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In honor of Native American Heritage Month and our own Cherokee lineage, we took a family outing today to the Native Nations Mini Pow-Wow at a local community college.  It was such a blessing to be there and to take the girls.  November is filled with many important and beautiful holidays that I rarely hear mention of this being Native American Heritage Month as well.  Everyone in the hollers and hills around us are preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Today, there was well deserved honoring of our Veterans.  Other Waldorf homeschooling families were celebrating Martinmas today, as they do in the Waldorf schools across the country.

For some reason, I didn’t feel the calling to pick up Martinmas for our family this year.  Though I do seek to follow the basic tenets of a Waldorf education for my children, I wanted something for us that was our own – something I didn’t have to research and contrive a meaning for myself in order to attempt to translate it for my children.  So much of what was right about my childhood was the diligence of my grandmothers in teaching me from where and whom I came.  When I had no self esteem at all, I still held great pride in my ancestry.  I want my girls to know exactly who we are and that there is a rich and distinct culture within our own family and within our own part of Appalachia.  I firmly believe that this will prepare them to be confident and tolerant adults able to communicate with and love the people they meet.  They will know themselves well enough that even when they are unsure of their path, they will know at the very least how they came to be.

There were many tribes represented from all across the United States from the eastern woodlands tribes, the plains peoples, and even the Pacific Islanders.  We saw hula dancers, tepees, various native dances and songs from the represented tribes.  I participated in as much as I could.  The best part for me was talking to a Mohawk Iroquois man.  He explained to me how the Cherokee who resisted/escaped the removal (Trail of Tears) joined with the Iroquois for protection.  He called it genocide, which is what I’ve always thought it was.  He spoke of how their family/clan system was set up.  He told me how the clan mother was revered even more than the chef, and in fact the chef answered to her.  This made sense to them because no one exists without a mother to bring them forth to the earth.  He explained to me the beaver bowl of rights and how Benjamin Franklin was key in bringing their ideas of place and government to the colonies.  The man explained that Franklin got it all wrong though.  He turned it into a Bill of Rights for the white Anglo-Saxon male.  He left out women, men of other races, and importantly Mother Earth and the animals and plants that were created for us to co-exist with.  All of those people and living things lost their rights.  That is when things fell apart.  When there was illness, and not enough food.  Polluted waters, and fighting over land – real wars.  This really made me think about the situations facing eastern Kentuckians with coal mining.  (I’ll leave it at that for now.  That topic would be a whole other post.)  But, apparently we are the 49th happiest state with only West Virginians being sadder than we are.  That really hurts my heart that things are so out of focus for many of my fellow mountaineers.

I loved walking the girls around and showing them the artifacts, regalia, and pictures that were on display.  They enjoyed seeing the wooden baby carrier (I forget what the woman called it.  It wasn’t papoose.).  Deladis got a kick out of the fact that we have one too, only not wooden.  I found myself tearing up a little explaining to her that our people lived in log homes and stayed put a little more than the plains tribes.  Our People. I wonder sometimes if I even have a right to say that.  I look in the mirror and search for the characteristics that I saw in my great grandmother on my father’s side and the pictures of her mother.  I believe that it is in my soul if not in my outward appearance, though I like to believe there is something of them in me.

The girls relished in hearing the drumming and seeing the dancing.  Ivy nodded her head to the beat.  Deladis was so excited she covered her face when she saw a man in full regalia doing the chicken dance.  He did take on the soul of that creature perfectly. 🙂

So, in remembering a piece of our history, I feel like we are moving forward as a family.  Homeschooling for us is not about sticking to some set of rules, or adopting practices just because a curriculum says so.  Waldorf for us is about acknowledging our relationship with the Mother Earth, with God, and paying attention to the natural blessings of changing seasons, weather, good harvests, and the animals.  It is about learning our place in that world and existing harmoniously as much as we can with what is natural.  What is natural to us right now, is grounding ourselves in our rich history, and using that foundation to move us toward the future with a postive light.

