Our youth-focused series promotes a positive alternative … and a sense of hope for those feeling helpless in their situations
In 1996 we launched the Eagle Feather series. Veteran author Bernard Palmer (perhaps best known for the Danny Orlis youth series) wrote the first five books and, after his passing in 1998, NCEMer Karen Peters continued.
Karen explains what’s behind this outreach to First Nations teens:
Northern Lights: First of all, Karen, why a Bible camp theme in Book 8?
Karen Peters: As missionaries, our goal is always to multiply our efforts. The effect of having a reader actually attend a camp is far greater than merely reading about the fictitious characters’ experiences. But besides promoting the idea of attending Bible camp, it was also a great setting to deal with the main conflict in the story — are we worshiping creation or the Creator?
NLs: The Eagle Feather books deal with serious issues like suicide, drug abuse, family break-up and more. Is that realistic?
KP: I think that teens living through issues like the ones illustrated in the books would say we’ve even been too gentle in our descriptions. I never want to give the impression that all youth and all families are plagued with these evils but, in all honesty, very close to most are affected by these problems in their extended families or communities, if not their own homes and lives. My goal is always to promote a positive alternative to abuse and addictions, and a sense of hope for those feeling helpless in their situations.
NLs: Are these books just for Native teens?
KP: It’s interesting that sometimes we’re less threatened by reading about the problems of someone who’s just different enough from us so we don’t have to compare our lives too closely.
In Book 7, for example, I deal with the issue of “backsliding.” Really it’s often adults who can’t see how they can ever return to fellowship with God and the Christian community. It seems that in every culture the heart issues are basically the same even if our externals are different. In that book I chose to include a Caucasian character to try and bridge the gap for First Nations and other cultures to see that none of us “own” a certain problem.
NLs: Along with real life issues, the Eagle Feather books each contain a mystery. How important is that?
KP: That’s what makes them fun to read (and write!). When we’re learning something we need emotional “payoffs” or relief. That’s especially true for younger readers. And realistically, how many teens — Christian or not, Native or not — will pick up a book called “How To Be Sure You’re Worshiping the Creator” or “A Week at Bible Camp Will Change Your Life”?
NLs: Some of the Eagle Feather books also give insight into the lives of these teens’ parents. What do we learn about them?
KP: When I write, I’m sometimes shocked at how much a part of the story I become, and how much I learn in the process of doing research.
I think for an adult living in an isolated northern community who wants to serve the Lord, there are probably two things that make it incredibly difficult.
One is the lack of Christian example and fellowship. The second difficulty is the adult’s own reputation. The whole community knows them and has developed expectations for their behaviour. There often is no new group to turn to who doesn’t know them and their past. Their own family and friends may be the ones who entice them back into old habits. I tried to address this in Book 6 where Mrs. Yazzie leaves her community temporarily for both of these reasons.
NLs: So how can we encourage Native teens to read these books?
KP: Ideally, I’d like to see them produced as cartoon-style videos (any animators reading this?!), or having them recorded onto audio CDs so they could be distributed, and also used by northern radio stations.
In the meantime, we know that many teens do read. They may not likely buy a book for themselves, however, so exposure is key — making them available in libraries, literature racks in churches, public buildings, etc. It would be great if some of our Northern Lights readers would take this on as a ministry.
An Outreach You Can Be Part Of!
Consider purchasing a quantity of Eagle Feather books to give away as gifts and prizes, or placed in libraries and literature racks where young readers (and others) can pick one up.
Click “Book Store” to read more about the Eagle Feather series, or to order.
Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #495). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.