Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 4 – #151

Generations of Secrets and Lies
by
Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
Part 4
Story told by Great Grandmother-Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”

 
  “In 1850, my mother Sipsee gave birth to the only child she and Hawk would ever have, she names me Mary Jane. She never gave me an Indian name, or enroll me on the Chickasaw register. She might have been wrong in doing this; her thinking was that her daughter with a white name would have a chance to fit in a white world. This would cause a problem in the future, relatives tracing the heritage of our Native American ancestors would be impossible. The only proof that we existed would be the stories told to those who would listen. It was my mother’s way of trying to change in order to live in her new world. This change did not mean she had forgotten the old ways, she told me many stories of the simple life known by the tribe before the family was forced to go away. She gave me the knowledge of the Indian way and how to survive. She knew that Hawk my father would always possess the heart of a warrior and would never change”. Ma in telling the story remembered both of her parents; her eyes would glaze over with sadness when she talked about them.

 
Both Sipsee and Hawk were survivors in their own way. He in the ways of the land and playing the white man’s game to his own advantage. Yet, Sipsee knew survival meant to learn everything about the white people and their way of living. Sipsee wanted more for her daughter than always being afraid of separation from her family. Once when she ventured into town the general store proprietor asked her name, she told him Sipsee Over-Towne because they only had tribal names. He misunderstood and called it Overton. Sipsee decided when dealing with the white man she would use that name she would be Sipsee Overton. They were all Indian, dark skin, she tried to get Hawk to call himself a white man name, he would just walk away. Sipsee in time would know the word arrogant, in her own mind, this is what she thought of him and she would within time share these thoughts with Jane.

 
After a few years had passed, they had built a cabin, Sipsee worked for a farmwoman living on the edge of the forest. Jane would go with her every day, they would clean the house, cook and work outside when ask, for this she was paid only a few “cents” every day. She was a good woman and taught Sipsee to read and write, in turn she would teach Jane at night. Hawk began logging in the Black Warrior forest for a local lumber company. He worked for loggers that had their own team of horses.

 

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Soon after he got the new job, he told Sipsee that he was going on a hunting trip. He came home after two weeks; in his possession was a team of beautiful workhorses and he set in building himself a skid to haul logs. He told Sipsee he found them running wild and he had tamed them before coming back. Sipsee suspected some logger in the southern part of the state was missing his fine team of horses, she never question Hawk. She knew that it was wrong to steal, Hawk knew it was wrong to steal; but it would be wrong to go against Hawk.

 
Hawk became one of the best loggers in North Alabama. Another logger waged a bet with Hawk that his team could pull more weight with the loser forfeiting his skids and team to the winner. Hawk told Sipsee that he would soon be the owner of two teams and have someone working with him hauling logs, Sipsee again thought of him being arrogant. She silently did not approve of him taking a chance on losing their only means of making a living.

 
The day of the race many people gathered to see who would win. The skids were loaded the day before the race with an estimated equal amount of weight. Unknown to Hawk the middle of his skid had been added iron bars. Hawk, Sipsee and their young daughter Jane walked into the logging camp and Hawk began to hitch his team to the skid. He stood proudly behind his tame waiting for the shot he knew would soon ring out starting the race. Suddenly he was distracted with a familiar sound above him.

 
It was a large hawk circling above him, spreading his massive wings, his calls seems to be one of frantic warning. Hawk turned and looked at Sipsee; their eyes met and locked in some unknown fear. The shot from the pistol rang through the air, starting the race. Hawk’s command to his team sounded no less than one that would send men into battle. Hawk knew when his team lurched forward that he carried a larger amount of weight than had been agreed. This was no difficulty for Hawks team, within seconds they were side-by-side with the other team. Hawk pulled ahead he could see the bloody cuts on the backs of the other team left by the brutal lashing of a whip. He knew this torture must stop, he urged his team forward crossing the finish line.

 
     “The Injun won.” The first words heard from the crowd.

 

 

Hawk leapt from his skid and jumped onto the other skid throwing the man with the whip to the ground. He jerked the whip from him, beating him until he bore gashes like those on the horses. Hawk did not think of the danger and him doing such a thing, his thoughts were with the horses. Hawk then went to the horse’s one-b-one, speaking to them softly then walked back to his own team. Gasp from spectators feel the air when a pistol was drawn from the man on the ground bloodied by his own whip. Sipsee saw the anger on the man’s face, she focused on Hawk. Getting up from the ground where Hawk had left him the man pulled his pistol out firing it at Hawk until the chamber was empty. With his back covered with blood, Hawk continued to walk towards his team, he spoke gently in his own language to them then fell to the ground. Sipsee ran with Jane by her side, Hawk’s spirit was gone from him, his life had ended. The logger Wes McCartee had shot Hawk in the back.