When we lived in Louisville, I longed for some good down home grits filled with butter and sweetened just a little.  I searched in restaurants and grocery stores.  There were things called grits, but weren’t the grits I was looking for.  Like real Appalachian soupbeans and cornbread and chicken-n-dumplings, good hominy grits didn’t exist out there and it was rare to meet someone who knew what the heck you were talking about if you asked.  Now, that I am back home I can buy real hominy grits for 80 cents a pound at the Yoder’s Mennonite Bulk Foods Store.  This morning we had a cheesy version of grits with salt and a touch of garlic and I relished how easy they were to make and how only a little bit makes a whole lot of this Appalachian traditional food.

Hominy

Hominy

White folks were introduced to corn by the Native Americans, which for most of us is common knowledge.  For those native peoples depending at least somewhat on agriculture, corn was a base crop and the preparations for it were as varied as the people preparing it.  Turning corn into hominy makes it an easily digested food and very nutritious.

It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize’s comparative excess of phosphorus.

– Wikipedia

My Cherokee ancestors utilized hominy in many ways, even fermenting some for soups and the like.  In my recent trip, I noticed every Cherokee dwelling was equipped with a kanona (corn beater) from the richest to the poorest.  I’m looking into the more traditional variations of recipes using hominy and grits, and now that I know why it is a traditional Appalachian staple, I plan to use it to the fullest extent because it is a very cost efficient food.  (For many Appalachians, especially those forced to live on very little for one reason or another, corn was a key ingredient to all three meals of the day.  There are even tales of families eating nothing but things made from corn.)

* Note that when choosing corn products take great care to choose varieties that are non-GMO.

Prepared Grits

Prepared Grits

Traditional Appalachian Grits (As I am Familiar)

3 cups water

3/4 cups grits

butter (best you can find)

molasses, sorghum, or honey

pinch of sea salt

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add grits, stir and simmer for 5 minutes adding salt, butter, and sweetner as desired.  Makes 4-8 servings depending on whether it is a main dish or side dish.

Day Five:

I am sitting in our Dayton, TN hotel exhausted.  We started the day at 7am, eating, packing, and heading out to New Echota Historic Site.  We arrived there right after they opened.  I got teary eyed before we went in.  It makes me wonder about my emotional self, though I was well aware of what we would learn today.

Middle class Cherokee family homestead

Middle class Cherokee family homestead

The morning was lovely, and I was glad to get started before the heat set in.  We did a self guided walking tour of many reconstructed and original period dwellings and meeting houses in what was once the capital of the Cherokee Nation.  To think that the Cherokee were forced to leave their lands makes me think of nothing less than the holocaust.  They lived in log homes and had farms.

Inside a middle class Cherokee home... it was one large room

Inside a middle class Cherokee home... it was one large room

Another view of the same room

Another view of the same room

They had their own newspaper and printing press, printing things in both English and Cherokee.  They worked with a three house government.

The rack holding the typeface used to print The Cherokee Phoenix and other printed materials in both the Cherokee language and English

The rack holding the typeface used to print The Cherokee Phoenix and other printed materials in both the Cherokee language and English

Looking at the different homes was inspiring, especially the kitchens.  From the wealthy to the common, the simplicity felt serene.  I want to go home and work on our cabin.  Clean it out totally.

Lower class Cherokee home - one small room consisting of one bed, 2 gourd bowls, a grinding log for meal, one deer skin, and a gourd ladle

Lower class Cherokee home - one small room consisting of one bed, 2 gourd bowls, a grinding log for meal, one deer skin, and a gourd ladle

Kitchen in the lower class dwelling

Kitchen in the lower class dwelling

My favorite kitchen of the day in the Worcester House at New Echota

My favorite kitchen of the day in the Worcester House at New Echota

The cooking hearth and baking oven of the same kitchen

The cooking hearth and baking oven of the same kitchen

I am beyond hurt at how a people so established and native inhabitants of a land could be so disregarded as the sacrilege that happened with The Trail of Tears.  What many don’t know is that all this disrespect to the native people and their land began with presidents like Thomas Jefferson ( a much beloved man in our country and known as a fighter for equality) who wanted to make the Indian indebted to the U.S. so they could take their land from them and move them west.  People only think of Andrew Jackson, a man of the people, hater of the native peoples, and a president who disregarded the laws of his own nation.  They did this to a people so bent on preserving their heritage – their right to be separate but equal.  A people who, on the white man’s terms proved their civility and capacity to exist as a nation.  It’s unreal what the average American doesn’t know about that situation.

