Book Release & Upcoming Events

Published Book CoverFinally! I’m pleased to announce that my latest book, Tarnished Brass, is now available for online purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and iTunes. It seems like the release has been a long time coming. I last posted a “Cover Reveal & Update” in June (see my post dated 06/27/19) and held a pre-release book signing at the San Antonio A&M Club in July. It’s now October!

Such are the vagaries of the publishing business, and there are still some processes yet to be finalized by Page Publishing– the formal press release and a promotional video. Of course, marketing is a totally different phase that will begin in earnest the end of this month with a Book Blog Tour from Lone Star Literary Life.

For anyone who has yet to read a summary of the book, the novella is loosely based on my own experiences in-country:

More than just a history of the war in El Salvador, a conflict that ended almost thirty years ago, Tarnished Brass gives voice to those who fought and those who only wanted to escape the violence. It is a reflection on war and its aftermath as seen through the eyes of a U.S. Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member —

Patrick Michael Moynihan finds himself returning to the small Central American country where, as a young impressionistic junior officer, he was thrust into the middle of a brutal civil war.

Miguel Alejandro Xenias, once a member of the ruling elite in El Salvador, recalls his change of heart, advancement within the guerrilla movement, and his new found hope for the country now that the FMLN is in power.

Antonio Cruz, seeking a new life in America, finds only a different kind of hatred and conflict, joins the street gang MS-13, and returns home bringing with him a new kind of warfare.

These perspectives spotlight an ongoing struggle in El Salvador that continues to impact the immigration crisis on our southern border and the spread of gang violence throughout the United States.



The Journey of the Pale Bear: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Excerpt

Middle Grade / Medieval Historical Fiction
(grades 3-7)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Date of Publication: October 2, 2018
Paperback: October 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 302

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A runaway boy befriends a polar bear that’s being transported from Norway to London in this lyrical and timeless adventure story about freedom, captivity, and finding a family.


The polar bear is a royal bear, a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England. The first time Arthur encounters the bear, he is shoved in her cage as payback for stealing food. Restless and deadly, the bear terrifies him. Yet, strangely, she doesn’t harm him—though she has attacked anyone else who comes near. That makes Arthur valuable to the doctor in charge of getting the bear safely to London. So Arthur, who has run away from home, finds himself taking care of a polar bear on a ship to England.
Tasked with feeding and cleaning up after the bear, Arthur’s fears slowly lessen as he begins to feel a connection to this bear, who like him, has been cut off from her family. But the journey holds many dangers, and Arthur knows his own freedom—perhaps even his life—depends on keeping the bear from harm. When pirates attack and the ship founders, Arthur must make a choice—does he do everything he can to save himself, or does he help the bear to find freedom?
Based on the real story of a polar bear that lived in the Tower of London, this timeless adventure story is also a touching account of the bond between a boy and a bear.


Honor Book, Golden Kite Awards, 2019
Vermont’s 2019-2020 Dorothy Canfield Fisher list
2020 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Children’s Masterlist
School Library Connection highly recommended book
Junior Library Guild Selection
50 Must-Read Historical Fiction Books for Kids,

“…a stupendous coming-of-age-tale stuffed with adventure and laced with deeper questions… A richly satisfying story saturated with color, adventure, and heart.” –Kirkus, starred review

“I simply adore this novel. It has it all: gorgeous prose, fascinating history, riveting adventure. But it’s the unlikely tender friendship between a lonely boy and a polar bear that makes this a story to cherish. A lovely little miracle of a book.”

–Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan“I loved every single thing about this large-hearted and riveting medieval adventure.” —William Alexander, National Book Award-winning author of Goblin Secrets


Excerpt from Chapter 30 of

Journey of the Pale Bear

By Susan Fletcher

(This is after Arthur and the bear have had a few adventures together.  They have been separated, and here they come together again.)


I whipped round…and saw a great white shape loping across the field toward us.

The bear.

She ran with an easy, galumphing grace, and I halfway wanted to follow the children into the berry bushes, and I halfway wanted to go to the bear and greet her, because she was the closest thing I had to a friend in this place.  She had left me unharmed in her cage.  She had borne me through the sea.  She had slept beside me and warmed me.  Still, a clamoring of inner voices said, She’s a bear!  Run!  Run!

But my stepfather had told me never to run from a bear, because you will look like prey.  And an ice bear can outrun you every time.  So I forced myself to be still, to root my feet to the ground.

