CODE: Finding Papers You Exist #YIPP #BadHistory

reunion Pana 1994
meeting my family the first time in 1994 (my dad Earl is on the right)

By Lara Trace (Cherokee-Shawnee-French Canadian-Euro mix)

If you are an American Indian/First Nations/Indigenous, which many of you are, you may find it exceedingly difficult to find paper records that CONFIRM what tribe you think you are… or were told you are.

For example, on Earl’s side of my family, Earl’s aunt Bessie, referred to us as BLACK DUTCH, which is “code” for Cherokee.  My first conversation with my dad he told me we are Indian.  Mystery solved? Not quite.

Code is not uncommon at all.  Since I have been in reunion, my cousin Cathy and I have dug up tons on the “code” and how it makes sense Bessie would say that — since if you were Indian, you’d be forcibly removed to Indian Territory (then malaria-ridden Oklahoma) and you couldn’t own land and that was terrifying, potentially fatal. (Thank you Bessie for telling people that repeatedly.)

shawnee

For New England tribes, that matter of having “papers” means you exist. For many tribes here, every time you went to Hartford or Boston to make a claim with the courts, you made a record: that paper is now buried in old boxes.  Why would that matter now?

Paper has to exist for you to be federally recognized.  Then as a sovereign you are entitled to promises made when the federal government (not the states) made treaty with your tribe or band.  You’d finally get some of your stolen land back, maybe even compensated!

When I was editor of the Pequot Times, I met with leaders of the Eastern Pequot bands who had done extensive paper research in their bid for federal recognition. They found documents hidden in boxes under Flora and Fauna in Hartford, Connecticut, secret code for “wild indians.”  To this day, the Eastern Pequot are NOT federally recognized and it’s not only frustrating for them (trying over 40+ years), but devious on the part of the FEDS.  (I worked for the Western Pequot or Mashantucket who are recognized). One can only imagine what will happen when PAPERS are found that feds and BIA cannot reject and no longer deny for ANY Eastern tribe.  (Old tricks worked a long time for the clever feds/BIA – demanding paper proof.)

Paper can change things, and I’d mentioned The Yale Indian Papers Project on this blog HERE

From June 29th to July 1st the Yale Indian Papers Project hosted an NEH-sponsored Digital Native American & Indigenous Studies workshop at Yale Divinity School and at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. The three-day event introduced participants to issues of access, preservation, and methodology related to the use of digitized cultural heritage materials in the context of tribal communities and cultures from the territories east of the Mississippi River.

UPDATE:  The Yale Indian Papers Project (YIPP), which first came to YALE in 2003, is an extensive publishing endeavor to digitize the collection of primary source materials relating to New England’s Native American history.  It draws from the archives of numerous institutions, including the Yale University Library, Harvard University Library, The Massachusetts Archives and the National Archives of the United Kingdom.  Researchers are currently working to gather information on the people who lived in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies.   On Aug. 12, the project announced that it had been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, allowing it to expand its work in Massachusetts for three more years. Read More

Both Tobias Glaza and executive editor Paul Grant-Costa said the Indian Papers Project has helped forge new relationships between Yale and Native communities for the first time in several centuriesGrant-Costa said the initial idea for the project arose more than two decades ago as a result of the challenges New England’s Native tribes first faced when trying to become recognized by the federal government. In order for these long-marginalized communities to win recognition, they first need access to historical material that has not been easily accessible in the past, he said.* [I went to their first meetings]

Tribes need paper to exist?  Indeed.  It sounds crazy, and so ludicrous.

Paper is crucially important and having it will break the CODE of erased Indian history right here in New England… no, not all Indians in the east are dead… (bad history again, yes.)

FINALLY we will see papers that reflect truth… finally.

[*YIPP editors are happy the grant will extend their work in Massachusetts for three more years.  Taken together with the Mellon/CLIR and National Archives grants, the editorial efforts will last more than four years, adding 1,650 documents to the New England Indian Papers Series.]

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My friend and fellow blogger/author Trav S. D. [Travalanche] has done quite a bit of research, too. He’s a contributor to THE MIX e-mag, and he’s a Cherokee mix like me.

A thoughtful agent friend noticed the growing snowball of posts on Travalanche about American history and my family’s role therein.  Some posts are more focused on my ancestors, some involve me personally, and some are more like op-eds that have grown out of my meditation on my people’s role in our history. As you begin to see, they almost begin to stack up to something like a history of the nation, with an emphasis on race and class, and a greater than normal emphasis on pop culture, and I do believe that’s where I’m bound.  The posts themselves are just raw material — they’re not necessarily what would find their way into the book, they just lay the groundwork.

The Founding of Tennessee and Kentucky, Western New York and Ohio

Davy Crockett

The Second Great Awakening

The Star Spangled Banner 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 

American Utopianism from 19th Century to Now

The Real Grizzly Adams

William Holland Thomas and the Eastern Band of Cherokee

In addition, these travel posts mention references to places and people in my background: Newport, Salem, Providence, South Street Seaport, and New Orleans.  Many more of these are planned. Also (probably) to come are posts on the French and Indian war, Indian removal, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American war, the World Wars, the Cold War, and enhanced posts on Irish and German ancestors….

