It was such an honor to have 25 friends and family join me to celebrate the launch of my new book: Among the Original Dwellers. My cousins from my mom's side (the Heins) joined my family from Woodstock and dear friends here in Madison. I apologize to those who may have tried to join us but were dissuaded by another event that was happening in the same building. (Here is the the "bare" minimum of what you missed. ;-) )
I had on display pictures and some of my resource materials. As I spoke and answered really great questions we snacked on Indian snacks and chai. After a good hour I then signed some books. I am interested in promoting my book in your city, so please contact me to explore how such an event as this could be done somewhere near you!
I began by speaking about one of the more interesting experiences I had during my visit in Jharkhand, where most of the book takes place. At the time the region was called Chota Nagpur.
In 2016 i celebrated Easter with the Adivasi Christians. Their celebration is the most unique it comes from a unique blend of Moravian and Adivasi traditions. The easter sunrise service takes place in the cemetery and the Resurrection is celebrated together with the ancestors. The graves, which generally are mounds of earth, are white washed and then decorated with flowers and candles before the sun arises. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful sights.
I explained the traditional Adivasi views of life after death. The various tribes (two dominant ones were the Oroan and Munda) believe in one Creator God. They feel detached from that God and most of their spiritual concerns are appeasing the spirit world. Spirits are primarily ancestors who were not properly taken care of after they died and so did not go to their final resting place, but wander around as hungry and vindictive spirits. This is one of the reasons many Adivasi were drawn to Christianity, because it offered an escape not only for themselves but also their ancestors to be able to share a hope of a Resurrected life in the here-after, and also an redeemed and abundant life here on earth.
This autobiography of one the the missionaries who helped establish Christianity here in Chota Nagpur, is about connecting with our ancestor's stories. The legacy of Ferdinand Hahn, my great great grandfather, is felt to this day by the descendents both biologically and spiritually.
I then spoke of how the diary of his wife, Doris, inspired this story and my journey to research my family. This led to a journey to understand how globalized the end of the 19th century was so that there was a connection between Germany, England America and this most remote forest plateau region that was home for centuries to the Adivasi (indigenous peoples/tribals) of this part of India.
I was also grateful that my 94.5 year old father, Ted Feierabend, was in attendance. He has been my greatest supporter, cheerleader, encouragers, sounding board, translator, research assistant and financier. He also shared some of his insights about this very important history.
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Mary Girard with Bishop Nirmal Minz and his wife, Parakleeta, two remarkable leaders of the Adivasi Christians of Jharkhand. They are writer's themselves and have encouraged me much in my pursuit as a writer and have inspired many others. I am an author of my first book that is seeking publication. Among the Original Dwellers: Remembering Ferdinand Hahn, tells of the life story of my great great grandfather who was a missionary from 1868-1910 in Chota Nagpur. In writing his story I discovered the story of the Adivasi of the region who were also impacted by his life. I am now committed to inspiring others to learn and write about their Christian Adivasi heritage.