June 16, 2020

Finding a Home

My Choctaw Grandfather Marcus and his sister Lucille
I remember when it wasn't cool to tell people I was Indian. And when I did, they often thought I meant I was from India. It wasn't until 10 years ago that I switched to saying, Native American, followed by the name of my tribe, Choctaw.

I've known my entire life I am Choctaw, but I always felt uncomfortable identifying as such. Not because I'm ashamed of being Choctaw. I'm very proud of my heritage. I've spent much of my time worrying about what other Natives would think about someone who wasn't raised as in the Indian culture. I didn't encounter the same struggles, I don't understand the customs or the language, and I don't have a clue what it's like to be a Native American. There's such a negative connotation to cultural appropriation, and even though this is my culture, in a way, it's not.

No matter where I've been in my life, I haven't ever fit in. I didn't fit in with my family, my classmates, my inlaws, my neighbors nor my friends. I think that's why living as a vagabond suits me so well. When I feel uncomfortable, I leave. It's become my way of life. Just run.

My Great Grandfather Sam & Marcus

We never knew my mother's father Marcus, the Choctaw of my lineage. When my mother was only 3 years old, her parents divorced and she never saw her father again. In 1943, my grandmother Dora took her 3 children from Oklahoma to Arizona to start a new life. It wasn't until my Mom was 60 years old when she learned her mother had done this without letting Marcus know.

It turned out that Marcus had remarried and had 3 more children. Through a wonderful coincidence of fate, in 1996, his oldest daughter from his first marriage, Marcia, and his oldest son from his second marriage, Reggie, happened upon one another doing genealogy online. They were ecstatic to meet one another, although Marcia, my Mom, and their brother Everett had no idea they had half-siblings. Once we met Reggie, the truth about the divorce came out. Marcus had looked for his first three children for many years and died in 1972 with a photo of his babies in his wallet. When my Mom learned of this, she refused to speak to my grandmother again. My grandmother died 3 years later, heartbroken that she had lost her daughter over a decision she made all those years ago.

Three of the siblings reunited - Everett, my Mom Sarah Kay and Reggie (with his cute daughter Reagan)

The impact on our family was not all negative though. In fact, this opened a whole new world for us! New family members, insight into our family history, and that golden link to our Choctaw heritage. I've come to know Reggie and his family well, and I adore them! It's been through Reggie's love and encouragement that I have decided to connect with my heritage in a deep and meaningful way.

Although I remain apprehensive, I've decided to dive headfirst into the Choctaw culture and buy a home in Oklahoma. In September, my husband Steve and I will be traveling to the 10.5 counties of Choctaw land and start the home buying process. We will continue to travel most of the year, but having a home base in Oklahoma will give me a greater opportunity to immerse myself in my heritage. Perhaps, one day, I will feel like a whole human being. Perhaps, one day, I'll find my place and just maybe, I'll feel at home.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sash, Homegirl no matter what you do you have always look and had the bright side shining through, you seam to be enjoying all of your endevers. You inspire me to try some gypsy life too!


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