READ: A Personal History of the United States (the Person Being ME)

 

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Identity, Indians and THE MIX

tacosAs Adoptees we need to be flexible, open to the new, to synchronicities, to unlikely possibilities and to seeing the extraordinary opportunities we have, to deal with the losses, the traumas of adoption, to be who we want to be.  Identity, that ‘thing’ we have taken from us in adoption which is replaced by a new identity invented by our adopters, is not a fixed point in our lives. Identity is ours to create, we can be whoever we want to be, no matter who we were told we were. – Von Hughes (on Lost Daughters)

 

By Lara Trace Hentz

Identity? Oh yeah, baby. It’s so vast, so incredibly vast. In my new book Becoming I list some of my grandmothers (the ones who gave me blood and ancestry) because some are immigrants and some are Indigenous. I have so much interest in them, I can barely contain my emotions of enthusiasm and happiness that I finally know some of their names!

My cousin Cathy was asking me why some of our relatives hid the fact they are Indian. Well the past few posts I have on this blog might be a good indication. Savages? Not able to vote? Own land? Herded to concentration camps/reservations?

Cathy’s grandmother Bessie and my grandmother Lona are sisters – her grandmother claimed their mother (Mary Frances Morris-Harlow) was not Indian. I didn’t meet my grandma Lona. Yet Bessie’s father always said his mother was Indian and told his children and grandchildren.

My own dad told me his grandma Mary Frances was Cherokee. (We also have Shawnee ancestry.)

But how could a Cherokee/Shawnee be in Illinois?

After invasion, when colonies became the United States of America, Native Americans were very aware they were being denied basic civil rights. I know many readers are history teachers or history buffs, so you already know about the Cherokee Trail of Tears, etc.  Some of my ancestors were in Tennessee and Kentucky then were forced on the trail. Some made it as far as Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and stopped. Why? Because if they married white men, or married mixed-blood men who didn’t claim they are Indian, that meant they had a future.  If they had family already in Illinois that could also be their salvation!

I have many ancestors who lived and died in Pana, and that part of Illinois.  Where Illinois meets Kentucky was another Trail of Tears.  Where southern Illinois meets Missouri is the Trail of Tears State Park.  Illinois, particularly south-central Illinois is filled with street names like Nokomis, Pocahantas, Mowequa, Powhatan, Chillicothe, and many more. I do not believe this is mere coincidence. Many Indians in the East were moving and migrating as more and more colonists were encroaching – and somehow enough (mixed) Indians were in Illinois and enough settled in Illinois, enough to have an influence on place names. (The last time I drove through Illinois, my jaw dropped at all the Indian names!)

  • Illinois is an Algonquin word. Illinois – from the French rendering of an Algonquian (perhaps Miami) word apparently meaning “s/he speaks normally” (c.f. Miami ilenweewa),[13] from Proto-Algonquian *elen-, “ordinary” + -wē, “to speak”,[14][15] referring to the Illiniwek.
  • Chicago – derived from the French rendering of a Miami-Illinois word for a type of wild onion
  • Peoria – named after the Peoria Tribe which previously lived in the area
  • The name “Pana” is derived from the American Indian tribe, the Pawnee. Pawnee became “pani” or “slave” in the French patois or creole that developed in Illinois. This evolved into “Pana”,[3] now pronounced, however, [ˈpejnə].

Though I have not researched this, many mounds are also in this area! Many were plowed down but thankfully some still exist. Cahokia Mounds is located in Collinsville, Illinois off Interstates 55/70 and 255. My Miq’mac friend Alice Azure wrote a book about her visits to these ancient sacred mounds.

Why would Indians settle in Illinois?

Some were already there but during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. government attempted to control the travel of all Native Americans off the Indian reservations.  Since Native Americans did not obtain U.S. citizenship until 1924, they were considered wards of the state and were denied various basic rights, including the right to travel.[WIKI 30] The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) discouraged off-reservation activities, including the right to hunt, fish, or visit other tribes.  As a result, the BIA instituted a “pass system” designed to control movement of the Indians. This system required Indians living on reservations to obtain a pass from an Indian agent before they could leave the reservation.[WIKI 31]

If I were Indian in the late 1800s, forced to walk hundreds of miles, I’d settle down in Illinois and find a nice man, marry and have my kids. Better than moving to Indian Territory/Oklahoma reservations where you couldn’t leave without permission and a pass.

So I will continue with my family research and try to find more of my grandmother’s stories, if they exist on paper. (I am grateful to have their names!)

I decided to start a brand new e-magazine THE MIX, so more of these vast and varied family stories can be collected and published.

Salish child
A Salish Native American child in 1910
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Congress Granted Citizenship to All Native Americans Born in the U.S.
June 2, 1924

Native Americans have long struggled to retain their culture. Until 1924, Native Americans were not citizens of the United States. Many Native Americans had, and still have, separate nations within the U.S. on designated reservation land. But on June 2, 1924, Congress granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. Yet even after the Indian Citizenship Act, some Native Americans weren’t allowed to vote because the right to vote was governed by state law. Until 1957, some states barred Native Americans from voting.

 

If we weren’t citizens, what were we? …Lara

 

The original inhabitants of the area that is now Illinois included:


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*The Chickasaw tribe
*The Dakota Sioux tribe
*The Ho-Chunk tribe (Winnebago)
*The Illinois tribe (Illini)
*The Miami tribe
*The Shawnee tribe

 

Other Indian tribes that migrated into Illinois after Europeans arrived:

*The Delaware tribe
*The Kickapoo tribe
*The Ottawa tribe
*The Potawatomi tribe
*The Sac and Fox tribes
*The Wyandot tribe

There are no federally recognized Indian tribes in Illinois today.

The Indian tribes of Illinois are not extinct, but like many other native tribes, they were forced to move to Indian reservations in Oklahoma by the American government. You can find their present-day locations by clicking on the tribal links above.