My Monacan Dream

My connection to the Native American culture is obvious. Artifacts, pottery, dream catchers, medicine wheels, pictures, blankets, moccasins, jewelry, books…I collect it and I have even worn it at times. I once even had my den decorated with it. I used to make dream catchers. I have given most of these items to my father. I’ve attended Pow Wows. I am drawn to these people. I want to be a part of them.

I claim with great pride my Native American ancestry. It is with equally tremendous remorse that I must admit that it might all just be family lore.

"Arpatia, Monacan Wanderer of the Glades" - doll I made, interpretation of my great-great grandmother

The story is that my great great-grandmother was a full blood Monacan Indian. Her name was Arpatia and often went by the name Patience. My cousin and I have both researched our family genealogy. And we both hit a brick wall when it came to proof. We actually found her on the US census. She was listed with her husband and children, and it simply stated that she was Caucasian and did not read or write. It was common in those days to lie if you were not Caucasian and just as common to be illiterate. We found an earlier census where she was listed with her parents and sister. It seems the roots might very well come from Pennsylvania and the name Arpatia possibly Pennsylvania Dutch.

I think these are Southwestern pottery pieces.

Furthermore, to drive this closer to the truth is the fact that my cousin had DNA testing done. Arpatia was the maternal great grandmother of my father. The testing must be done from female to female through lines or from male to male descendants. My father submitted to the DNA testing on the paternal side. Anyway, my cousin’s mother is the sibling of my father, and the testing came back negative for Native American ancestry. I can’t remember exactly what country of origin it pointed. We were bummed to say the least.

We pride ourselves that our family has that Indian look of high cheek bones, lovely skin coloring, and dark hair. I’ve always called it a look of mystery. However, it appears it might be from my grandmother’s paternal line which was Spanish.

Not sure where these pieces originate. The necklaces are called "witch beads" that were worn to ward off evil spirits.

However, I grew up on the land that was once occupied by the Monacan Indians. I’ve found artifacts on these grounds all of my life. I laughed, played, ran, danced, and cried on the land of sacred. I’m sure many ceremonies and rituals were held long, long ago on those very glades. I’ve waded the creeks where those Natives washed their bodies and from which they hauled water for their needs. I’ve lain in those fields and watched the very same stars upon which they gazed. I’ve climbed trees and swung on the wild grape vines in those very woods, probably not unlike they did as children. I’ve breathed in the scent of the wildflowers in the Spring. I’ve been sprinkled by the same heavens to which they may have prayed for rain.

I am grounded to that earth, and that water runs through my veins. My soul resonates with theirs, and they will always be my people. Even if only by adoption.

Made by the Rappahannock Tribe in Virginia

This link is a newspaper article on Virginia’s Indian tribes in today’s society.  I have met both Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock tribe and Kenneth Branham of the Monacan tribe at Pow Wows. Our church and Scout troop did some volunteer work at the Rappahhanock cultural center. It was an educational and cultural experience I cherish.

48 thoughts on “My Monacan Dream

  1. I believe it’s possible to connect to a culture truly and deeply and feel that you belong to it, even if you weren’t born into it. And I believe that you truly are connected with the Monacan tribe in spirit, if not through your DNA.
    Your post was beautiful, and I must say that I love your writing style…
    Also, have you heard of the writer Charles de Lint? He writes urban-fantasy novels, and one of the things I love most is how in many of his novels, he includes many types of Native American myths as well as characters of that origin.

  2. You obviously have a strong connection to land you grew up on. Be it through blood or spirit. What a wonderful sense of belonging!

    I’m also curious about the quilt that your doll is sitting on. The pink fabric looks similar to and antique quilt that I have.

    • That is a hand pieced quilt given to me by my almost 98 year old friend. It was a gift ot her, made by a friend of a friend. I have no idea as to the age of the quilt. I’ll ask her.

  3. I don’t care what DNA tests showed… we ARE part native american… I refuse to believe anything else. Don’t take that away from me SuziCate! I’d like to see you try to convince Daddy he’s NOT of Native American heritage. He’ll sic Quanah Parker on you! LOL

    Now you’ve bummed me out… 😦

    • Sorry DNA doesn’t lie. He’s always said that he didn’t know if the story of Arpatia was true or lore. There may be some Indian running through us somewhere (Pam and I just can’t find it), but all of Daddy’s lines point to England with a bit of Scottland. Mama’s point to England as well, with a bit of Ireland, and France (aristocrasy) in the 1400’s. It seems the Indian runs through part of Mama’s line (can’t prove it) but do know exactly where to explore. You are not any more bummed than I am,but these are the fact. Truth hurts sometimes! I think the Native connection runs through our souls but does not make it reality.

