Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heritage

"In 1859 tribes were forcibly marched northward to the Yachats River.  During the march many died of starvation, exposure, mistreatment, and sheer exhaustion.  Reservation life was deplorable.

The tribes' membership, after just one season in Yachats dwindled from seven hundred to less than three hundred.  We survived and today we have about 900 enrolled members and we continue to grow each year." 
-excerpt from an invitation to the annual Restoration Celebration that was held earlier this year.
Depiction of historical Lower Umpqua life by Pam Stoehsler
I've known all of my life that I am Native American.  I was blessed with this heritage from my mother's side of the family.  Until I became an adult I didn't realize the influence that being Native American has on my life, and I didn't understand the pride that is felt by being related to such amazing people.  

In the past five years I have had the opportunity to learn about our tribe, its culture, people and history.  The past March the kids and I were able to visit our Reservation for the first time, and see first-hand where our relatives were born, lived, and died.  It was an emotional trip for me. When I stood in the sacred tribal Longhouse on the reservation I felt as if I was being taken back in time.  Back to a time when my ancestors were there, fighting for the only home they had ever known.  The pride that I felt that day was beyond anything that I can possibly explain.

In the months since our visit to the reservation and the surrounding areas I have had a desire to learn even more. My mom and step-dad are active participants in the tribe, and they live nearby in Oregon.  My mom is considered an "elder" in our tribe, and Larry has knowledge of our ancestors beyond what I will probably ever have.  He has helped preserve some of our heritage, and worked with older members of our tribe that know the native language of the Lower Umpqua to make CD's and DVD's available to tribal members so that we can learn the language.  It's amazing The more I learn the more proud I become.  

The kids and I are Indian.  We are members of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.  Our tribal enrollment cards show an identification number, similar to that of a social security number. However, this number has so much more meaning. It proves that we are part of one of the most amazing groups of people to have ever lived.  

k'wii'ash'in (I'm proud)

Me and Bren in front of the sacred tribal Longhouse on the Reservation

2 comments:

Mom said...

This is great Michelle. I feel the same way you do about being proud to be an Native American. When my grandpa was alive he never spoke our language because he was raised and beaten for speaking his native language. It wasn't allowed to be spoken until sometime in the 1970's.I wish he had shared it with me. Be Proud. Love, Mom

The Mrs. and Mom said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing your heritage with us. *hug*