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Monday, September 18, 2017

America's Throw Away Indian Project: Half & Half & Half

My Biological mother 
R.I.P. mom

Today's reflection,

I often think about my bio mother and all my bio siblings.  I had half brothers and a sister on my mom's side, and as I am a result of an affair, I have half siblings from my father's side.  I find myself wondering what my siblings look like and wonder if we share any traits.  I wonder how many siblings I have in total, and I wonder if any of them are still alive.

The way I was told, by my mother's widower and father of my eldest (sister) and four brothers was this; my mom was four months pregnant with me when he returned from Vietnam.  He explained to me he didn't care that she was pregnant with another man's child.  Buck explained to me he just wanted her as she, Laura, was the only woman for him and he would raise me as one of his own if she would only come home to him.  He told me my father's name was Edward Snipes, and he was a marine in the Vietnam war, but he didn't know if he made it back or not from the Nam.

Somehow, when I was 26 years old, I got ahold of a phone number of Buck Rhynes (my mother's widower), and I called him.  When I introduced myself to him over the phone, he concisely stated, "I've been waiting for this call.  I imagine you are curious about who your mother was and that I must have many questions about who she was?"  He then explained he was going to have to call me back the next day.  I gave him my number and thought to myself, "This is a call I will never receive."  But, Buck did call me back.

The next day Buck called me. He told me the story of my mother.  Her name was Laura.  He said she was full love compassion and kindness.   Laura was a nurse and spent all her day taking care of people, but when she came home, she had an abundance of love for her family.  I want you to understand I am paraphrasing our conversation.  He explained to me he was stationed on Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA.  Buck my Mom and their five kids lived in the military housing.  In 1966 before being shipped out to the Nam.  He and my mom were friends with another couple who had their own family.  I only know my father's name was Ed Snipes and I have never known the name of his wife,  Buck and Laura would get together and play games on the base with Ed and his wife.  The two families were good friends and playing games, drinking and having fun was a common past time for the two families.

Buck explained to me that she was four months pregnant with me when he returned from the Nam.  She told him Ed Snipes didn't want her or me as he already had a family.  She was ashamed that she had been duped and had betrayed her husband and marriage.  Laura asked or demanded, I don't recall how he put it as this conversation was when I was 26 years old, and I am now fifty.  All the same, she asked for a divorce.  I was born in San Francisco.  My mother had put herself through school and became a nurse.  Buck returned to Missouri with my half siblings and my mother, and I remained in San Francisco.

I was born at the hospital Laura was employed.  I confirmed this information by calling the hospital in the late 1990's early 2000's.  The gentleman I spoke to on the phone said he didn't know how I had so much information about my mother, it was unusual, and that he could not confirm or deny any of the information I had called about, but he politely hinted I was correct.

Back to the split, Buck and my half siblings went to Missouri and Laura and I remained in San Francisco.  Laura wanted a divorce because she was ashamed. Buck begged her to stay with him, to return to MO.  There is more to this part of my story, but I will save this for another chapter.  Buck begged my mother relentlessly not to leave him and the children.  He told me after she died, he never remarried, he never even dated another woman.  He said he could never love another woman, not the way he loved Laura.

He then introduced me to my sister over the phone.  It turned out she was the first born, and I was the youngest.   All the boys were born in between us.  My sister Marilyn said to me two things I will never forget. 

I have erased this part as it may not be my place to repeat her words.

Marilyn told me a little bit about my brothers. She said one of our brothers had died in a car accident in Texas.  He had one son.  I have no other information about him, at least, I have no other information about this brother we share that I can recall.  She told me I had a brother they called Bubba.  If I remember correctly, he was in and out of hospitals for mental illness, bipolar I think it was.  She explained we had a brother and I think his name was William.  She told me she had five children.

The most important part of that telephone conversation that day was the story she told me about me.  She said two nights or two weeks before I called, she had a dream about me.   In her dream, I looked the same as my brothers, and I looked just like her, except for one thing.  She went on to say, in her dream I was just like them, but I didn't have a birthmark on my face.  She asked me, "Do you have a birthmark on your face, under your eye?  A prominent birthmark?"  I said, "No."  She was reeling from the fact that she had had this vivid dream about me and within days they received a call from me.  I had never spoken to any of my before or since that day.