 
     “Nobody will do anything to me; he is just another dead Injun.” Wes McCartee with a snarling smirk on his face yelled to the crowd.

 
Several of Hawks friends, Indian loggers, unhitched his team and placed his body on one of the horses on another Sipsee put her daughter Jane. Hawks friends held to his other horses, in no way was the white man going to get them. Sipsee could hear the people as she walked from the camp.

 
     “The dirty Injun’s should know better try to beat a white man”. Sipsee turned looking into the eyes of Hawks killer, she then turned to face the crowd saying; “You have not killed just another Indian or just another man. You have witnessed the murder of a proud Chickasaw warrior”.

 
Taking hold of the horse caring Hawks body Sipsee began walking the rutted road back into the forest where they lived. Several Indian families followed singing a song for the dead; it floated on the wind through the deep woods. Sipsee saw the hawk that soared above the team; she now believed it to be a sign. Hawk would be buried with his ancestral ceremony.

 
Sipsee decided to leave the forest. With the help of friends, she loaded the few possessions they had in an old two-wheel cart, hitched with two of Hawks horses. The would leave the world of heartache behind, they would have to live with their lives filled with secrets and lies.

 
She gave the remaining horses to Hawk’s closest friends, placing Jane up on the seat of the cart she pulled away never looking back. She took with her from the white woman who taught her English a letter of endorsement. She had told Sipsee both her and Jane would be allowed to work on the plantation of her sister. With her child the letter and all the courage she had, Sipsee moved further into central Alabama.

 
Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the verbal history confident from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, proud Chickasaw.

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Remember

Another great post, depression is alive and well within so many. E.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

There’s a feeling I get when the depression gets deeper into my thoughts. I stop seeing light and there is only darkness, maybe a gray fog at most. It seems to surround my mind and imprison me. Only, these bars aren’t steel but a continuous dialogue that ravages me and breaks me down to nothing. That’s what I think of myself. Nothing!

If you have depression, you may know of this dialogue. It’s a dangerous voice that lies heavy on your chest and wants to suffocate you. It wants you to submit and become weakened by all the horrible things that it will tell you about yourself. It starts by telling you that you are worthless, and then it becomes cruel and tells you that you are a burden that is no longer useful to this world. If it’s convincing enough, you consider how you would produce your own death…

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Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 3 – #151

Generations of Secrets and Lies
by
Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
Part 3
Story told by Great Grandmother-Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”
    “My grandparents and those of my mother had been friends since their childhood years; they shared the same nightly fire on the trail that seems to have no end. They spoke often among themselves about what was happening in the strange land they were being taken too”. Ma swore many times that she would never be the captive of any white man.
Around many fires were Indian tribes from all of the Five Civilized Tribes, the greatest numbers being the Cherokee. Proud spirits of once great tribes were now faltering under degrading conditions. Soon, they had arrived in Arkansas; Sipsee would hear her mother speak about what was going to happen to them. Many people were contracting diseases that had no cure and the weather was becoming frigid, clothing worn was inadequate for the time of year and many elders’, young children and babies had already died.
The younger men talked of escaping. It was Hawk’s decision to be among those who would attempt return to their homeland in Alabama. The warriors, the men, their wives and children would escape. Hawk set with his family and the family of Sipsee around the fire on what would be their last night. He revealed to his family that he would leave after everyone had bedded down for the night, his mother feared for his life, yet his father understood of what his young son had to do.
“Being dead had to be better than living like animals herded into circles with soldiers guarding them”. Hawk said leaning close toward the families.

 

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In secret, he had sought out Sipsee and questioned her about her feelings for him. It was too late for courting rituals, or for Sipsee to be prepared by her mother to become a part of Hawks soul. The giving of gifts and of the special blessings of the elders would not take place.
Earlier when Fosee found Sipsee her thoughts was the same as his; he spoke to Sipsee’s father immediately. He wanted Sipsee to return to the homelands with him; both families agreed they should be together. Without ceremony, Sipsee and Hawk’s father blessed the merging of hearts. During the night when the fires were low, when the soldier were sleeping except for a few guards, a small band of men, women and children in the darkness of a moonless sky slipped away. They would never know if their families had paid for their freedom with their own lives.
A few families stayed together, many others ventured off to find their own place, maybe a new land. Hawk and Sipsee were among those going into Alabama. They hid among the tall bushes they passed along their way through the woods, always staying away from the open fields if possible. Finally, they made their home deep within the forest on the eastern edge of Alabama; living among a few Indians who was not forced to leave because of their decisions to live white gave them privilege to stay. Hawk and other warriors decided they must conform to some ways to remain free but in their hearts, the hate for the white people grew stronger.