She slowed as she approached me.  She made a little grunting sound, a sound like a welcome.  She stretched out her head toward me and shook it in a way that seemed almost playful.  She grunted again and then brushed past me, filling my nose with the scent of her.  She began sniffing along the edge of the brambles.

All the air whooshed out of me.  I hadn’t truly thought she would harm me, but still…

The bear was rummaging deep into the bramble patch, holding the branches with her paws and sweeping up ripe berries with her tongue.

All at once, her head whipped up.  She sniffed at the air, seeming puzzled.

Voices.  Deeper ones, this time.

Four or five men and boys appeared at a distance, beyond the brambles.  Some of them began to shout and wave their arms like henwives driving their birds.

The bear turned to me, as if to ask what I made of this strange behavior.

A stocky man with a bushy, russet-colored beard reached for something behind his back—and nocked an arrow in his bow.  An arrow arced high in the air…

The bear wheeled round and crashed through the bushes, toward me.  The man loosed three more arrows in quick succession; one zinged by me so close, I felt it sting my ear.

The bear hurtled past…and I took off running, too.


Although Susan loves to write about long-ago and faraway places, she can’t bring those worlds to life without grounding them in the details of this one. To that end, she has explored lava tubes and sea caves; spent the night in a lighthouse; traveled along the Silk Road in Iran; ridden in a glider, on a camel, and on a donkey; and cut up (already dead!) baby chicks and mice for a gyrfalcon’s dinner. To research Journey of the Pale Bear, she explored the grounds of the Tower of London and went backstage at the Oregon Zoo, where, standing breathtakingly near, she watched polar bears Tasul and Conrad lip grapes from their keepers’ open palms.Journey of the Pale Bear is Susan’s 12th book, including the Dragon Chronicles series, Shadow Spinner, and Alphabet of Dreams. Collectively, her books have been translated into nine languages; accolades include a Golden Kite Honor Book, the American Library Association’s Notable Books and Best Books for Young Adults, BCCB Blue Ribbon Books, and School Library Journal’s Best Books.

Susan has an M.A. in English from the University of Michigan and taught for many years in the M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College. She lives in Bryan, Texas with her husband, historian R.J.Q. Adams, and their dog, Neville.

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Killing Patton – The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General: My Review

Killing Patton Book CoverHaving recently reviewed Killing the SS (see my post dated August 23, 2019) I was asked by a friend whether I had read Killing Patton, another entry in the series by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. I had not, so I was given his copy to read.

From the title you might think that the book focuses solely on Patton’s death in December 1945. It does not. In fact, only the last few chapters are devoted to the “accident” that initially left him paralyzed and took his life less than two weeks later. There’s a definite reason for this which I’ll address in a moment.

Most of the book is an account of the waning days of World War II. The Nazis are defeated but the Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, clings to the delusion that he can somehow turn the tide of war and yet claim victory. He mounts an all out counterattack in the Ardennes Forest that is so unexpected that it nearly succeeds before the Wehrmacht and the SS Panzer Divisions simply run out of petrol and can advance no further.

The Battle of the Bulge, as it is known to history, sets the stage for General George Patton’s Third Army to rush to the relief of the 101st Airborne Division trapped in the town of Bastogne, Belgium. It will be his greatest moment in a career of amazing accomplishments.

Forever the warrior, Patton doesn’t believe that World War II is the war to end all wars. He sees the Soviet Union as the next big threat even as the Soviet Army is given the honor of taking Berlin. He is outspoken in his characterization of Soviet forces as Mongol hordes, and the ruthless slaughter and rape that occurs as they liberate previously held German territories is proof of Stalin’s brutal push for Soviet hegemony in postwar Europe.

Patton’s outspokenness has got him in trouble before. A casual remark to women at the opening of a “Welcome Club” for American soldiers in Knutsford, England causes an uproar when Patton slights the Soviets by telling the gathering that the Americans and British will rule a postwar world. The well-intentioned words make headlines around the world and he becomes a political liability. “His hopes of assuming a major postwar command in a world divided between the United States and the Soviet Union had all but vanished.”

“Old Blood & Guts” also has no tolerance for cowardice. While visiting with soldiers that have been wounded in battle he encounters two men suffering from what we refer to today as PTSD. There’s no such diagnosis at the time and when he sees no visible wounds, he not only berates the soldiers in question but orders them back to the front, and on two separate occasions strikes the afflicted servicemen. In the latter instance, he even pulls out his pistol and threatens to shoot the individual on the spot. Such actions almost lead to his relief from command and reduction in rank, but his skills as a battlefield commander are yet sorely needed. Patton is forced to issue a public apology and his standing and influence in a postwar world are further marginalized.

