Great Aunt Josephine sits in her wheelchair. At eighty her hair is still mostly black, but she is too despondent to do more than sigh. Names and questions won’t stick in her mind.
After we fill up on pies and cakes, cameras are brought out. But I don’t have any pictures of my dad’s side of the family. The film was overexposed the day we all lined up according to our generation.
For the first photograph the great aunts and uncles are grouped together. These are my grandpa’s siblings, and the line doesn’t hold a white face.
The next group is my dad, my auntie Joan and all of their cousins—the first half-blood generation in our family. It gives eyes of blue, hazel, wavy or straight brown hair.
My brother, sister, and I stand with the largest group of mixed blood Cherokee, Delaware, Seneca cousins. We are not full bloods or even half, and yet we’re not white and never will be. And soon enough we will become the Elders.
Then when it was time for the rest of us to go shake the Elders hands and thank them, when I neared my friend I said, “Michael you’re the same age as I am, why are you standing?”
“Get up here.” He replied. And he tugged on my arm pulling me in the line. “But I’m not an Elder.” I gasped. Everyone laughed. “You’re close enough.” An Elder said. “It begins to happen before you know it.”
–Remembering Auntie Out Loud, first published in Yukhika-latuhse Literary Journal, Oneida Nation Arts Program
Copyright © Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.
Excerpts from her memoir Pushing up the Sky, a mother’s story (KAAN 2006) are published in landmark anthologies including Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education, the first anthology to document the struggle for Native American cultural survival on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border (The University of Arizona Press).
Born in 1953, and raised in southeast Los Angeles, with roots in Colorado and Oklahoma, her life was divided into two seasons; winter and camping and the home she carries within is mountains and pine trees.
In addition to writing she has worked as a Project Director with American Indian Health, administering a SPINS Grant offering spiritual and cultural connection and Indian doctoring for Native Americans living with AIDS. As a coordinator in South Korea with a family exchange program. As a Program Director with Hospice and We Can Pediatric Brain Tumor Network, at a youth crisis shelter, with CASA as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with at-risk and foster youth in transition, at schools and with American Indian Education Projects.
Terra gives readings, leads workshops, sits on panels and speaks on a multitude of topics, including multi-racial and multi-cultural identification, race and adoption, racism and white privilege discussions, and on topics that deal with American Indian and Native American experiences. www.terratrevorauthor.com