Thursday, January 20, 2011

I always wanted to be an Indian

I've mentioned this before on my blog, several times.  Since I knew as a child you couldn't just "become" an Indian, I was always searching for signs that I might have just a little Native American blood flowing in my veins.  
I was surely dark-skinned enough; I got that from both parents, but especially from my daddy.  Back when he worked as a  hired hand he really was dark-complexioned, and even after three years living with lung cancer he was darker than most people.  I don't recall his ever claiming to be part Indian; he said his dark complexion was from the "black Germans" in his pedigree.  When I google that phrase, I get Germans of African descent.  I don't think that's what he was referring to, but who knows?  
Anyhow, I'd look in the mirror and try to decide if I looked anything like the Indians in the movies; I didn't realize then that most "movie Indians" weren't actually Indians.  My skin was plenty dark enough to qualify, but what to do with my naturally curly hair?  There's no such thing as a curly-haired Indian.  
In order to keep my hair from having the "frizzies", Mother curled it around her fingers like this.  
One time I got her permission to comb out my curls, to see if I could make my hair look straight.  Of course it was still curly, so I wet it down so much, there was water dripping onto my shoulders.  That's when I found out that curly hair only gets curlier when it's wet.  
Since I couldn't do anything about my hair, I started quizzing my mom, asking her if we had any Indians in our background.  She shrugged it off for years, saying that all she knew was she had some ancestors who were from Canada.  
"Maybe they were Canadian Indians," I said, hopefully.  
"Maybe so."  
As Mother got older, she actually began telling people we had Canadian Indians in our family tree; since she never seemed to have known this when I was small, I just thought she'd come up with it in her faulty memory.  Or perhaps my childhood queries had settled into her brain and made themselves seem like a fact, but were really a figment of her senile imagination.  
Here's something of interest:  After years of pursuing Indian ancestry on my mother's side, my sister tells me Daddy had a grandmother who was Indian.  How about that?  
Fast-forward to the present.  
Pauline, a maternal cousin of mine, has been doing extensive research into our genealogy for a few years now.  Yesterday I got an email from her with the following information:  

"I don't know if you have seen or heard, but I have found a Native American connection in our family tree.  David Stevens father, Hampson, was married to  Phyletta Kenyon.  We always figured she was French.  But I couldn't figure out why they were living in the Indian Lands in Wisconsin in 1850's.  Well, I finally got correspondence from Indiana, where David Stevens brother Absalom and his family lived.  She was so happy to find Absalom's family.  They had always been told that her grandpa's family was French Canadian Indian.  She was familiar with tribal records and explained that the area of New York where Phyletta and some of her family members hail from was Oneida Indian land.  Phyletta was born in Rome, Oneida County, New York in 1801 This area was Indian land up until 1820-1830 and wasn't ceded to the United States until then.  So if she was born on Indian land she would more than likely have a roll number and that fits with them moving to the Indian lands, Marquette Wisconsin.   And when you look at their route of travel back and forth, it leads one to suspect that they were possibly in Canada because the Oneida people and Hudson Bay Trading Company had outposts in the area of Canada where Hampson's children were born, possibly Hampson worked for them.  The Oneida people were removed from their lands and sent to Wisconsin.  That seems to coincidental that their travels and seem to correspond with Native American events.  There was also a roll number associated with their census information from Wisconsin.  She pointed out that the roll numbers identify them in Tribal census information.  But what I found even more interesting was the fact that she spoke of how most of her family are darker complected than most.  And she had pictures of Absalom's daughter Phyletta and her husband Charles Hickman.  It is interesting that Absalom named one of his kids Benjamin Harrison Stevens and he was born the same year as our Grandpa Ben.  You might enjoy seeing the pictures of their family.  They do look to be Native American." 
This may all be very boring to you, but do you realize what sort of happy dance (or Indian war dance) I would have been doing at the age of six, seven, or eight had I known I had Indian ancestors on BOTH sides of the family?  

As I told Pauline, I am still waiting to find the African-American link in our family tree, the one that gave my grandfather and Uncle Leo their downright nappy red hair, and passed the naturally curly hair along to my mother and me.  
Another thing that seems to run deep in my family:  Republicans.  I say this because there are two Benjamin Harrison Stevens' born in 1888, the year Benjamin Harrison was elected.  
He turned out to be a mediocre president, by the way.

4 comments:

Mo Rage said...

Congratulations on the news, then. Good for you.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I too have a great great great grandmother on my mom's side that was an American Indian but we've not learned anything else about her other than her name that was listed in the family tree and was definitely an Indian name. I have such a Heinz 57 ancestry but it is interesting to see the pieces parts fit together.

Ms Martyr said...

Hurray for the happy dance! Isn't it funny what makes us happy?
My mother-in-law is half Cherokee. My sister and I both married men with Native American (see how PC I can be?) ancestry. I don't think I have any on my side of the family. Too many recent arrivals from Europe and the UK.

madcobug said...

Strange that you always wanted to be part Indian then found out you were double dipped with it. I have the Creek Indians in my background. The GGG Grandmother I believe. I do have a picture of her surrounded by her children down to my g grandmother. You can see the high cheekbones in them in the picture.
Helen