Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Vanessa Lillie on the Historical Erasure of Indigenous People and their Current Representation 

Air Dates: April 29-May 5, 2024 

The novelist has a way of exploring issues—putting flesh on bones—to tell stories about people that can educate, inform, sometimes inspire, and often anger. Vanessa Lillie uses that art form to shine a light on challenges facing native communities and native women, in particular. 

Lillie is the author of the 2023 USA Today bestselling suspense novel, “Blood Sisters,” which launches a new series with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit at the heart of the stories. “Blood Sisters” was a Target Book Club pick and GMA Book Club Buzz Pick as well as named one of the best mystery novels in 2023 by the Washington Post and Amazon. Her previous bestselling thrillers are “Little Voices” and “For the Best.” She also co-authored the number one bestselling and ITW award-nominated Audible Original, “Young Rich Widows,” and its sequel, “Desperate Deadly Widows.” Lillie was also a columnist for the Providence Journal and hosts an Instagram Live show with crime fiction authors. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma living on Narragansett land in Rhode Island. 

On this episode of “Story in the Public Square,” gives her novel, “Blood Sisters,” some context, discussing why she decided to implement her Cherokee heritage into the novel. She says “I knew I wanted to write about being Cherokee, but I also wanted to write about it in the right way and the right context. So much of Indigenous history in America is about erasure, and I felt like by talking about my real family, our real history, why we are in Northeastern Oklahoma, even in a fictional setting, it sort of fought against that kind of erasure.” Lillie is passionate about fighting indigenous erasure and goes on to describe issues that exist in the United States today. She emphasizes cultural erasure as “when you’re trying to steal land, steal resources, and dominate a culture, you have to remove the culture. Indigenous people fought back for hundreds of years and really continue to—we are still here.” She adds, “it’s something that’s being talked about more and being shared more, but I think we have a lot to reconcile with what has been done.” 

“Story in the Public Square” broadcasts each week on public television stations across the United States. A full listing of the national television distribution is available at this link. In Rhode Island and southeastern New England, the show is broadcast on Rhode Island PBS on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. An audio version of the program airs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET, Sundays at 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. and Mondays at 2:30 a.m. ET on SiriusXM’s popular P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), channel 124. “Story in the Public Square” is a project of the Pell Center at Salve Regina University. The initiative aims to study, celebrate and tell stories that matter.