Meeting House at New Echota - where the council held meetings

Meeting House at New Echota - where the council held meetings

Inside the Meeting House

Inside the Meeting House

Courthouse at New Echota

Courthouse at New Echota

The Vann Tavern - New Echota

The Vann Tavern - New Echota

Inside the Vann Tavern - the counter and mercantile area of the largest room

Inside the Vann Tavern - the counter and mercantile area of the largest room

I’m finding it hard to even write about what we saw and learned today.  It was so extensive.  After New Echota, we went to The Vann House, which was a four story European style home built by a prominent Cherokee business man – James Vann.

The Vann House

The Vann House

He had a plantation and around 70 slaves on his land at a time, and up to 110.

View from the third floor of The Vann House

View from the third floor of The Vann House

What was outstanding was that even the wealthy Cherokee who had adpoted many of the white man’s ways were moved to Indian Territory by force.  Their money nor their “civilized” accomplishments could make them exempt from the land hungry white man.  Joseph Vann (son of James Vann and the inheritor of his estate) and his family were burnt out of their home.

The root/wine cellar - where all "cold" food items were stored

The root/wine cellar - where all "cold" food items were stored

The woman's bedroom

The woman's bedroom

There was a spinning wheel and/or loom in every dwelling from the middle class up.

There was a spinning wheel and/or loom in every dwelling from the middle class up.

A little girl's room - very few "toys" - I loved it, so simple and pure as was the boy's room

A little girl's room - very few "toys" - I loved it, so simple and pure as was the boy's room

The dining room

The dining room

When we left New Echota the walking tour ended with two quotes by Cherokee government members Elias Boudinot and John Ridge.  I copied them into a notebook.  In essence, they said that the Cherokee removed from the land God gave them would cease to exist – be blended with the white man.  That is essentially what Thomas Jefferson had promised the native peoples whom would give in to the wishes of the American government – they would blend with the white man.  And there I stood – Cherokee blood in the veins of a white woman.  A dichotomy in the flesh.

Solemn and gloomy is the thought that all the Indian Nations who once occupied America are nearly gone.  In the lapse of half a century, Cherokee blood, if not destroyed, will wind its course in the being of fair complexions, who will read that their ancestors, under the stars of adversity and curses of their enemies became a civilized nation.

John Ridge, February 27, 1826

The time will come when few remanants of our once happy and improving Nation will be viewed by posterity with curious and gazing interest as relics of a brave and noble race… perhaps, only here and there a solitary being, walking, ‘as a ghost over the ashes of his fathers’ to remind a stranger that such a race once existed.

Elias Boudinot, Nov. 21, 1836

I thought about Arizona and her place in this history.  What was she aware of?  I know she knew much of what I learned, but I wonder how she perceived it.  She lived in both Indian Territory and New Echota.  The guide at The Vann House said it was hard to believe that Arizona’s family went to Indian Territory and actually came back.  It makes me think more of her father and who he was.  Why he was what he was.

On the way to Dayton, we gradually entered into tiny rolling hills.  Both John and I couldn’t help but think of Arizona’s walk – over 80 miles from Georgia to Tennessee.  So young and strong.

After such a saturated and fun day we are all tired.  John is working on the van.  There is a hole in the radiator.  The girls are being wild with that tired irritability.  It feels good just to be.

Deladis in a smokehouse at New Echota - orbs or dust particles... you decide :)

Deladis in a smokehouse at New Echota - orbs or dust particles... you decide 🙂

kaclogo Kelli B. Haywood has received professional development funding through the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Day Four:

Today started early for me.  I woke up wondering why I was wide awake and everyone else was deeply asleep.  I finally raised up off the bed and craned my head to look at the clock.  It was 5:23am.  I laid there for quite awhile before falling asleep again.  Light poured in from around the heavy curtain when we all woke at 7am.