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They built log cabins and were soon moving freely among the white settlers without consequence. Sipsee learn the English language from a nearby settler who hired her to clean and wash their clothes. Hawk learn the language from Sipsee but refused to speak it unless necessary to talk to a white person. Sipsee knew that times were changing and had the foresight to know it would become a white man’s world. Hawk did not approve of many things she would say, he would only look at her and try to keep his own dreams of the future alive within his spirit.

 

 

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the verbal history confident from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, proud Chickasaw.

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 4

©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 2 …#150

Generations of Secrets and Lies
By
Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
Part 2
Story told by Great Grandmother-Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”

 

“My father would tell me of his childhood and becoming a man in the Tribe. He went    on a vision quest as most Indian boys did as a part of their passage from boy to manhood. Early one morning his father took him to the edge of the forest to a familiar path they often walked. The path led toward what was known as the Mississippi River, and it was at the river’s edge he would stay without water or food for several days. A rule of the ritual. On the trail, he would see many signs of small animals; he walked by bushes where his favorite berries hung in abundance. Yet, he pushed his hunger out of his mind quickly moving down the well-worn path toward the river. When the path ended, he walked through the woods west”. Ma as she remembered.

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Mississippi River

It was the middle of the day when he came into a clearing filled with tall golden grass. Laying down to rest a few minutes, he stared at the sky and the clouds. He picked out a cloud that the thought looked like his beloved grandfather; he studied it closely absorbed in its shape. The chiseled face with deep furrowed lines and long white hair cascading around strong shoulders, he drifted off to sleep when the sun became warm and welcoming. Waking to what he thought was the sound of his grandfather calling his name he realized that he had fallen asleep. The sun had moved into the western sky, he had to hurry. He walked, and then ran, pacing himself so he would be at the river before dark.

It was time for the sun to set when he stood before the bank of the river, he looked up and down the river, and the massive cliffs embraced the wide river on both sides. He then made several trips climbing to the flat surface of a big rock carrying wood and cedar branches gathered for his stay on the rock. He placed the rocks in a circle for his fire. When the fire was blazing and he had, many cedar branches to lie upon he sat looking into the fire watching the sparks float over the edge of the flat rock down the cliff into the river. He lean over as they drifted to the water then became lost in the darkness. When he was cold and tired, he moved closer to the fire listening to the familiar calls of the night until he fell asleep.

     “ My father loved nature, every morning he would meditate as the sun warmed his face and body; even as an adult continued this ritual letting his mind meld with his Soul’ continued”. Ma continued to gather her thoughts.

One day crept slowly into the next, on the third night the spirit of his grandfather came to him. His thoughts returned to the clouds that looked like the grandfather they now sat across from him. His grandfather silently stared into his eyes, penetrating his mind.

When the fourth day arrived, it would be his last night. He could no longer sleep, he lay on his bed of cedar watching visions float in front of him. Before dawn a magnificent hawk appeared. The hawk took his massive wing gliding it over the fire circle, when Fosee looked at the circle he found a rock missing. Pointing to what appeared to be the first rock of the circle the hawks; mind as one with Fosee’. As the hawk pointed he said, “This was the beginning of your life, you entered the world in peace”, then the hawk pointed to the last rock, “This is the end of your life’s circle, beware of the man who lives among the trees”. Fosee stared at the circle when he looked up the hawk was gone, as was his grandfather. He understood the message his grandfather and the hawk had given him; then he fell back asleep.

Black and White Hawk Drawings

     “My father would tell the story of his quest many times in his life”. Ma would say gently.

Fosee heard the screeching of a hawk then saw it fly directly in front of him as he walked down the path toward home. When he looked, there at the paths edge was his father. He stopped; staring in disbelief as the hawk came to rest on a piece of colored cloth wrapped around his father’s hand, and then flew away. He walked beside his father into the open Chukka yard knowing that his father was proud of him. His mother came out of their roundhouse saying his name softly, he was home, and he was safe. It was then that he told those gathering around him that from that day forward he would be known as Hawk. His father put his arm on his shoulder saying, “So you are no longer a Little Bird”.

His great tracking and hunting skills made even the eldest of the Tribe respected him. He went on Mock raids with his father, not to harm but to put fear into the white man. A source of humor to them, later the Warriors would mimic the terrifying looks of the faces of the white people as they sat around the fires at night reliving the raids.

“He would never change! My grandmother worked the gardens and gathered medicine herbs and roots with the other women; they too would discuss the white people. They were afraid that someday their men or sons would be caught and punished for their amusing antics. The white people coming into the lands were greater in numbers, Hawks mother worried for him and of how the change she knew was coming would affect him”. Ma wished she had known her grandmother, her father talked of her.

Sipsee was the young girl that would someday become Fosee’ wife she was named after the Cotton Wood Tree. No doubt, the beautiful white fine cotton like blooms of this tree that rained like snow inspired Sipsee mother or father in choosing her name. Sipsee had known Hawk since they were children playing in the Chukka yard. Her memories of Hawk went back many years; he would run up and down kicking up the dust playing on his imaginary horse. His long black hair flying in the wind, she remembers when he brought home his first deer and how proud he was of himself when he presented it to his mother. Sipsee would never forget the first time their eyes met across the glowing flames of the gathering fire in the Chukka yard and the lowering of hers in respect of his warrior status.

Sipsee with her dark amber skin, wide doe eyes and long silky black hair had been a source of interest to Fosee for many years. Before his eyes, he said that she had grown from a skinny weed into exquisite flower. She and her family were from a Cherokee Tribe. She in turn could only dream that someday the tall noble warrior would want her to walk with him through life.

“Then came the spring of 1838 and under the brutal forced march perpetrated by the United States government they were removing Hawk, Sipsee and their families from their ancestral lands . Many sold the land they lived on to the white man; others were forced off their land. My mother, father and their parents were among those forced from their land on the western edge of north Alabama”. Ma sat not showing any emotions, but her eyes burned with hate.

 

 

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the verbal history confident from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, proud Chickasaw.

 

 

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 3
©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 1…#149

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the confident oral history from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, a proud Chickasaw.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 marks a dark time in American history regarding the new country’s relationship with the Native American population. It first called for the “voluntary” relocation to lands west, then the “forcible removal of all Indians”. The outcome would be that they would reside in the eastern United States to the state of Oklahoma.
May 1838 was set as the voluntary removal date, but many Cherokees remained and did not voluntarily move; many of them resided in my home state of Alabama. Eight years later, Major General Winfield Scott was ordered to round-up and remove the remaining Indians. This forcible removal came to be called the “Trail of Tears”. During those eight years, 46,000 Native Americans were forced to leave their homes in southeastern states.
Many sites in Alabama factored into the removal on the Trail of Tears. Five known routes crossed north Alabama taking many from their homeland on foot, by boat and train through towns like Guntersville, Tuscumbia, my home town of Decatur, Huntsville and Waterloo.
The Trail of Tears is roughly 2,300 miles long and passes through nine states over land and water. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Many people were either murdered or relocated with very few hiding in remote locations like Bucks Pocket, Little River Canyon, the mountains, and around the Tennessee River.
Many died from exposure, disease, and starvation on their route to Oklahoma. On this forced march were my great-great grandparents. It is estimated that 4,000 Chickasaw, including any of their black slaves as well as lower class white citizens were in this movement. The Trail of Tears is one of the worst tragedies in American History.

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The Native American culture is known for its rich oral tradition – instead of using a written language to document their history, these indigenous people simply relied on their verbal language to share their history, customs, rituals, and legends through vivid narratives.
This oral accounting told to me beginning at the age of about six-years-old until my great grandmother died when I was a teenager.

Generations of Secrets and Lies
Part 1
Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”

     “Fosee, my father belonged to the Mississippi Over-Towne Tribe. In his youth, the        Tribe tried to continue their peaceful life without contact with the white man’s world.   Fosee knew that he was a descendant of many generations of Warriors. Born in a round Birch bark roofed dwelling that stood on the edge of the Chickasaw Tribes town. His parents gave their only child the name Fosee, which meant Bird. His younger days were spent hunting small animals and playing Chukka Ball in the open yard centered in the middle of his peoples circled dwellings”. Ma said in her firm no nonsense tone.
Fosse’s father a name that Ma could not remember held a place of prominence in the tribe. It was said that he was a powerful Warrior and skilled hunter, his wife; Fosse’s mother, again no known name, was said to be the most beautiful woman in the Tribe, her beauty came from Cherokee ancestors, and she was of mixed blood, Chickasaw and Cherokee. Her beauty and gentle nature were the reasons Fosse’s father had chosen her to be his wife.
“My father told me that his father remembered all of the grandparents. However, it was on his father’s side, the grandfather he remembered the most and with clarity. He remembered his elegant clothes made of the softened skins of deer. The colorful decorations sewn upon the breast of his shirts by his grandmother were elegant and of the best beads. His grandfathers white hair flowed about his shoulders and his skin engraved with the scars of many wars from his younger days”. Ma stopped for a moment staring at something no one else could see.
This grandfather Fosse’s favorite looked like nobility. It was said that he would listen intently to the stories this grandfather told around the cooking fires and see the softness in his eyes when he detailed of the loss of family and friends in battles. Within a few short years, after the birth of Fosee all four of his close grandparents had succumb to a disease brought into the town by a white man.