All of these accounts are well known, covered by the press and captured on celluloid in the 1970 Academy Award winning film “Patton” starring George C. Scott. Where O’Reilly and Dugard really standout, however, is in little known background information and insights involving world leaders such as Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and Truman, and both the Allied and German military commanders; Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, Zhukov, Rommel, Peiper and their personalities, ambitions, strategies and tactics that determined victory or defeat. No other historical writers offer these kind of anecdotes and details about World War II.

Ironically and through no fault of their own, these are exactly the type of details lacking in the story of Patton’s death. The official accident report no longer exists. The driver of the 2.5 ton vehicle that struck Patton’s jeep, Tech Sergeant Robert L. Thompson, was never investigated for driving a stolen vehicle or operating it under the influence and simply vanishes from the historical record. The only report is that of PFC Horace Woodring, Patton’s driver, who claims he never made or signed any such report.

Even more interesting is the initial diagnosis that, in spite of his paralysis, Patton will recover from his injuries and regain some mobility. Two weeks later he is dead and no autopsy to determine the cause of death is ever performed. And, still more damning is a confession on September 25,1979 by OSS operative Douglas Bazata that he was part of a hit team that assassinated the general. Bazata claims to have fired a projectile into Patton’s neck that snapped it, but when he didn’t immediately die, Soviet NKVD intelligence operatives poisoned him while he was recovering at the U.S. Army 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.

In the Afterword to their book, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard call for a re-examination of the case in the belief that technological advances might resolve the mystery. Regardless of whether the many unanswered questions are ever resolved, this is another fascinating entry into the Killing series.




The Gryphon Heist: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Review

(Talia Inger, Book One)
Genre: Contemporary Christian / Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 3, 2019
Number of Pages: 400

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Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them.

With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where criminal minds and unlikely strategies compete for access to the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault that hovers in the mesosphere. But is Tyler actually helping her? Or is he using her for his own dark purposes?

“A movie-worthy tale of espionage and intrigue. Hannibal has done it again.”–Steven James, national bestselling author of Every Wicked Man

“James Hannibal has crafted a story slam full of mystery, danger, twists, and turns. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough–or bother to stop to breathe. You don’t want to miss this one!”–Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author of the Blue Justice series

The Gryphon Heist plunges readers into a world where no one can be trusted, nothing is as it seems, and choosing the wrong side could be catastrophic.”–Lynn H. Blackburn, award-winning and bestselling author of the Dive Team Investigations series

“Leap on board The Gryphon Heist and ride the whirlwind of suspense. Don’t let go!”–DiAnn Mills, bestselling author of Burden of Proof



“WE’RE TALKING THE MOTHER of all heists.”

James R. Hannibal welcomes readers to the world of espionage in Book One of the Talia Inger series, The Gryphon Heist, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted.

Talia has just failed a practical exercise to test whether she should become a CIA case officer, yet in spite of this she isn’t dismissed from the Agency but placed in an obscure Eastern European department known only as “Other,” and given what appears to be a routine, boring assignment. It is far more than that involving the theft of revolutionary defense technology and a race against time to stop an attack on Washington, D.C. Did her handlers deliberately mislead her? Is this somehow a con within a con? Hannibal drives the action and excitement with interesting characters, edge of your seat as well as humorous situations, and a plot that will keep the reader guessing right along with Talia.

Two men vie for Talia’s loyalty. Adam Tyler is a former CIA operative with a secret past tied to the death of Talia’s father in an automobile accident. Pavel Ivanov is the dashing director of Avantec, a Moldovan Aerospace Corporation. Either may be the infamous Lukon, a former MI-6 assassin now in business for himself in the regional arms trade and known for pulling off high-level heists. Who should Talia trust? If she makes the wrong assessment it could cost her her life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians living in the nation’s capital.

Reminiscent of Mission Impossible, a team of specialists is put together to go after the Gryphon, a mesospheric airship with an impregnable vault where the stolen data is stored. Eddie Gupta is a technology whiz capable of hacking into any platform. Michael Finn is an Australian high-flying cat burglar internationally famous for his daredevil stunts. Valkyrie is a grifter with connections to the Italian Mafia and a gift for reading people. Macauley Plucket is a former RAF pilot and EU astronaut candidate able to drive or fly any kind of vehicle or airframe; he’s also a Scottish brute whose loyalty can be bought if the price is right. And, Darcy Emile is a French demolitions expert who prides herself in the art of precise explosions.