  4. Suzi…there’s a fiction/fantasy love story there in your Indian heritage story….you just need to find it and explore….sounds almost like a Harlequin could be in there! and you know folks wouldn’t have spoken about it back then either….

  5. I find the DNA stuff fascinating – there is a show on PBS that shows the ancestory of famous people, I just saw the one with Meryl Streep.

    Small world – I vacationed every summer in Warsaw, Virginia growing up – and it was a big deal to go to Tappahannock to watch a movie – and I swam in the Rappahanock river – still shocked that there were jelly fish in there – you had to be careful!

    My daughter has never met her father – but he is 1/2 Cherokee Indian – he was put up for adoption because his mother got pregnant with a Caucasian and was going to be kicked out of the tribe if she kept the baby – so my daughter is 1/4 Cherokee Indian.

    Her father would be 48 now – hard to believe they still did that in 1962!

    • Virginia…I’m a Virginian native. Not sure exactly where Warsaw is to where I am or where I was reaised in Va. Doon’t know if you realize it or not, but that makes your daughter eligible for special college scholarships. I once dated a guy who was full cherokee and given up for adoption because his mother was not married.

  6. I find this very interesting. The passion you have for the culture and finding out your ancestry must have been bitter sweet. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Suzicate, if you feel part NA, then you are. Tell Peg to relax. That cousin’s DNA just could be a fluke. Maybe somebody fooled around and his DNA isn’t exactly like your’s and Peg’s. Don’t get tested though. Just be it. Besides DNA doesn’t lie? Who on earth understand what it really is in the first place? It could be a plot by aliens (or somebody) just to take away our heritage! Now don’t you feel better? Alex’s family has a running joke “Just give me my Indian money”. Heck, the Navajos are the largest tribe but the only Navajo I’ve ever sen who had any money is Alex and it didn’t come from the Tribe! LOL.

      • Actually Suzicate I’ve seen some of the results from the DNA test of Redcross and Johns. I’ll just say you just might BE Monacan so don’t throw it out yet. The highest I’ve seen out of them was still less than 1%. There was a Black guy who had 5%, but of course he is just a descendant of one of those families and he’s from the BlueRidge somewhere. The DNA companies make it rather easy because unsuspecting descendants submit their DNA along with the Family Tree info. I’ve actually seen more SSAfrican in their results than Indian. Same story with the Lumbee. I think its time that we all stop PLAYING Indian.

  8. Yeah, I would think that would be hard to trace. Lots of folks didn’t go around being proud of their bloodlines back then, especially if it had some Indian in it. Such a shame.

    I think the bloodlines have been so mixed and matched, that not very many people know exactly what they are anymore. I don’t, I’m a mutt!

    I say claim what you want. If you feel indian and believe there is indian in you, then you are indian!

  9. Oh…what a wonderful post, SC!

    I LOVED it!

    And you should be proud of your Native American ancestry! They are responsible for discovering so many natural healing modalities (many of which I practice myself).

    I once had a session with an Indian shaman and it totally blew me away. He told me things that no one else knew. One of these days if you and I should ever meet, I’ll tell you all about it. I think you would find it fascinating.

    Even though I’m a “city guy” I have such a deep connection to the earth and it’s valuable gifts.

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed this.


  10. Damned DNA. I prefer the legend. I grew up in Texas, and most everybody claims a little bit of Cherokee blood. I have a friend whose great, great grandmother is listed in the family bible as “squaw”. Just that, no name. Sad. I don’t think you have to have an actual genetic connection to a culture or a peoples to feel connected to them. And the legend may still be partly true. People didn’t tell the truth all the time, and records were poorly kept. Go with what’s in your gut.

  11. It’s disappointing when we think our heritage is one thing and then it turns out not to be so. You may not be linked by DNA to Native Americans but you certainly are in your heart.