 

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 2

Patience…#148

 

“Baraboo, Wisconsin Devils Lake Hills”

 

Author’s Note: To one who loves life, has great patience; is at home in the hills, mountains and valleys of this earth.

 

Patience…

 
When a crouching fiery sky

leans down upon your hills,

gently; and a silky glow falls

toward the earth does your

soul also glow? Does your

gentle patience that never

angers lay quietly in wonder

within you?

 
When the snow covers the

earth, and frost hardens upon

your eyes or the green grass

goes to mucky dirt, are your

hills still your greatest gift

from Mother Nature? Does

your gentle patience that never

angers lay quietly in wonder

within you?

 
When you run and pain grips

you like iron bars, bolts tighten;

hopeless your body bends and

breaks. Does your gentle

patience that never angers lay

quietly in wonder within you?

 
The day windless, the world, the

moon, the sun, will they someday

end? Does your gentle patience

that never angers lay quietly in

wonder within you?

 

©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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Waunakee, Wisconsin teens create village’s first Black Student Union …#147

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Waunakee, Wisconsin teens create village’s first Black Student Union
• By Tim Wohlers tribstaff@hngnews.com
• Jan 14, 2020

Twelve members of WHS’s Black Student Union stand together, with advisor Chuck Murphree (left) and co-facilitator Brett Wheeler (right). The group meets on a weekly basis, during student-teacher contact time.
More than a dozen teens have now joined the Black Student Union at Waunakee High School. Together, they’ve started a support network for the district’s students of color.
Some have been focusing their efforts on community outreach.
“I’m really involved in social justice,” said senior Nicole Rauls. “So I thought this would be a good opportunity to help empower myself and others, and bring more awareness to the school… One thing we’re interested in is going to the younger schools and doing a mentorship program.”
Having lived in the village nearly her entire life, Rauls said it’s important that members of her demographic be exposed to black role models at an early age.
“Growing up in Waunakee,” Rauls said, “there’s not a whole lot of representation for people who look like us. And I think it’s important that we see people who are black in positions of power. If we’re not seeing that, we start wondering where we fit in the narrative as kids.”
Others, such as senior Miles Lewis, joined for the social aspect.
“I wanted a place that I could be with other black students,” Lewis said, “because I didn’t really know or have a connection with many of them. And coming here, it feels like a family.”
Having lived on the east coast for most of his life, Lewis said the demography of Waunakee is considerably different than that found in other places throughout the country. For black families, moving to the village has posed challenges and continues to be a culture shock for some.
He said an organization such as Black Student Union (BSU) helps.
“A lot of people look at Waunakee and see the demographics,” Lewis said, “and they don’t really think much of it. But there are a lot of issues for that smaller percentage of people that the community just doesn’t see or turns a blind eye to. So it’s good to have a BSU in place here.”
BSU became an official co-curricular at the high school in mid-October, after cross-categorical teacher Chuck Murphree advocated for an organization to serve Waunakee’s students of color.
He said the growth of the district had made it a necessity.
“The need came up here in Waunakee for our students,” Murphree said. “And it’s really to bring together black students in order for them to talk about issues that may be happening in the school – and have a safe place to do that – but also talk about culture and backgrounds.”
Murphree has since become the Black Student Union advisor, with special-education instructor Brett Wheeler drawing from experience teaching in urban areas to co-facilitate.
Both educators have expressed a sense of fulfillment from the role.
“As two white men being facilitators of the group,” Wheeler said, “I feel really privileged to be a part of it and to learn from these guys… We want it to be student-focused, and student-centered. So we’re just here to kind of help out.”
The advisors said non-black students are welcome to join.

 

Author’s Note: Chuck Murphree is not only an educator and advocate for Mental Health, he is a published “Young Adult Author”.

 

 

The Last Chapter ©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphee