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.
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.
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.
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.
This link is a newspaper article on Virginia’s Indian tribes in today’s society. http://hamptonroads.com/2009/06/va-indian-population-now-shadow-its-past 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.