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American Indian and Anglo American, a lived personal perspective

Updated on February 21, 2012

American Indian or Anglo American?

My father was considered Anglo American born in America of second generation American parents of Pure German decent. Mother was born of parents who both carried a lot of American Indian blood. My grandfather's wishes were for one of his grandchildren to be raised to be an Indian Brave.

His wish also was for every grandchild to know the language and heritage of those he considered to be the real people. Grandmother spoke Cherokee and knew a few words of Mohawk. More than likely the two are mixed in my mind under the heading Cherokee. Although it is no longer a spoken language for me my mind still processes information using it. There are many plants and animals there are no names which can be spoken because the only recollections can't be translated.

My grandfathers wishes came to pass through my mother and her children. The one my mother and grandmother chose to become the brave was me. The decision became personally mine from my earliest memory. Attending government mandated school was not a decision made by anyone in the family. This was done because it was required, not because it was deemed necessary by mother or grandmother.

This is my perspective of my blending of the two very different cultures.

My father didn’t understand my Indian life, he wanted me to fit in to the world he where he belonged. When he started to have me for longer periods of time, he soon learned a side of my mother that he had not known existed. During the time they spent together he knew she was part Indian but had no idea she would raise her children with her Indian values.

The words most often out of my grandmothers mouth during my first long visit were “that little heathen”. It didn't take long to learn to hide the Indian part of me from her. While talking to my mother, she said make life a game, show grandmother only what she wants to see. This lesson was learned very well. We learned at this time also that my thoughts were Cherokee and had to be translated to English. Late evenings after grandmother went to sleep and while on runs my Indian ways were always part of me. The rest of the time if there was a slip, there was trouble.

Father owned a business so did have time for me, if he decided to make it, otherwise my time was spent with his mother. He started teaching me carpentry and horsemanship much like my maternal grandmother had taught me to be Indian “the old way”. There were no power tools until they weren’t really needed. Being young and strong it was easy to keep up with him without them.

Time spent with the horses increased during my fourteenth year. My father had decided it was time for me to spend more time with him. Now that manhood was upon me my mother agreed. Before these longer visits the only people the horses would tolerate were my father and the vet. The horses allowed me into their space quickly and within a week there wasn’t anything they wouldn’t let me do with them. Part of my Indian training had been to respect animals, they were put on earth with a spirit much like each human has.(as near as it can be translated)

The horses were my brothers and treated with the same respect (as much as a child knows) every human was treated. Being brothers they were spoken to in my native tongue even though my dad didn’t like it at first. Once he realized he spoke to them too it was almost all right. He would have preferred that they were only spoken to in English, but he was caught speaking German to them more than once. It was then decided that we could be ourselves and talk as much as we felt like in what ever language we chose. The horses were far enough away from grandmother that she couldn't hear.

The horses never cared although its my belief they reacted to Cherokee better than they did any other language. My “proof” is my dad was bucked off numerous times and it never happened to me, and when my maternal grandmother came to visit they accepted her presence and our language from her too.

The choice to ride had been a hard one, my training didn’t encompass the idea of using an animal as a beast of burden. Mom was very good about talking this over with me and led me to books about the plains Indians for whom horseback riding was a way of life. She also had my brother take time off to go to the wilderness with me so it could be talked over with my spirit guide.

The guidance which was received was never mount without permission, To this day that has never been done. In the end horseback riding became part of my life as a way to spend time with my father doing something he loved.

My father taught me to ride on the outskirts of Riverside California close to where his home was. We rode on the evenings he didn’t come home too tired to move and about every weekend during the summer. Within four months my love for riding kicked in and its been part of my life whenever possible to this day. He was a good rider and loved it but within a year, he wasn’t the best rider in our family.

My father learned to let me be me, as long as whatever he asked of me was done and to his satisfaction. It didn't matter to him how much Indian there was in my soul. One of his sayings a few years later was "you really are more Indian than white" mostly as a jest when he went to shave and for me there was no need for a razor. He did realize that half my heritage came from my mother and accepted it better by the time my late teens were reached.

The picture is of part of the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County California where we rode. .

Blending cultures is never easy. Those who do will always have a personal perspective

The Seneca Indian nations of which the Mohawks were one, learned early the only way to survive was to "share their seed" with those who would become the owners of the land. This blending of blood and cultures the chiefs of the time felt was imperative for their blood to survive.To this day although diluted the blood and for some the culture still exists.

How does one come to grips with two entirely different ways of life? Blending in to survive became the order of the day. The American Indians would have been wiped off the face of the earth if some Anglo Americans had their way. For hundreds of years as many as could hid their American Indian heritage.


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    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 5 years ago from Central United States

      Mr. Happy when you are asking permission you are looking into the horses eye. I was going to be a smarty pants and say they shake their head. In reality that wouldn't work because some actually did. This they did both ways. If the answer was no, I backed away and rode another horse or didn't ride.

      I do have a beard now. When I was forced to shave in the military it started growing. With a father who was full blooded German it was bound to happen. An allergy to metal has kept me from shaving even at the end of my time in the military. For me though it didn't until I was 26 years old.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "The guidance which was received was never mount without permission" - And how would You exactly know that You have permission?

      "One of his sayings a few years later was "you really are more Indian than white" mostly as a jest when he went to shave and for me there was no need for a razor." - Haha!! That is pretty funny but true. I have not seen any big bearded Native American men around ...

      Thank You for sharing this story. I love horses and horse-back riding as well.


    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 6 years ago from Central United States

      I saw a casino quite often as a child. We had to pass it to get where we wanted to be. As I grew older I passed through Los Vegas many times. I was managing a restaurant in Utah and lived in Southern California. I have no memory of gambling with money until I was in my mid fifties. I was bored after a few minutes and a loss of $.20.

      My life has been gamble enough for me. Not many people have lived through what I have.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Another fascinating story. I was raised in Reno and the casinos have no fascination for me. I know that the odds are in their favor. You can't lose and pay for those huge electric bills and all of those employees.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 6 years ago from Central United States

      There was a casino on the reservation where part of my training took place. I wasn't interested in it as I was a child at the time. The funny thing is it doesn't interest me even today. One of my grandmothers sayings was "a fool and their money are soon parted" and I think I heard this most when within sight of the casino.

      Life in reality has always been a gamble, for the most part Americans have been trained from youth not to even consider them gambling. There was a time in my life when you could have taken everything from me and I would have survived. This is what being Indian means to me. I actually "became an adult" by surviving with nothing which wasn't provided by the forest and desert. That is "my casino".

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      This is very interesting. I enjoyed your story very much.

      I am about 3/16 Cherokee but my family has not involved itself in Indian ways for several generations. Maybe I should own part of a casino! :D

    • Gypsy Jane profile image

      Gypsy Jane 6 years ago from Florida

      Voted beautiful! Thanks for sharing this personal story and giving some insight into the Cherokee way of interacting with nature and animals:)

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 6 years ago from Central United States

      So is the place when you see it in person. Still doesn't compare to the Black Hills in South Dakota though. There I got a feeling of belonging, sometimes I wish I could move back.

    • Apostle Jack profile image

      Apostle Jack 6 years ago from Atlanta Ga

      I am part Indian Chippewa,and I know how you have to walk.

      But it is not all bad,and all that I did was not for nothing.That picture is, off the hook.