Discovering Your Roots
I was born in California, and we moved to Sanders/Chambers Arizona when I was between three and four years old. There I went to school In Sanders, Which was a mostly Native school, being on a native reservation. Being a white kid in a mostly native school set me up to get made fun of. So I grew up thinking ill of not only natives, but also of my name, which they targeted for name calling.
Many years later, when I was in my mid twenties, and computers were first put into public libraries for public use, I entered my last name, on a lark, into the search engine. Mind you, at this time, the only McGaa's I knew were my sisters and myself and my dad, who we had not seen since I was little due to divorce. So I was pleased to see an Ed McGaa pop up...and he was some kind of famous author to boot.
That got me curious. I went home and called my uncle ( my mothers brother) and told him what I had found. Since he had a computer and was also into family stuff, he promised to do some searching for me. Then, I called information. This is back when you could actually talk to a real live person. The woman I explained things to was very helpful. I told her I was looking for family, and I believed they would be in the state of South Dakota (That was the state Ed McGaa was in). She then proceeded to give me the phone number and address of every single McGaa she found in South Dakota and even one across the border in Rushville, Nebraska. I then started calling these numbers. I would tell the person who I was, who my father was, and his father (that was as far as i could go) and ask if we were related. every person said the same thing...If you are a McGaa, then we are related. One man I called turned out to be a half brother to my dad and his brother. He invited me to come spend a couple weeks with him and he would help me get enrolled in the tribe. Sadly I could not do this at the time as I was working as a live in caregiver for a woman who was over 100 yrs old. (She died when she reached 105 yrs old). This uncle told me he had cancer. When I finally made it here, he was not to be found and I don't know if he died or has moved away somewhere.
When I finally did make it to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I came not knowing what to expect, but determined to settle on my families land. Well, that did not work out. It is so wrapped up in red tape no one in the family can ever make use of it. The only ones who can ever use it are ranchers who lease it through the tribe. But coming here was not a total loss...not a loss at all, actually. Right away I found a cousin, who sent me to another cousin, who vouched for me so I was able to get enrolled. I say vouched...I mean she lied, saying I lived here a year, when I didn't. I thought I would only be able to get registered, but when I stated my name, the woman looked at me and said "you can get enrolled, not just registered". I was surprised and asked how that was possible. She told me it was because my grandfather had enrolled my father.
That was something, to be talking to someone who knew my family. Later we would move to Manderson, about 30 miles from Pine Ridge. Shortly after I learned my grandfather Roy McGaa was born right there, in Manderson. Then I would later become friends with others who knew my great grandmother Annie. I was forever running into cousins. I remember the first and only pow wow i ever attended. I spent the day with an old woman. She even lent me her feather fan and shawl and taught me how to round dance. But it was not until we were ready to go home that we got around to introducing ourselves to each other...And discovered we were related to each other.
Since coming here, I have been warmly accepted, even though I look white (I have a blood quantum of 5/64ths Lakota...just a drop) and treated as a member of the tribe by all I have come into contact with, whether they knew me or not, whether they were family or not. It is very different here than in Az. The Lakota are a very generous, warm and hospitable people, and I am proud to be called one of them.