True Story of Stolen Remains of Ancestors Inspires New Historical Novel
"Return of the Bones" (ISBN 1475187424) begins with an old Native American explaining to his granddaughter that she will be the last of the Pecos people once he dies and she has a responsibility to return her family's remains to their original resting place. "You must search for the others, the ones who were stolen from their graves." His granddaughter is not inclined to undertake such a journey she believes only a crazy old shaman could dream up. While she has her misgivings, Hollow-Woman finally agrees to drive Grandfather to Boston in what turns out to be a spiritual journey, quest of self-discovery, and an appreciation of family and culture. Her grandfather creates a magical dreamcatcher that occasionally transports her to the past so she can experience her ancestors' triumphs and tragedies.
"Allowing the reader to see the story of her ancestors as Hollow-Woman does, through the dreamcatcher, is an exciting way to tell history," Garcia says.
Hollow-Woman and Grandfather learn that their family skeletons have not been idol at the Peabody Museum but were used as research subjects, contributing to medical studies.
Garcia says in 1915, Harvard University archaeologists parted the red earth of the Pecos Pueblo ruins in New Mexico to reveal the graves of a people whose amazing journey from death to research subjects would allow this country to produce a landmark medical study which would influence the health of people throughout the world. Garcia learned that the skeletal remains of these extinct people were actually used in osteoporosis studies to prove that exercise can strengthen aging bones. Medical studies of the Pecos Bones also made strides in nutrition research, head injuries, trauma, dental cavities, and other diseases. The archaeological dig was the beginning of American Archaeology and revolutionized a new system, the Pecos Chronology, for identifying and dating ancient sites. The Pecos Bones became the foundation for scientific knowledge about the earliest cultures of the American Southwest.
While these facts are important to science, Garcia notes that her novel is really intended to tell the story of the Pecos Bones, which were unearthed by archaeologist, Alfred V. Kidder, and transported from the Pecos Pueblo near Santa Fe to Boston, MA. This fictional account, Garcia explains, combines the history of the Pecos Pueblo and its people, while using Native American mysticism, a diary of the archaeology dig, and a sprinkle of her own imagination to tell the story of the eventual return of the bones for reburial.