The American Background

I seem to always be telling you about countries where I have lived, and I have lived in 8 countries.  However, many people probably wonder about America since many people who read my blog are not American.  I won’t go into the whole American history or even all of my background, but I will tell you that I have a very unique American background.  When I travel, almost every country I have lived in has tried to claim me because of how I look and how well I move my tongue to learn their languages.  Every time I get with the Romanian consulate, he still wants to say things like, “Are you sure you don’t have any roots in Romania?”  When I was in Japan, I was completely shocked to be put in the line for Japanese citizens when I was at the American embassy.  I didn’t know until I got to the front what that line was for or I wouldn’t have stood there, but the guard at the embassy insisted that was my line.  In England, they told me I wasn’t American, but British, and I must admit as a child, I spoke with a British accent. The stories like this can go on and on, but I can explain the confusion.  I often laughingly tell people, “The cowboys and Indians stopped fighting and got married. That is where I came from.”  In fact, that is where most of Oklahoma, where both of my parents are from, came from.

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When one of my grandfathers was born in Oklahoma, it was still Indian Territory, but he wasn’t Indian.  His dad was U. S. Marshal to Indian Territory.  America was sending all the Indians to Indian Territory, Oklahoma, because the land was half desert, and the American government really didn’t want Oklahoma.  My great grandfather was an immigrant from Germany, and my grandfather grew up among the Indians.  They were both cowboys.  My grandmother’s background is in dispute.  I was told many years ago that she was Irish and Cherokee, but I have some cousins who are trying to dispute that, but it seems to me that my grandmother would have known her own background, but I will leave that alone.

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As for my mother’s family, I know for a fact that one of my great grandmothers was Cherokee, and my great grandfather was English.  The story of her birth is very interesting, and I will tell it to you.  As for my grandfather, my mom’s dad, he was a cowboy, but his background is always under a lot of discussion too.  We know that he was at least part English, and may have also been Comanche.  There are some very interesting stories coming out of his background.

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As far as Indian, since there is Cherokee in my background, my parents took me to see what was called “The Trail of Tears Drama” in Oklahoma, an outdoor drama about how the Cherokees got to Oklahoma. My parents were always trying to educate me about the Indians.

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If you haven’t heard of the Trail of Tears, it is a very important part of American history.  the Cherokees originated on the east coast.  The Cherokees were actually a large band of the Iroquois Federation, a large group of Indian tribes who had actually banded together to make a nation.  They had two houses in the government, the council of the braves, and the council of the mothers.  For a decision to be made, it had to pass both houses.  The Cherokees are known as one of the five civilized tribes. They were not always on the war path like some of the Indians. In fact, they were not the Indians who hunted buffalo and followed them everywhere living in tepees.  The Cherokees lived in long houses made of wood.  They raised gardens, they traded, told stories, did crafts, and learned the languages of the other tribes. No one was afraid of them.

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The Cherokees were the only tribe to have a written language.  They were the first tribe to wear white men’s clothing, and the first tribe to go to white men’s schools, and today, they are the most intermarried tribe.  They were not prejudiced at all. When the white men came to America, the Cherokee just moved over a little and said, “Welcome. You can stay.”

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However, that wasn’t good enough for the white men.  It wasn’t good enough for them that the Cherokees embraced their schools and clothing. It wasn’t good enough that the Cherokees wanted to share with the whites.  The whites wanted everything the Cherokees had.  They began burning their homes.  This is when my great grandmother’s family fled, when their house was burned.  They fled into Tennessee, and then into Indiana.

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In the meantime, the white men had rounded up all the Cherokees they could find on the east coast and marched them in the dead of winter to what is now Oklahoma, but was known as Indian Territory then.  They went on foot.  It was the dead of winter and freezing out.  Many Cherokees died, but they eventually made it.  When my great grandmother’s family heard that the Cherokees were in Oklahoma, they decided to join them.  It just so happens that the wife of the family was pregnant during all this, and when they got to Indian Territory, Oklahoma, the baby was born.  They wanted to remember where they went, so they called the baby Tennessee Indiana.  Tennessee Indiana was my great grandmother.  I used to visit with her when I was in high school and enjoyed her company.  She raised my mother and instilled many of her values in my mother.  She told interesting stories too.

Southeastern Oklahoma, where my family is from, is considered the Cherokee capital.  I have friends in North Carolina who tell me some of the Cherokees are still there because they were so far in the mountains the white men didn’t know they were there.   There are people who still speak Cherokee in South Eastern Oklahoma, but I don’t.  Some of my family went to California during the Dust Bowl which is another Oklahoma story, but most of them came back.  I only have an aunt and cousins in California now.  There are still cowboys in my family, yes, real cowboys. Many ride horses, and some have worked as a cowboy on a ranch.  When my brother and I went to a pow wow, a big Indian meeting, we realized that many Indians dress like cowboy now rather than Indians.  An old man from the Ponca tribe took one look at me and said, “Your relative who was an Indian got thrown out of the tribe because they married a white man!” When you see me, you can see the Indian and white both in my background. That is why so many people get confused by my looks when I travel.

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There are many different facets to American history because we are a melting pot.  This is just one story of many coming from my family.  One day I may tell you more. Most of the stories in families come from word of mouth, but this one can be documented.  My mother’s fourth cousin actually went to the east coast and found a county with our family name on it and found birth records.  I have an aunt who collaborates with him, and they both consider themselves historians.  They have both told me some very interesting stories, but others have too. I have also read a lot to try to understand.  If you like to hear about American cowboys and Indians,  I may tell you more of their stories later.

(I realize they consider it politically correct to call Indians “Native Americans” now, but my family is from Indian Territory, and we have always called Indians Indians, and I actually think it is silly to try to change so many years of history.)



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