Remembering Auntie Out Loud

by Terra Trevor 

Great Auntie 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. 

I still have Auntie Lydia. Wrinkled, shrunken, ten years older than her sister Jo, dark black eyes gone yellow, but with a memory bank of a mind. Without pausing she tells me stories, a web of words, the same ones I remember from childhood. 

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, Lenape, 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. 

© Terra Trevor. All rights reserved. 

First published in Yukhika-latuhse (She Tells Us Stories) Oneida Nation Arts Program 


Terra Trevor is the author of a diverse body of work and a contributor to 10 books, including The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing After Removal (University of Oklahoma Press) Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education (The University of Arizona Press). She is the author of Pushing up the Sky, and a contributing editor at River, Blood, And Corn. Her work and portrait is featured in Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (University of New Mexico Press). Her work also has appeared in News From Native California (Heyday Books), Yellow Medicine Review and in numerous other books, magazines, anthologies, literary journals online. terratrevorauthor.com
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  • If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. —Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel