I’ve always been a history nerd. It fascinates me to think of the ones who stood where I stand in the past. The overwhelming calm as you walk through undeveloped woods with no other people around and you simply stop- you stop to feel the presence that seems left behind…that flutter of your eyes where you feel someone brush your shoulder- that is the history I crave to know. That is the history I want my children to slow down and really truly know- because Lord knows this world is so fast paced that the footsteps of our ancestors are slowly and wrecklessly being destroyed.
My grandparents were from the mountains of North Carolina, specifically Murphy and Robinsville- two places most of you have never heard of. Now let’s get super specific and travel down into a holler known as Shoal Creek right on the wooded outskirts of Murphy- this is where my grandma and her family called home. They were poor farmers…Cherokee Indians that did not live on the reservation. They were not “registered” due to my (however many greats) grandma’s stubborness and wit when allot of our cousins were sent towards Oklahoma . I grew up hearing stories of her hiding her kids in a cave and some rebel soldiers stole her food one night so she single handedly waited for them to go to sleep and stole it all back! Now that’s a lady worth learning about! If I have daughters I want them to be like her!
My grandma is now in her late 80s and still looks great although her mind is gone. She is dark skin as if she’s outside everyday with black hair that has never seen dye. Her eyes are a dark brown hazel that flickers green and yellow. Her cheek bones high and narrow like the picture of her grandma in her bedside drawer. So many things she passed down to me, reminiscent of her heritage…hominy and pickled corn, gosh pickled everything 😂 how you use a stone crock jar to make anything and everything because you might not have a fridge one day and you must know how to dig a hole in the clay bank to put your milk so the river or creek keeps it cold. She had a old list of our family members…their given “Cherokee” name listed first then the more “modern” name listed beside it….various lines and scribbles connect husband’s to wives to children…our heritage scrawled on a paper pad…not in a history book or even a ledger…scrawled by one old Indian , a cousin , probably ten times removed named Johnny Ray who is still living and somehow knows you are family when you knock on his door or call his phone.
David’s family is the opposite in terms of documentation. Everything is nice and neat and they know history because they each hold a Peoria tribal card. I’m still learning his side of the equation but I know my husband has a card proudly in his wallet as well as my children…a card that links them to the original Americans . Now I had honestly never heard of Peoria’s until we were together . They are a much smaller group and they were from Illinois which is far different than being an Indian from Appalachia.
Connors name sake, Benjamin Gelon( Connors great great grandpa) was the son of a Seminole woman and a French immigrant. Adding yet another awesome puzzle piece. This side of the family is almost impossible to trace…
So…here we are…an average American family living on a farm in the piedmont of North Carolina. I am blonde with my grandma’s hazel eyes and I never sun burn but rather tan amazingly easy…however , the only “Indian ” trait I show is my cheek bones. David is relatively tan with black hair and ridiculously blue eyes… We produced two blonde hair blue eyes boys who also hold cards as members of the Peoria Tribe…blonde haired Indians 😂💁
So. I decided along time ago that I was not going to let this part of their history go undiscovered . How can we keep our history alive if you pretend it never happened? I hope my children feel proud that they are decended from people who originally lived in America. I hope they feel proud that their ancestors fought for their right to stay on their land. I hope they stop- I hope they stop and search their souls for the footsteps of the ones who were here before.
Today , do me a favor and walk in the woods, close your eyes and really take it in. Think of the people who originally called your yard home . Think about them as they were run out. Just slow down and think. ❤️