We weren’t sure how the day would go because both museums we wanted to visit weren’t open.  I decided our best option was to start at the local library.

Calhoun, GA is like many other small towns in the south.  The buildings around town are old and in need of repair, but there was character.  Things moved slow like in a haze.  It could have been that running the air conditioner in the van has started to make it leak antifreeze and we are doing without it at a time when north Georgia had its first day in the 90 degree range.

In front of the library in Calhoun...

In front of the library in Calhoun...

John took the girls and I went to the special collections area, while they explored the kids wing of the library.  I found some interesting books that I’ve decided I’ll purchase for my collection.  They were Cherokee history and tradition books.  I was really excited about one I found on Cherokee Cooklore.

I discovered Echota (a big difference between Old/New Echota) was not only the Cherokee capital, but a city of refuge for those who had killed someone.  There were stipulations to that refuge, however.  I found it interesting and useful for my novel in that Arizona’s father went to New Echota after possibly killing his wife and young daughter.  This is speculation as no one has evidence of that, but everyone agreed that he was a violent man.  Echota gave him refuge, but not Arizona.

After looking in a few neat local shops and a folk art exhibit at the Harris Arts Center, we had lunch from the cooler and went to look for the historic sites we’ll visit tomorrow.  I’m excited about what we’ll find tomorrow.  It is bringing me closer to the past that made me.  At the Vann House, I got a short peek at an unfinished, large, woven reed basket that was abandoned in a Cherokee home during the 1838 removal – The Trail of Tears.  It brought to me a feeling of anger and grief.  I mourned for the woman who was forced from her home so quickly that she had to leave her work unfinished.

Overlook on the way up the hill to Fort Mountain...

Overlook on the way up the hill to Fort Mountain...

From Chatsworth, we moved on to Fort Mountain State Park.  Apparently, the Cherokee met up with white folks prior to Columbus who had crossed the ocean from Wales.  These men built a tower fort, which we got to see.

Tower possibly built by Prince Madoc of Wales - predating Columbus

Tower possibly built by Prince Madoc of Wales - predating Columbus

We read of the legends of the moon-eyed people who were fair skinned, light hair, and blue eyed.  It was said they were blind in the daylight and/or during certain phases of the moon.  The Cherokee claimed the Creeks annihilated them during one of their blind periods.

Probably the best thing we say today was a scenic overlook at Fort Mountain.  Flat land met the beginning/ending of the Appalachian mountains in such a way that can only be described as breathtaking.  I know John found it hard to breathe. 🙂

A start/end of the Appalachian Mountains

A start/end of the Appalachian Mountains

Overlooking...

Overlooking...

Back in town, sweaty and tired, we tried to shop at some outlet stores.  Don’t go shopping without money to spend.  It ruins the mood.  Giving up on shopping, we searched for a local establishment to get supper.  Failing at that, we pulled into Ruby Tuesday and had a wonderfully satisfying meal and spent way too much money on it.  It had been while since we had eaten at a Ruby Tuesday – prices had went up!  But, we needed a full meal, and it was delicious.  Deladis ate all of hers and some of ours.

Stopping to smell the flowers at Fort Mountain

Stopping to smell the flowers at Fort Mountain

After picking up some coffee at McDonalds, we went back to the motel for baths and rest.  I feel like things are moving sluggishly, but too fast all at once.  If you can be happy and melancholy together, that’s what I am.

On a tower window ledge at Fort Mountain

On a tower window ledge at Fort Mountain

kaclogoKelli B. Haywood has received professional development funding through the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

My great great grandmother was Arizona Webb Walker.  She was a Cherokee whose grandmother was one of the group who escaped the Trail of Tears and hid out to later create the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina.  Arizona’s father was of Caucasian and Cherokee decent and from what we know of him very cruel to his wife and children.  Their family traveled between Indian Territory in Oklahoma to New Echota, Georgia and Walden’s Ridge in Dayton, Tennessee several times.  Arizona’s mother disappeared leaving her older children with their father.  Arizona eventually escaped her father and walked the mountain ridge lines with a badly healed broken leg from New Echota, GA to be with her family in Tennessee.  She was a young girl – alone.  She married in Tennessee and she and her husband moved to Hazard, Kentucky for mining work in the early 1900s.

