevin, and I visited the South Dakota Badlands in our motorhome and rode horses with a Lakota Sioux guide during a magnificent thunderstorm. Those churning, swirling, gray-green clouds and razor-slim, straight-down-to-the-earth lightning bolts brought me closer to the fury of God than I ever want to be again. Although the first seed of Whispers Through Time was planted in that moment, I didn't root myself to a chair in front of my computer to actually work until 2017.
South Dakota is a magical place, filled with Old West history and some of the most incredibly beautiful terrain I've ever seen in my life. But I have to admit I never would've suggested to Kevin that we go there if we hadn't seen Dances With Wolves not long before. As we walked out of that theater, I knew I had to see the Badlands, the bison, and the Black Hills for myself. The magnetic pull of South Dakota was like a siren's call; I had no choice.
When we set up camp in a KOA in the Badlands, I met a Sioux artist who came into the office to show the owner something he'd etched in pen and ink on rabbit skin. (Later I discovered the artist's name is Daniel Long Soldier and he's a highly respected artist in South Dakota.) Ordinarily I'm very shy and would never think of interrupting a private conversation like that one, but something about this man and his work grabbed me and I lost any sense of propriety I ever had. I immediately begged him to allow me to buy the piece - even though I think he might've been preparing to give it to his friend. What could he do but sell it to me? Not only did this piece start my American Indian collection of art and pottery, but a historical character in Whispers Through Time popped right into my head, fully developed and ready to go.
(Click on photo for more information)
But the turning point in my life and the experience that fully cemented the story of Whispers Through Time in my brain took place at a lonely ravine on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It was located near Wounded Knee Creek, not far from a small cemetery that looks down on it from a rolling incline across the road. I'm embarrassed to admit I knew little about the original Massacre at Wounded knee in December 1890 when more than 300 Indian men, women and children were slaughtered by white soldiers, and even less about the Occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, but that didn't really matter.
I've learned since that you can't visit that isolated piece of ground without feeling somewhere deep in your gut that something truly horrific happened there. As I stood alone, looking across the creek and over the ravine, darkness literally covered the land in front of me. The air suddenly filled with the acrid, eye-stinging odor of smoke and gunpowder. Bullets whizzed past my ears and cannon fire exploded all around me. As I heard blood-curdling shrieks and weeping cutting through the prairie wind, I couldn't understand how it was that I was still alone.
But I was. There wasn't another soul around.
As we meandered through the Wounded Knee Memorial Cemetery, I felt bombarded by characters begging to be heard. It was among the most insane, frightening experiences of my life, yet I knew I had to pay attention - and I did. By nightfall, the premise of Whispers Through Time had been born.
It was to remain in my Idea Notebook for another 17 years.
But all those years weren't wasted. I worked with people on projects I truly enjoyed, took care of my family - and researched Native American history from every vantage point I could think of. I met incredible American Indian people, read books by American Indian writers, watched movies acted in and directed by American Indian actors and directors. As I did, I never forgot that amazing experience beside the Wounded Knee Creek, and I was determined to pass it on in some way that might make a difference to readers who wanted to know more.
I'm sharing this story with you because I hope if you read Whispers Through Time, you'll understand that much of it is not only true, but real. And I hope you'll come to appreciate its possibilities as much as I do.
Please let me know what you think! I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
*Touch base with me on my Facebook Author Page (facebook.com/RosettaDianeAuthor), my Contact Page on this website (https://www.RosettaWrites.net), or follow me on Twitter at @DianeHoessli.