25 March 2016

Some things I Learned from My Elders

Grandma Alice was married a couple times.  Her first son was born in Canada and came to live near his mother after he got out of the army.  He was much older than my Grampa John.  His name was also John, cept his last name was Morrison.  I knew about my cousins.  Mostly that they were my cousins.  At the time I was growing up, think it was mostly Dan that I knew.  And Dan’s kids.  One was in my class and we graduated together.  I knew the others by name.  I thought about them once in a while, didn’t socialize with them.  It’s only been in the last few years that I got to know them better.  And in getting to know them better, I’ve learned that much of what they do, how they interact with each other is how we are.  Me and my sisters and brothers.  Never once thinking about why Dan was a cousin.  I’d just accepted it cause that’s what I was told.

When I started researching family history, I found out just how large my family is.  I still haven’t entered all the living members yet.  And everyone keeps asking for the history.  I’ve got 10 generations on my tree.  Most of those branches aren’t filled in all the way. Yet I can see in this tree where lines diverged and spread out.  I can see where the younger generations don’t have much in common with each other.  In fact, for some, all they have in common is the ancestor.  We all say hi to each other when we meet and that’s about it.

Some of the things I see that are the same is our love of family.  We may not socialize, yet we all have a respect for our elders, we work with our hands, we all do stuff for others in the community.  We help when someone in the family needs it.  We also have a faith that sustains us when the going gets rough.  We like to tell stories.  We have family dinners where all the generations come together and eat.  We learn something new each day.  There’s no such word as “can’t” in our family.

And there are different things about each other due no doubt to the family members marriages bringing in different ways.  Some of these things were good, some not so good.  To certain extent, we’ve grown apart, yet we’re all connected.  We’re connected through Grandma Alice and her beliefs, her values and her dedication to family.  For those of us who knew her, we can see how her life influenced us.  And the younger generation has only the stories.  Let’s remember to tell some of those stories to the next generation.  I’ve mentioned a few that my Mom told me about her memories of her.  I have a few memories of her.  I have some stories told to me by a couple members of the family.  I can trace some the activities that we do to her activities.  Birch bark, beading, making rugs from rags, making blankets.  Cooking.

I think of the stories, memories others have told me about their elders, their grandmas, their aunts.  I think of the stories that my father tells of his sisters, brothers and a few aunts.  He talks about when he was in the army, the CCC camp, school.  I have memories of other people in the village, things they taught me.  I think about all the trips out in the woods on the reservation that we learned from them-blueberries, pine cones, birch bark.  Sometimes we’d just ride around out there and look.  Sometimes we’d go out to Marshall Tower, climb it and get a bird’s eye view of the lake.  I think of the times we’d gather roots of different sorts.  Didn’t much care for the work involved in making them fit for the purpose for which we’d gathered them.

I think of being out on the lake in a canoe with different people.  I learned a lot about the lake from my Aunt.  I heard the stories of the little people from a couple elders.  I had fun at various gatherings where the community and visitors from far away got together and celebrated something or other.  I think about the softball games that were held weekly.

There’s so much that we all could write about, even if it’s just for our family.  I think about days when we’d do nothing but sit out on the ground, listening to the sounds in the village.  Oh and the stuff that happened when we’d find something to do on those warm summer evenings when all the chores were done.  Yes it might seem like we’ve lived a pretty boring life until you sit down and really think about where some of your customs, traditions and habits came from.

I’m lucky enough to have a picture of Gramma Alice that was given to me from my mother who got it from one of our cousins.  That picture  makes it possible for me to post a feature album of five generations that stretches from 1865 to the present.  Sad to think about the fact that I can’t go further back than that in documenting our family history.  ‘Cept through the stories passed down through Grandma Alice, Grampa John, my mom and now me.  My sons will pass these on when they feel like it.

I learn something new about our family when I listen to Lucille and Marcella.  I hear others from cousins who’ve grown up on another reservation.  I’ve been hoping for a storyteller to emerge from our family.  However, that’s not happening, so I’m doing my best to make sure some of the stories are available when they’re needed.  And in the process of doing so, I’ve learned to make up my own stories.  And this can be traced back to Grandma Alice on one side of the family and to Grandpa George on the other.

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