There are plot twists and surprises galore as this odd assortment of con artists, thieves, hackers, current and former CIA operatives bond as a team and jet set across Europe to find real answers to the identity of Lukon and stop him from carrying out his plans.

James R. Hannibal transcends the typical spy novel writing not only a fast-paced, exciting and entertaining story, but one that looks into deeper underlying questions of faith and redemption, “the greater good,” and the moral ambiguities of covert operations.

“Sometimes the moral ambiguities of covert work are hard. We do the job with the legal blessing of one government, acting against the laws of another…. Don’t focus on the greater good. Focus on a higher power — the higher power [God]. That’s how we put what we do to a moral test.”

Hannibal’s book ends with a sneak peek into the continuing story. Chasing the White Lion is due out in the spring of 2020. If it’s anything like Book One, it will have readers anxiously awaiting its release!

Former stealth pilot James R. Hannibal is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. He lives in Houston, Texas.

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September 26-October 6, 2019

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The Whip: My Review

Karen Kondazian’s debut novel is a historically accurate and  emotionally compelling look at the life of Charley Parkhurst, a famous stagecoach driver (Whip) for Wells Fargo in the 1800s.

The Whip Book Cover“One-Eyed Charley” drove passengers and payloads overland in California for over thirty years covering rugged terrain and encountering dangerous highwaymen along the way. He was remembered for always being on time, for his understanding and deft handling of the horses, his colorful language, dirt crusted and sunburned visage, taste for whiskey, chewing tobacco and cigars, a friendly demeanor that earned him respect and friendship, and nerves of steel that kept him calm in all circumstances. Everyone in the territory from Sacramento to San Jose to San Francisco knew Charley Parkhurst… or thought they did. When he died in 1879 from tongue and throat cancer, Charley’s well kept secret was finally revealed. He was a woman!

This is a fascinating book that reveals a part of the Old West that is seldom written about; there were a lot of women who assumed male identities in order to survive. Although it re-imagines the details of Charley’s secret life, it unfolds with amazing sensitivity and authenticity. The characters have real depth, and Charley’s path from orphan, to wife and mother, to widow with nothing but revenge driving her onward, to stagecoach driver, equality and freedom in a male dominated world, makes for compelling reading.

Karen Kondazian has not only captured the historical period in rich detail, but more importantly she reveals Charley’s inner thoughts and emotions that bear witness to the secret longings and loneliness that living such a life must have had on this remarkable woman.

Fact is often stranger than fiction, yet in this case the imaginative mind of Karen Kondazian takes what little is known of this historical figure, fills in the blanks, and writes a novel that the reader will find hard to put down. The Whip is thoughtful, often heartbreaking, yet in the end… triumphant!

Whether you are a fan of the western genre or not, this is a must read. Don’t miss it.

Fatal Strike: Author Interview



Genre: Romantic Suspense / Clean Romance / Christian
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: September 3, 2019
Number of Pages: 400
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There’s a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. Authorities have reasons to believe the Veneno gang is behind the hits, and FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down those responsible. Their best lead is an eyewitness who identifies a young man dumping the third body on a church doorstep. But their suspect has gone into hiding, and those closest to him are reluctant to reveal anything that might help investigators find him.
As Leah and Jon check connections among the victims and dig deeper into motives, they discover appearances may be deceiving. Someone is desperate to keep their secrets hidden, and Leah and Jon must face their greatest fears in order to stop the next fatal strike.


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How do you come up with fresh ideas for your books? How do you beat writer’s block?

My ideas come from the media, dreams, watching TV or movies, and sometimes ideas just pop into my head. Writer’s block means I don’t know what happens next.  When I’m stuck, I do one of three things: (1) write a scene I know is coming, (2) go back to the beginning and read and edit, or (3) do something else creative like cook, garden, or shopping.

How do you come up with your ideas for plots, characters, and settings?

Through life experiences, media reports, conversations, dreams, observing people, and the belief people are impacted by story. My goal is for the plot to twist and turn in unpredictable but believable ways. I strive for characters who are three dimensional with realistic (messy) backgrounds. Settings are designed to be antagonistic, so the character is challenged deal with yet one more way to change and grow.

How do you develop your plots? Do you outline them, knowing the end before you start? Do you let the plot develop as you go? Or do you use some other technique?

