The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Native culture lives on in descendants

Viewpoint by Karen Gavis/se news editor

November is Native American Heritage month. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we should remember the role Native Americans played during the birth of this nation.

I am proud to say  many of my ancestors were Cherokee. They migrated to Missouri from Tennessee and North Carolina. They were mixed-blooded, peaceful farmers living along or near Missouri’s St. Francis River.

They were not part of the Trail of Tears. As a result, their descendants are not listed on the Dawes Roll and are not federally recognized.

That did not stop some of them from telling their children and grandchildren about their heritage. As a child, I remember standing at the knee of my half-Cherokee great-grandmother, born in North Carolina more than 100 years ago, to hear her stories. I challenge anyone to say she lied when she shared who she was and who they were. It is so crazy. I know of no other ethnic group that has to “prove” who they are. They just know.

I knew my mother’s family was Cherokee because relatives told me. I did not know my father’s family was, even though I had asked him about our heritage. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a blonde, blue-eyed girl and could not figure out why my dad and many of my cousins had black hair and/or dark coppery skin. When I asked, my father said we were “Black Dutch.” After he died, I learned this term was used by those trying to pass as non-Indian. 

I am not sure why my dad chose not to share his heritage. His sister said it was because they were ashamed because it had not been that long ago since Indians had killed whites and they did not want to admit it. They did a good job of hiding the fact because my generation had not a clue outside of my curiosity and nearly lost all knowledge of our heritage.

While researching my ancestors, I was amazed to learn they were not wild heathens although I remember my grandmother calling me one at different times.

The Cherokee, one of the Five Civilized Tribes, were an intelligent people. It was liberating to discover  both my parents descended from them. It gave me a sense of pride. I wanted to share our story with my daughter who was in first grade at the time. She promptly told me it could not be true.

“All the Indians are dead,” she said.

I have since taken my daughter to visit different reservations and make friends with Native Americans.

Many may think it unimportant to be concerned with Native American heritage. After all, not many Native Americans are left around here. Perhaps, we should dig a little deeper.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian