February 5, 2012
Essay #1-How One Word Changed My Life
Throughout history, human beings have labeled people by their race, beliefs, financial and social standing. This classification of people usually had a derogatory implication. Mine was “Okie”. Although I was born in California, my family migrated from Oklahoma in the 1940’s and 1950’s in search for work. We were poor, hard-working people, and I could not understand why being considered an Okie was so negative.
My curiosity began early in life, and I ask my maternal grandmother what nationality were we. At that time, I knew we were from Oklahoma, and I thought that being an Okie was just part of who we were. Which was true in a sense, but in a child’s mind, I did not see the whole picture. What she informed me was that we were part Scottish, Irish, and Black Dutch. For years, I took her words to heart. Years later I learned that we were also part Cherokee.
When I was a young adult, my mother had given her children an Indian Card that stated that we were proud members of the Cherokee Nation. This gave me a new sense of pride, but I wanted to know more. It was later in life during my research that I learned that “Black Dutch” was a term derived by descendants of American Indians to hide from the prejudice they suffered during that sad time in our history. The research led me to a well-organized and documented source of information through the Cherokee Nation. These were the true citizens of this nation, who were proud historians of their own past, and knew early on that their culture needed to be well preserved for future generations.
My research began in the twenty-first century, and worked backwards. Just this nation alone, I was able to explore 400 years of history that my ancestors played a role in contributing to building this land of opportunity. Although it began with the original inhabitants, the American Natives, it led in many different...