Raised Indian in a White Mans World a Day at Age Four
Raised American Indian
By 1956 when I was four most American Indian children had no idea what the old ways were. The Cherokee were the most Americanized even before they walked the trail of tears. My grandmother whose roots are part Cherokee learned what was left of their ways from visiting relatives as a child. This was between 1915 and 1920. She learned to speak the language which is what was used in her home.
My mother took it upon herself to have Cherokee as the family language so it is the first language her children learned. We never lived on a reservation yet lived similarly to how those on a reservation did. My grandmother owned a house which had no indoor plumbing. During the summer the only thing it was used for was a place to sleep.
Living as an American Indian of Cherokee decent
My day began when the first rays of light spread over the countryside. Even as a child of four, sunrise was a special time. Holding grandmothers hand walking to the river to check the trap lines was an everyday occurrence. It was a safe and comfortable time, after learning the hard way holding hands was for my protection.
Listening to the frogs and insects filled my mind with wonder. Sound was constant, flowing water, insects, frogs, and autos driving in the distance filled my ears. When grandmother bent over to check the trap line there was no straying.
It was fun to watch her wrestle with a cat fish or watch the look on her face when there was not one. Today she is struggling harder than ever. She has a fish in her hands that is bigger than me. It’s so big we take off for the house at once.
When we get home mom is up and my brothers are dressed ready for the day. Mom and big brother go out to clean the fish for breakfast. My grandmother and me sift flour, the wood stove is already hot. Breakfast is hotcakes and strips of fried catfish.
Breakfast finished, its time to go to the garden. Sometimes my job is carrying the baskets she uses to put things in other times it looking for worms to put on the trap lines. Some days we work on our knees pulling up green things which grow between the rows of the other green things we will eat some day. Don’t pull that up, we need that to eat next week, or month is heard often. Sometimes my little feet step on something they are not supposed to and grandmothers feelings get hurt. She shakes her finger at me and says be careful.
When we are done in the garden its time to play. Old blue (the family dog) and me are spending a lot of time together when its play time. She is older than me, but she will still run and pick up sticks and bring them to me. Grandmother says don’t bring me sticks you have thrown to the dog because they smell funny when they burn. My brothers and me spend a lot of time picking up sticks for the fire.
Mom had started the water fire right after breakfast. It is outside and mom says we have to wait until it cools before we get a drink. She says never drink the river water until its cooked, if you do it can give you owies in your belly. She’s right cause a few times when she wasn’t paying attention me and my brothers did and our belly’s hurt for a long times after. Grandmother made us feel better when she gave us some special stuff she made.
Today for lunch we get a special treat, on top of the green stuff there are little pieces of fish, frog legs and those red things (tomato’s) we all like. Some of the green things are hot and they taste real good (okra), the other green things are not as good, we always eat them anyways because grandmother says growing boys need them to get big and strong.
After lunch its nap time, sometimes grandmother lays down with us and tells us stories. Today is one of them and we fall asleep listening to her voice. Sometimes she just sits close to us while telling her stories, other days mom is the one to tell us stories.
When we wake up its time to go to the river again, this time we are looking for frogs, and green things that we can eat. It’s hard to find what grandmother calls good green things now, most are too old to eat. My big brother and me love catching frogs, we try real hard to get as many as we can. We know the more we get the better we will eat tomorrow. The place we catch frogs is special, we can go in the water there as much as we want and we don‘t have to wear clothes. When we are finished catching frogs grandmother always gives us leaves which we rub all over our bodies that make us feel and smell good.
When we get home mom has cooked dinner. Tonight its fried chicken, potatoes which are just the right size to pop into our mouths and more green things (green beans). The green things slide right down our throats so are fun to eat. They are always better when mom cooks them in the chicken grease so they become part of the white stuff (gravy).
After supper mom takes the little ones to the frog catching place. Grandmother, my brother and me go take care of the animals. Brother is better with buckets than me so he carries them. My job is to throw what‘s in the bucket to the animals. We like being with the goats and chickens but sometimes the rooster is mean. Grandmother gathers eggs then milks the goats.
When she is done we all get to go get cool in that room she has under the ground. It’s dark and smells funny but we still like it there because it is the coldest place around. Sometimes when its real ucky outside we spend the night here.
When mom gets home we relax and get ready for bed. Sometimes mom tells stories and sometimes grandmother does. Tonight the sky is talking, sending shards of light everywhere and water is pouring from the sky. Grandmother is the story teller this night and she is explaining why we are hearing and seeing what we are. She tells us the world is refreshing so there will be more good things to eat tomorrow.
Grandmothers place was flooded out this is as close as I could get
© 2011 Dennis Thorgesen