The Native American background to this story is based on archeological data from the Mississipian city of Cahokia and the accounts of French observers among the Natchez, the last great Mississipian nation.
All the action occurs on the upper terrace of Monks Mound ("The Great Pyramid") in Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, near Collinsville, Illinois.
Claudia Gellman Mink'sCahokia: City of the Sun provides an excellent introduction to life in Cahokia, with several illustrations of the city and the Great Pyramid. Further information is available from the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. For the collapse of the west side of the pyramid c. AD 1200, see Sampling Monks Mound, an account of recent excavations on the pyramid.
The exact nature of the conections between Mesoamerican and Mississippian civilizations remain controversial. So I felt free to appropriate a few Aztec concepts for "Appropriate technology/ Appropriate Magic." Sun Woman's Cougar Knight guards are northern versions of Aztec Jaguar and Eagle Knights. The title "Lord" is a Mississipian equivalent to Aztec honourifics like pilli and tzin .
Lord Whitecrow the Sorcerer, and Air Demon are figments of my imagination, but Sun Woman was an authentic Natchez title. "The woman chief," wrote Father Jacques Gravier in 1701, "they call OŘachil Tamail, Sun Woman (who is always the sister, and not the wife, of the great chief)". Describing the power a Sun Woman could wield, Father Gravier mentions a "famous woman chief ... this woman made herself so distinguished by the blows she inflicted upon enemies, having herself led several war parties, that she was regarded as an Amazon and the ruler of the entire community, which awarded her the highest honours ... [she]took first place in every Council, and when she walked she was always preceded by four young men who sang and danced the calumet to her."
The "Morning Prayer" ceremony was witnessed by Fathers Mathurin Le Petit and Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix. I just added words to the motions they described.
On 12 July, 1730, Father Le Petit wrote that: "Every morning the great Chief honours by his presence the rising of his elder brother [the sun], and salutes him with many shouts as soon as he appears above the horizon. Then he gives orders that they shall light his calumet; he makes him an offering of the first three puffs which he draws; afterward raising his hand above his head and turning from the East to the West, he shows him the direction which he must take in his course."
Father Charlevoix, who visited the Natchez in 1719, noted in 1744 that: "Every morning, as soon as the Sun appears, the great chief goes to the door of his cabin, turns to the east and shouts three times, while prostrating himself on the ground. One then brings him a Calumet, which is only used on these occasions, he smokes, and blows the smoke of his tobacco towards the morning star; then he does the same thing towards each of three other parts of the world."
Pipe Bearer's spellcasting is based upon Father Charlevoix's description of Natchez shamans performing a rain-summoning ritual. With a "rattle in one hand and their Manitou in the other, they play on one and raise the other in the air, inviting by frightful cries the clouds to water the countryside."
The top left and bottom right images are details from David Rickman, Eastern Woodland Indians, middle of the eighteenth century, Department of National Defence. The top right and bottom left images are NASA photos of M16-the Eagle Nebula, prepared by the Space Telescope Science Institute.