It is no small thing that I know this story.  I grew up thinking that everyone had met most of their great grandparents.  I thought it was common for people to know which country their European ancestors immigrated from.  I thought it usual that most people’s family members hung onto things like copies of their ancestors’ names on documents like the Mullay or Dawes Rolls.  Until I talked with friends who had no idea where they came from, I didn’t know exactly how fortunate I was to know so well my own heritage.  I owe this all to my paternal grandmother Ida Lee Stacy Hansel, who with friends and cousins has spent years researching and documenting our family history.  She spent hours with her grandchildren in the evenings and throughout the day telling us the stories as many times as we wanted to hear them.  I was so proud of my heritage that I would walk with my head up no matter how I was tormented in my school days.  I knew from where I came.  I knew the strength, wisdom, and faith of my people.

Ida and Matt Horn her uncle... about age 30

Ida and Matt Horn her uncle... about age 30

The more I learn about Arizona, the more I have wanted to tell her story to the world.  Her picture hangs in my living room and I stop and look at it several times a day.  She leans on a garden hoe to support her bad leg, but is tall and lovely.  There is so much raw strength and assurance in her eyes.  Her hair loosely braided and hanging down her back.  I see her in me.

I have decided to write her story as a work of fiction.  I received a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council to do some preliminary research for the historical background of the novel.  They have worked with me as a mother and provided a way for my family to go with me as well.  Starting at the end of the week, we will be taking a trip to New Echota, Georgia and Dayton, Tennesee to retrace my great great grandmother’s steps in her journey to Kentucky.  I will be researching the time in which she lived and the area’s visual appeal in order to create accurate settings.  I’m very excited about this journey.

This journey has come about at the perfect time in my life.  I fully believe in God’s timing for things, though I’m not the most patient person in waiting for it.  I’m not spoiled, but I remind myself of Veruca Salt in the “I want it NOW!” sense.  Our life is coming together in a beautiful way.  As a mother, I feel like I could do so much better in my relationship with my girls.  I do feel like our move back to the mountains was the best thing we could do for them, but I know I need to connect more with female members of my family.  I need to learn from them the critical pieces of womanhood that I have tended to miss in my upbringing.  I need to learn so I can pass them on.  My grandmothers were irreplaceable in giving me any confidence that I had in my appearance and my intellect.  I have a beautiful Aunt Sharon who taught me that common sense should be listened to, and a strong will can work both for and against you.  I have a strong female presence in my life, but it is imperative for me to learn how to foster a strong and healthy mother/daughter bond.  Because I didn’t feel comfortable in my ability to raise a girl properly, I didn’t think God would make me raise one.  I should have known better.  He’s given me two. 🙂

Also, I’m at a point in my life where I need to find who I want to be and what to bring forth from myself in the next ten years.  I’m 30 1/2 years old.  I’m not a kid anymore, but I have so much more to learn.  It is my firm belief that we must know and understand our past in order to bring about a better future.  I have so much to learn from Arizona’s life.  I think fictionalizing the missing pieces will help me bond with her beyond stories being told.  I will have to become a part of her in order to do her justice in my writing.  I am looking forward to that eventhough I know that some of those places will be dark.  The light that pours from her eyes is so much more.

This isn’t simply a vacation or a research project.  It is a chance for my little family to reconnect.  We haven’t been anywhere aside from work related things since before the girls were born.  This is our chance to be fully present for each other.  My grandfather has never seen Ivy.  He will get to see her for the first time when we stop by their house on our way to Georgia.  I will get to show the girls where they started.  Teach them that they come from a people to whom this country rightfully belongs.  A strong people who lived with the earth and used it as the Creator asked us to do – as stewards.  A people who perservered through hardships, created a way to keep records when others were trying to destroy their heritage, and to this day is not afraid to break new ground.  This is a quest for re-creation.  From the past will be brought forth a new life.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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