I have searched for Ed Snipes family.  I haven't had any luck.  He didn't want my mother and me in 1967, so why bother him and his wife now?  I am pretty sure they would want me to disrupt their lives is they are still alive.  They may very well be dead by now, anyway.  The only thing I am really interested is knowing or getting to know my half siblings, I share with my bio dad.  I also want to know what my father looked like and if I resemble him in any way.  I believe it's important to know medical history for my own safety and the safety of my children.

Buck explained to me that Ed Snipes was from the south and he had that southern gentleman charm.  The funny thing is, since I was a wee one, I have always loved traditional southern foods.  I never knew why and didn't really give it any thought until Buck told me my biological father was from the south.  The other funny thing about learning my dad was from the south, as a child, the only food my adopted parents could get me to eat what traditional southern foods.

I want to put up a picture of myself holding a sign with a message that I am searching for biological siblings.  I've seen people successfully find lost family members that way.  I just cannot think of what I can put on the sign!  It needs to be short, sweet, and to the point on posterboard with me holding it up where my facial features are completely distinguished.  Every time I try to write the sign, I end up writing a damn story.  People on FB want vignettes not a book.  I guess I could make one of those videos where I hold a series of signs up.  What do you think?

Does anyone out there who is reading this, have any experience in helping people find their loved ones on FB?  Can you help me design a free video, maybe using YouTube, or whatever, to help me find my family?  Please help Obi-Wan Kenobi, and You're my only hope.

The mother that raised me, my best friend, my spiritual giant
R.I.P. mom

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Legend of White Raven Spirit, from The Creator

At the beginning, when the Earth was fresh and new, the Great Spirit, Creator sent down His Raven to enjoy this new creation. As Raven soared down from cloud to cloud he began to take the color of the snow crystals that touched his wings, each crystal being different, like the creation on the earth. The Creator told him, you will be like the snow flakes you have gathered on your wings, a part of everything new, everything that I have created. You will be for all people. As White Raven soared in the clouds the cool air rushed under his wings, he was singing and shouting songs of praise to his Creator.

One day he wanted to touch and feel the ground and taste the earth below. He wanted someone to keep him company, but he knew when he landed he would soil his feathers having to settle on the ground below. So the Creator, wishing to please this special one, created a special spirit mate for White Raven, a White Buffalo where he could land and rest. Now there were many of these new Buffalo but only one as white as the snow. They moved about and covered many lands. White Raven found his spirit mate, the White Buffalo below and would ride on his back, resting and smelling the sweetness of earth, making many pleasant sounds in thanks for his new home. Now he could help White Buffalo and his brothers and sisters find good places to roam for food.

Every day White Raven would fly high into the air soaring around, spotting fine places of grass for his brother. When he would look down, he could see White Buffalo as bright as the mornings sun among the others earth colored ones. White Buffalo could be found easily and then led to the good eating places. He would sing to the White Buffalo, "Come here, come here, come here, the grass is good, good, good, then laugh". They would fly, and run, and play, and eat, and enjoy all that was given to them.

Then came a time when the Creator put new creatures on the Earth. They were called humans and walked on two legs. The humans were the color of the earth, the place where they came from, and were very smart. They would sing and make fires to The Creator in thanks for their life and the beauty He had given them. But the human became very hungry and asked the Creator what they should do. The Creator pointed them to the White Raven and told them, "I gave to the White Raven the White Buffalo, so he could guide him to places where his brothers and sisters could eat the good grasses. Now I will give you any buffalo except the White one, to fill your lodges and stomachs and keep you warm so you and your families will never go hungry and never be cold. But remember without the White Buffalo it will be hard to see the others and hunt because they are like you, the color of the Earth.
The humans did what they were told, and after a hunt would first thank the Great Spirit, then the buffalo for his spirit, food and skin for warmth and protection. All things were very happy and gave thanks every day.

One morning, White Raven woke up from a good sleep on the soft back of White Buffalo, and stretched his wings. Flying high into the air looked for a nice place for his brother to eat for the day. While high above the hills he saw a different kind of human, although they looked the same he could feel their hearts were not the same as the others he had known. The new humans were thoughtless caring only for themselves and killed many animals that they could not eat or use for their families. White Raven talked to the Great Spirit asking what are these humans doing, they do not thank You or the ones whose spirit they send to You. They gather up much that they cannot take or use and it goes to waste. The Great Spirit said He was unhappy with these ones.