  12. “They will always be my people. Even if only by adoption.” A lovely thought — in a way, we all take on the cultures we’re born into, even if genetically, we’re not a match. I can say I am glad to have been given the chance to assimilate here in the U.S. as opposed to the culture my parents grew up in.

  13. I love geneology! I love this post! Native American history is interesting to me. I actually took a semester on NAI, and I loved every moment. Such a rich culture. Lucky lady!

  14. Genealogy is fascinating, but I agree – follow your heart. My Dad is dark-skinned and has an eye condition that, according to one eye doctor, is particular to aboriginal Canadians. My Polish grandmother was initially very unimpressed when my Mom brought him home. Good thing he could really eat cabbage rolls. 🙂

  15. There is something about feeling connected to a certain heritage that gives us a sense of belonging. Our intellectual mind wants to figure out “why” we feel or look a certain way. Who knows…even if you weren’t directly descended from the Monacan line in this lifetime…there is always the next…maybe!!!!

  16. I don’t know a lot about DNA (other than that mine happens to be mutated!) but maybe it’s possible that the Indian in your DNA has just worn so thin, over time, that it doesn’t show up anymore. With a connection like that, it makes ya wonder. 🙂

  17. I loved learning about your deep connection to Native American culture. I recently read the book Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich and some of the themes from your post reminded me of some of the themes she addressed. I think you would enjoy her work.

  18. Growing up in Oklahoma we were saturated in the Native American culture. It was such a gift to me. We couldn’t find it our bloodline either, although rumor was there was an Indian that married into the family. But if you don’t have a roll number too bad. My best friends were all Indian. They even performed in the festivals. It was very cool!
    I love all your artifacts and your dedication to the culture.
    Thanks for sharing! Wonderful!

  19. Pingback: Soapstone, Rock Or Treasure « The Water Witch's Daughter

  20. Triracials make an interesting case for being full bloods you know. I’ve seen many Africans with epicant. folds and high cheek bonz. Add a little creme to the complexion and straighten the hair and Oila! Some of them are dead ringers if the Black parent wasn’t 100% African like Obamas was. Halle Berry is far from Obama’s phenotype for example. White men were snatching those type up in droves and moving to other states declaring that “my wife is Indian”. Ironically though I will say that about 3/4 of the African Americans I run across have at least SOME N.A. DNA. Don’t take my word for it though. 23andme’s threads are loaded with these stories and shocking results. Looks like the Cherokee know what they’re talking about. DNA DOESN’T lie.

  21. Thank you for directing me here Suzi.. Am I ok calling you that by the way?.. Yes so many similarities with Native Americans.. Though for me I think most of my own association is through past lives.. Living in the UK all my life we can trace our Ancestry back some ways and Although my Grandmothers’s sister emigrated to Canada when she was only a young girl and married a Canadian, I know there is no Native Blood lines..

    But ever since a small girl, I would fantasise about the Native American Indians, and always if we played cowboys and Indians would take the Indian roll 🙂
    I grew up around friends who lived on farms and would beg to ride their horses.. I had riding lessons for a time, but being a large family I was the eldest of 5 siblings, We couldn’t afford much .. So the lessons had to stop, but I would follow my friends around for miles on foot with their horses and wait until they let me ride… 🙂

    In later years I would collect artefacts of Native Americans. Statues, Dreamcatchers, Indian wall plates, In the year 2000 my hubby and I went to Canada for our 25th Wedding Anniversary.. a trip of a life time. Coast to coast.. Needless to say I visited many reservations and bought lots of things including a bow and arrows which is hung upon my dinning room wall.. 🙂

    So even if you could not prove you have Native Blood, its within our DNA memory I am sure or our Past life memory.. I even started to right a story about A native girl called Muna, her grandmother was called Aponi .. Maybe one day I will tell the story again..

    Thank you for the link, and for listening.. 🙂
    Blessings Sue

    • Suzi is fine, I’ve been called Suzi all my life at least by family.
      Your genealogy is interesting. Though it couldn’t be proven on my father’s side; My mother’s ancestry does have native american links.
      You should tell the story again. If it’s inside you, it’s a part of you.

      • The story I once started and it became chapters of a book.. but circumstances made me veer off from writing it.. and I have never picked up the thread again.. Who knows maybe now is the time to start thinking about it.. 🙂 xxx

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