My Research, and family Oral History

5 Civilized Tribes Wind Family
I have never doubted my Cherokee heritage. Some of my earliest memories are of relatives talking about Cherokee connections. And yes, great-great-grandmother, on my mother's side, was said to be Cherokee, and my great-great-grandfather, on my father's-mother's side was said to be Kiowa. As a child, I remember my parents often driving from California to visit relatives in Oklahoma, Texas, and Maine. I recall that for hours at a time, my mother, aunts, grandmother and great-grandmother would set together "quilting" heavy bed covers while gossiping and talking about the past. The subject of Cherokee heritage always seemed to come up, and as always, the talkers agreed and confirmed the oral history, with an occasional tale that has, on my part, faded with the years.

Great Grandmother, Martha Hines LundayI remember a 1958 trip back to Texas with my grandmother, to visit my great-grandmother, Martha Hines Lunday (photo, right). Her gums were hurting and she didn't want to put her teeth back in, but she sang a song she told me was a Cherokee lullaby.

Years later, I inherited my grandmother's family bible, with a wealth of names (with multiple spellings), dates of birth, and information. It contained Hard-earned facts, mostly acquired through mail and from relatives willing to share what they knew, remembered, or had heard. That is when my interest in tracking family roots began, and evolved into a quest. I realized that all I knew about my distant family was within me, and nothing was written down -- just words, like Cher's song, Blowing in the Wind. I thought about my grandchildren, and how will they ever know about their Cherokee family ... Wind Spirit Family? How will they be able to trace their Cherokee heritage -- will they even try to find out WhoWe are-- if I do not continue down the path my grandmother walked?

Research is not a simple task, I soon learned. Tracking your heritage and searching for that distant alleged Indian ancestor will indeed be an educational process along the way. Research patterns, like family quilts, began to form. If the ancestor was one of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek or Seminole), and lived in Oklahoma, the Dawes Rolls will be essential -- vital -- to your research. Over and over, I read that if an ancestor is not listed on the Dawes Rolls, it would be nearly impossible to show a link -- the link -- that would prove you are a tribal descendent. Part of my education was discovering the many-justified-reasons ancestors may never have registered with governments as a tribal member. For whatever reasons, not finding a ancestor's name on the Rolls means you can't prove a blood relationship -- as far as a tribe is concerned. Even if you are one of the lucky few to find a name, how do you know that John Smith is your John Smith? Professional researchers may need to be consulted.

Motives are questioned closely -- Why now? and why the renewed interest in finding a connection to Native American heritage? I am afraid the various tribes are right in being suspicious of motives to gain citizenship. "You mean they've waited 50 years to all of a sudden want to be an Indian? Is it coincidence that we are paying four-grand to every citizen due to our successful casinos?" So. What are your reasons? Is it to discover your heritage and claim your Native American relationship? Or is tribal skepticism justified?

Research: Why are The Rolls so important? And are the Dawes Rolls in particular so important? The Dawes Rolls are the final list of recognized members of the tribes, and freedman allotted land in the state of Oklahoma. The Act that created the Dawes was to take away allotted land and reallocate it within the tribe. It is ironic, to me, that such a heinous Roll that took-away so much from the tribes, could now be used to take-way and keep-away descendants of those tribes. To use those very Rolls to determine tribal citizenship by requiring proof of relationship -- as a descendant -- to someone on the Dawes Rolls is again, ironic. The federal government will never recognize you as a citizen of a tribe listed on the Dawes, without that proof -- their proof. Further irony is that no other minority is required to "prove" they are a minority. The truth is ... you will be required to prove you are directly related to someone on the Dawes Rolls, or another roll. There is no other way.

Today, we stand a better chance of doing just that by hard research, and thankfully, computer research. Perhaps in time, we will be permitted to prove a blood relationship by DNA testing. If that is allowed in my lifetime, I will begin organizing and fundraising to help us all answer the questions that brought you to this page: Is there a connection ... am I related to that Native American ancestor my family has talked about as long as I can remember?

The answer -- your answer -- my answer -- may be within the major Rolls I have poured over them the hard way, and bring to you Fived Civilized Tribes Online, or CD,  in hope this will speed your research and ease your walk down that path. Finding even a small link may take you closer to your roots ... closer to your family ... and closer to that ancestor who is calling through the ages.

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