Friday, February 25, 2011

American Indian Roots

photo, mabel mckay - Google Search
      I just finished the story, Mabel McKay, WEAVING THE DREAM~by Greg Sarris. This book was such a page turner for me because it is about the American Indian history of much of  Northern and Central California, including: Santa Rosa (where I lived for about 12 years), Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Mendocino counties, Ukiah, Sacramento, Rumsey, Nice. Colussa, Cortia, Potter Valley, et all. Not only that, but it is the unique story of the last woman of the Lolsel Cache Creek Pomo or more commonly Wintun/Pomo tribe as told to the author, who in the process of telling her story discovers his own Indian roots and family history. Mabel is so inspiring as a craftswoman, medicine woman, mother, grandmother, sister, Auntie, friend and neighbor, that I wish I had Indian roots to check into. What I've gotten so far is half Hungarian, (I definitely am in touch with my inner Gypsy) Polish and (from my grandma on my mother's side) nebulous ancestors whom she claimed came over on the Mayflower. As far back as I've gotten with my genealogy is great great grandparents and that's not going back far enough to get Mayflower info. I would not be surprised to discover some Indian heritage crossing over because of my great grandparents, the Wilsons. I am more motivated than ever to do that research now.

     Getting back to Mabel's story, the author has a hard time getting her to tell it in "white people's order"; eventually he gives up and the piece emerges as beautifully as one of her baskets: hand picked, gathered and woven together. "It's more. My life. It's not only one thing. It's many. You have to listen. You have to know me to know what I'm talking about". 

      I feel I got to know her very well indeed. I was fascinated by her craft, doctoring and how much she moved and traveled around usually with no transportation of her own. She worked hard for her money at the old apple cannery in Sebastopol, in the fields, housekeeping and washing clothes for white people, down by the river with her Grandma Sarah (who raised her). She danced and sang for hours, sucking the disease out of the people she doctored. When she married she let her husband know in no uncertain terms not to follow her or impede her from her work, which kept her traveling and away from home often. Charlie McKay was a gentle hardworking soul in charge of raising their adopted son, Marshall. In later years she would be adopted herself as a sister to Essie Parrish of the Kayshayah Pomo tribe; in the old Indian ways they were closer than blood being linked together through their Dreams experienced both awake and asleep, where the Spirit told them how to lead their lives and sometimes even what to expect in the future.

     This story is a must read for anyone interested in memoir writing at it's finest as well as those curious about the Indian culture of old and their history. I can't recommend it highly enough.***** b. 1907-d. 1993

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