The final years of high school came and went, as did a few years in community college, without a whisper of my “Indianness.” Then one semester I decided to take a class on Native America history. That spark inside me was set to roaring fire by the death of my grandmother. It was her death that inspired me back in to the quest of finding purpose and identity within my part time Indian status.
It sounds crazy to me now as I write this, her death saved my life. My grandmother was rumored to be some minute portion of Cherokee but she was a tall, lily-white farmer’s daughter from Missouri. I am not really sure how she met my grandfather. I just know that they meet before he went to fight in the war and they waited till he returned to get married, so if he died in the war he would not leave behind a widow. There is that noble Indian. My grandmother was the Ying to my grandfathers Yang.
Where my grandfather was big as life and loud as hell my grandmother was quite and meek. Where my grandfather was full of vices my grandmother never smoked and only drank once that I can remember. My grandfather was sort of religious where my grandmother was a devout Presbyterian Church lady.
Before she died I would spend every other week or so with her in Orange County. I was still living in the Valley at the time. I wanted to reconnect with her and with that family that I had grown up with. I wanted to rediscover the part time Indian within and reclaim my “Indianness.” It was shortly after her death that it happened. She came to me in a vision. In that vision she essentially told me that the road I was on was gonna get me in trouble and that I was to get back to my original quest, the one my grandfather had sent me on some 23 years earlier.
You see when my grandfather had died I remember having my first vision. I was asleep and awoke to the sound of a drum and a flickering light off in the distance. As I became aware of my surroundings the beat became louder and the light became clear that it was a fire and the flickering was dancers passing in between the fire and me.
I moved closer to the fire and found myself now between the dancers and the fire. They were singing a song in a tongue I could not speak yet I understood what they were saying. They were calling out to the Creator and giving thanks for the stars, the sun, the sky, and the hunt. They moved the earth with their steps. I was in awe of what was going on.
Out of the circle a man approached me it was my grandfather. He was not the man I knew but younger. I was not afraid at all. He knelt down in the middle of the circle and spoke to me. He told me I needed to go back. That I was the protector now. That I was to tend to the needs of my family. That there was something inside me that would be a gift to those around me. This was the vision my grandmother came to remind me of.