On that very day, one of the new humans saw the beautiful White Buffalo who was not paying attention to the ground, but looking up in the air to follow White Raven to a new area to eat and play. The new human crept up on White Buffalo and took his life and spirit, not following the command of the Creator. Then the new human did not thank The Creator or the White Buffalo for this spirit, food or skin, leaving much of the body there to rot in the sun.

This made The Creator very sad and angry. He began to cry from the clouds and sent sharp streaks of bright anger to the ground.. White Raven was very sad, his spirit mate had been taken from him and he had no place to stand or sleep any longer. White Buffalo's brothers and sisters ran off causing a great rumbling that went to the heavens and began to shake the earth and the clouds. The Creator let His tears begin to fall from the clouds showing His sorrow. White Raven cried and yelled as he circled his spirit mates lifeless body from high above.

As the days past and the tears continued, White Raven began to tire since he no longer had his place to rest. The streams began to overflow and the seas and the lakes rose to a point where there was very little dirt left. After many days, exhausted and soaked with rain, White Raven landed on a small piece of muddy ground. The dirt splashed up on his body and wings. He tried to move about but he got more and more discolored with the mud . He began to change color to black as the mud spread all over his body, flopping around trying to get back into the air. A day or two passed and White Raven now was completely black and covered with mud. The water had risen to a point where the only piece of ground left was being covered with the rising flood. Far away White Raven saw an old man and his family floating towards him in a large canoe and he cried out "here, here, come, here, come here!"

The Elder noticed him and came over to him and picked him up.. The elder was very kind and wise, he fed him and dried him off. Now by this time the entire earth was covered with water and the tears had stopped. The Creator now would mourn silently.

White Raven told the elder of his journey and what had happened to him and his friend, White Buffalo. Elder told him that The Great Spirit had spared him from the great rains to look for anything good, but there was much evil in the world and there was not much to save. The elder explained that again, along time in the future not only will there be good on the earth but evil also. When this time comes the Creator will have to again cleanse the earth of this evil.

White Raven was now strong enough to fly back into the heavens. As he left the elder and his family he thanked him for his kindness and began to soar back to The Creator. The Creator told the elder he would He would create only black Ravens, to remind all peoples of the evil that man can create. The Creator at a the time in the future when the earth is filled with evil will again send His White Raven. This time he will not turn to black or be soiled, but remain forever the color The Creator had given him in the beginning.  One will see White Raven and he will give this message to many Nations and to all who will listen to him and what he says about The Creator. This one will be giving a warning to all, of bad times that are coming. White Raven will again have the soft white back of his spirit mate to rest on, and everyone should listen to his warning;" Return to the Creator, give Him songs of praise. Burn fires that will let their smokes rise up to Him as a pleasing smell. Put away your evil ways and desires, putting The Creator as the Way to follow, so He will be pleased with us."

White Raven then soared up towards the Great Spirit, into the clouds. The snow crystals began to cleanse the feathers of White Raven as he flew through the clouds going ever higher until he again became as he was in the beginning, The Way, The Creator had meant him to be.  So we must all be waiting and looking for this time that is in the future. For the return of the White Raven. 

This time will come to turn to the Great Spirit again. We will still try our evil ways, destroying what He has done for us. Will we do the things that we were meant to do in the beginning. Love The Creator, live in peace with all, love The Way The Creator loves us, and treat everyone as He treats us. This is what is written, this is The Way it must be.


This version of the legend comes from J.R. Swanton's 1909 collection Tlingit Myths and Texts.

No one knows just how the story of Raven really begins, so each starts from the point where he does know it. Here it was always begun in this way...
When Raven was born, his father tried to instruct him and train him in every way and after he grew up, told him he would give him strength to make a world. After trying in all sorts of ways, Raven finally succeeded. Then there was no light in this world, but it was told him that far up the Nass was a large house in which someone kept light just for himself.
Raven thought over all kinds of plans for getting this light into the world and finally he hit on a good one. The rich man living there had a daughter, and he thought, "I will make myself very small and drop into the water in the form of a small piece of dirt." The girl swallowed this dirt and became pregnant. When her time was completed, they made a hole for her, as was customary, in which she was to give birth, and lined it with rich furs of all sorts. But the child did not wish to be born on those fine things. Then its grandfather felt sad and said, "What do you think it would be best to put into that hole? Shall we put in moss?" So they put moss inside and the baby was born on it. Its eyes were very bright and moved around rapidly.
Round bundles of varying shapes and sizes hung about on the walls of the lodge. When the child became a little larger, it crawled around back of the people weeping continually, and as it cried it pointed to the bundles. This lasted many days. Then its grandfather said: "Give my grandchild what he is crying for. Give him that one hanging on the end. That is the bag of stars." So the child played with this, rolling it about on the floor back of the people, until suddenly he let it go up through the smoke hole. It went straight up into the sky and the stars scattered out of it, arranging themselves as you now see them. That was what he went there for.
Some time after this he began crying again, and he cried so much that it was thought he would die. Then his grandfather said, "Untie the next one and give it to him." He played and played with it around behind his mother. After a while he let that go up through the smoke hole also, and there was the big moon.
Now just one thing more remained, the box that held the daylight, and he cried for that. His eyes turned around and showed different colors, and the people began thinking that he must be something other than an ordinary baby. But it always happens that a grandfather loves his grandchild just as he does his own daughter, so the grandfather said, "Untie the last thing and give it to him." His grandfather felt very sad when he gave this to him. When the child had this in his hands, he uttered the raven cry, "Ga", and flew out with it through the smoke hole. Then the person from whom he had stolen it said, "That old raven has gotten all of my things."
Journeying on, Raven was told of another place where a man had an everlasting spring of water. This man was named Petrel (GanĂ¹'k). Raven wanted this water because there was none to drink in this world, but Petrel always slept by his spring, and he had a cover over it so as to keep it all to himself. Then Raven came in and said to him, "My brother-in-law, I have just come to see you. How are you?" He told Petrel of all kinds of things that were happening outside, trying to induce him to go out and look at them, but Petrel was too smart for him and refused.
When night came, Raven said, "I am going to sleep with you, brother-in-law." So they went to bed, and toward morning Raven heard Petrel sleeping very soundly. Then he went outside, took some dog manure and put it around Petrel's buttocks. When it was beginning to grow light, he said "Wake up, wake up, wake up, brother-in-law, you have defecated all over your clothes." Petrel got up, looked at himself, and thought it was true, so he took his blankets and went outside. Then Raven went over to Petrel's spring, took off the cover and began drinking. After he had drunk up almost all of the water, Petrel came in and saw him. Then Raven flew straight up, crying "Ga".
Before he got through the smoke hole, however, Petrel said, "My spirits up the smoke hole, catch him." So Raven stuck there, and Petrel put pitch wood on the fire under him so as to make a quantity of smoke. Raven was white before that time, but the smoke made him of the color you find him today. Still he did not drop the water. When the smoke-hole spirits let him go, he flew around the nearest point and rubbed himself all over so as to clear off as much of the soot as possible.
This happened somewhere around the Nass, and afterwards he started up this way. First he let some water fall from his mouth and made the Nass. By and by he spit more out and made the Stikine. Next he spit out Taku river, then Chilkat, then Alsek, and all the other large rivers. The small drops that came out of his mouth made the small salmon creeks.
After this Raven went on again and came to a large town where were people who had never seen daylight. They were out catching eulachon in the darkness when he came to the bank opposite, and he asked them to take him across but they would not. Then he said to them, "If you don't come over I will have daylight break on you." But they answered, "Where are you from? Do you come from far up the Nass where lives the man who has the daylight?" At this Raven opened his box just a little and shed so great a light on them that they were nearly thrown down. He shut it quickly, but they quarreled with him so much across the creek that he became angry and opened the box completely, when the sun flew up into the sky. Then those people who had sea-otter or fur-seal skins, or the skins of any other sea animals, went into the ocean, while those who had land-otter, bear, or marten skins, or the skins of any other land animals, went into the woods becoming the animals whose skins they wore.
Artist: Michael Kemp