I’m an organic writer, which means everything rises from character. No, I do not outline because that process ruins my creative adventure. If a plot sails into unexpected waters, I want the surprise to be as huge for me as the reader.

What matters most is characterization. Before writing chapter one, line one, I pose several pages of questions and exercises through an interview with my character. The psychological aspect is critical in establishing goals, fears, wants, and needs. This allows me to know my character as much as possible before beginning, but I learn more about the character as the story unfolds.

Why did you decide to become a writer in the romantic suspense genre specifically?

Romantic suspense is my favorite genre. We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. My goal is to show real relational people who are trained to keep us safe. And along the way, they find the gift of love.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a Christian author in this genre?

Making violence a part of the story but keeping graphic scenes that glorify the violence out.

What role does faith play in the story?

My hero and heroine are snipers. Those who serve and defend us sometimes face situations where taking a life may be necessary. How does God view a sniper, soldier, law enforcement officer, or a person who protects himself or others? Where does God fit? The Scriptures show us many instances of God assisting His people in killing entire armies during times of war. If we are to live in a country without anarchy, we need police and soldiers. David, a man after God’s own heart, was a skilled warrior. While God despises the shedding of blood, He also knows what’s in the hearts of evil people. God is just. God is righteous. I believe a Christian involved in law enforcement is doing a good and godly thing to stop evil.

Do you have any unusual writing techniques or strategies?

I have a definite word count for each day and editing is done before moving on to the next scene or chapter. I’m most creative in the early mornings. I start my day in God’s word, then grab my laptop, and head to my treadmill. The laptop props nicely allowing me to exercise my body at the same time I’m writing.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol Award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. She’s very active online and loves to connect with readers.


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Broken Treaties

National Historic Trail

History records countless instances of broken treaties and forced relocation of Native Americans as the result of westward expansion. My novel of the Southern Plains Indian Wars, Palo Duro, begins with the negotiations at Medicine Lodge Creek whereat the U.S. government altered the terms of the Little Arkansas Treaty signed just two years prior.

Under the provisions of the new treaties (there would be three in all) the Kiowa, the Apache and the Comanche were required to give up more than 60,000 square miles of their land in the Texas Panhandle in exchange for a reservation in Indian Territory, and the parts of Kansas and Indian Territory previously set aside for the Southern Cheyenne and the Arapahoe were also cut in half. 

Earlier in the 1830s the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek, and Cherokee (known collectively as the Five Civilized Tribes) had also been forced from their ancestral lands in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida, and relocated west of the Mississippi to Indian Territory. Thousands died along the way, and the journey became known as the Trail of Tears.

Although the sovereignty of the Indian nations would be affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Worcester vs. Georgia (1832), the demand for more land by white settlers led to the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830. The Act required the U.S. government to negotiate with the tribes in good faith. However the spirit of the law was frequently ignored, and by the 1840s thousands of Native Americans had been driven off their land in the Southeastern United States and force marched to present-day Oklahoma. The Choctaw became the first nation to be forcibly expelled. This tribe was followed by the Creeks. The last to go were the Cherokee.

By 1838 only about 2,000 of the estimated 16,000 Cherokee had “voluntarily” left their homeland. The U.S. Army under General Winfield Scott was authorized to expedite the removal of the holdouts. It is estimated that somewhere between 5,000-8,000  perished from disease and starvation as they made their way westward.

The promises of an unmolested new home for those that survived also failed to materialize. Indian Territory shrank as more and more white settlers encroached on these lands, and when Oklahoma became a state in 1907 the guarantee of this new homeland was gone for good.

Over a hundred years later, on August 23rd 2019, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation announced that the tribe would appoint its first delegate to the House of Representatives. The prospect of a sitting congressional representative is historic. While the tribe’s delegate will lack a chamber vote, for the very first time a Cherokee will sit on House committees (e.g., Appropriations, Ways and Means, etc.) which will provide the Cherokee Nation with direct access to members of Congress who do possess voting power.

What remains uncertain is whether the United States government will honor long standing treaty rights. The provision authorizing representation is contained in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Only now has the Cherokee Nation obtained sufficient economic and political clout to move forward, but it remains to be seen whether the treaty will be contested. Treaties negotiated with sovereign nations do not expire, but if history is any indication, those applying to Native Americans can certainly be ignored.

The last chapter in the Southern Plains Indians’ struggle ended much as the first chapter began – in broken promises.

Hopefully the Cherokee Nation and its new delegate to the House of Representatives will write not just a new chapter in Native American history, but one that expresses hope for their future.