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Interview with Jacqueline Garneau [1]

Garneau, Jacqueline [1]
Garneau, Bob
Gardner, Susan
Date of Interview: 
Adoption; Family; Spirituality; God; Nature; Earth; Animals; Plants; Dreams; Supernatural; Native American history; American Indian; Native American culture; stories; alcoholism
Jacqueline Garneau talks about her life living on a Cherokee reservation as a Native American. Jacqueline discusses her difficult childhood growing up with an alcoholic mother, who abandoned her when she was only eight years old. Jacqueline was moved around to various foster homes and literally brought her two younger siblings up as her own children. She discusses the strong influence her grandfather played in her life and the many teachings he blessed her with that still remain with her. Jacqueline talks about spiritualism and Native American theories on life and culture. She adds very personal and meaningful idiomatic expressions her grandfather used to say , and explains how they have been an important influence providing her strength and courage in her life. Jacqueline talks about her passion for reading and words, and how she was a gifted reader who was never officially taught how to read. She emphasizes the importance of books and words in providing pleasure, comfort and a greater understanding of the complexities in this world. She specifically emphasizes her appreciation of words being able to paint beautiful pictures and descriptions in her mind, which provide her with peace and great pleasure. Jacqueline talks about the importance of the land and her home in making her a complete and well-rounded person . She also delves into a discussion about religion and the conflict between Christianity and the beliefs of Native Americans. Jacqueline closes the interview by discussing the importance of teachers being educators and not solely teachers, as she thinks it is important that students retain and grasp what they are being taught.
North Carolina; Detroit Michigan; Oklahoma; Vermont; Mohawk, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; Washington DC ; Greensboro, North Carolina; Burnsville, North Carolina: 1880s to 2000s
Native Carolinians and Indian Elders Collection
Interview Audio: 
SG: They seem to go together. Yeah and you’ll have the mic right there.
JG: ( ) There it goes.
SG: It is both of them. I’ve got two of these I keep one at work and--.
JG: Oh I see.
SG: And so I, there is one where all you have to do is press the one button and it does it, but that clearly is the one in Charlotte. Anyway would you, this is backtracking a bit but I was so moved by what you said about your mother, would you be willing to say that again?
JG: Surely, about her death, and what preceded her death?
SG: Yes, uh-huh.
JG: She was, as I have told you, a very beautiful woman. She was four feet eleven inches tall, very small, very diminutive. She had very black hair and piercing black eyes, and was somewhat darker-skinned than I. And I will show you a little later pictures of her father, which I have. And there's no mistaking who he was. He was a, a rigidly disciplined man, as Indian people tend to be. And so he was very rough on her in her childhood and on up, because she was the oldest of seven children.
SG: Was this in Oklahoma?
JG: No, this was in North Carolina. But she, she grew up here in North Carolina and I did part of the time.
SG: I see.
JG: But at any rate Mother was never allowed to have a, a male caller at home, that was inappropriate for her to do. Then so at twenty-four years old she was still unmarried, which was unheard of. She was born in 1907. And so due to the fact that her activities were so terribly limited by my grandfather, she began to sneak away from home.
SG: Not surprisingly.
JG: Right, certainly. And of course she got involved with a man and got pregnant with me. Now I do not know whether this man was of Indian descent. I did have a name, I did find that name on the Baker Rolls. So he does have, he does have some American Indian lineage, but I don't know him, have never seen him or anything. Anyway, when I was born, I was born at home where my mother lived with her parents. I was not born in a hospital and no birth certificate! And so many years down the road with after my mother was gone—and I'll go back to that, but this tells you why this particular set of circumstances came to be—I did need a working permit at the time, to get a summertime job. And I was fourteen. And I went to the register of deeds and there was no one such as me. There was no name, no anything. And so they did make up an amended birth certificate for me, and that's what they called it, and I have a copy of it, and it shows my mother as being white, which she was not.
SG: That happened then--.
JG: Oh, all the time. Yes. And it showed my father as a salesman, which is probably just something they pulled out of the air, you know I mean OK, let him be a salesman! [laughter] But at any rate years down the road when I went to work for the government I had to have a secret clearance. And you talk about a hassle! It took literally a year to get a clearance for me, because of my indeterminate background, you know, no records, no birth certificates, no nothing. But anyway, my mother abandoned me when I was eight years old. She just got into a taxi and drove away. And under me I had a sister two years--, a half-sister, two years younger, another half-sister two more years younger, and a brother who was an infant, he was two years old at the time. I had raised those children; in fact my brother still calls me Mom. I had raised those children because of her inability to do so due to alcohol. And so when she left it was years before I saw her. The next contact with her was a telephone call where she requested of her father, could she visit her children, and he told her no, because she had brought terrible dishonor to the family. And you see these other three children were by another man. But anyway, she was still living when my daughter, my oldest child, was born. And still drinking what she always had, and going from person to person with a relationship. And she, her health had deteriorated dramatically. She looked really bad the last time I saw her. She came home when my daughter was about two weeks old. And she came to visit me. She left just a few days later and I never saw her alive again. But I had a call, my grandfather had a call from Detroit, Michigan, from a hospital saying that she had been brought there and that she had collapsed on the street. And that they were not sure whether we wanted to see her or not because all the blood vessels in her body had literally exploded, and she had turned just as black as charcoal. Well, what did we want them to do with the body? And so my grandfather would not go; my grandmother, and one of my mother's sisters and I got in an old, raggedy old car and went to Detroit, Michigan, a long ways from North Carolina. I had a nursing baby at the time, and had to leave her at home. And, when we got there, the hospital wouldn't tell us anything, where the body was. Apparently they had sent it on to the morgue, we don't really know. I do have a copy from a funeral home. A letter stating that my mother had died in that hospital, and the charges were six hundred and some dollars. Well see, that was an enormous amount, that was back in 1950.
SG: Oh my goodness.
JG: And they were owed 620 dollars, I believe it is, I have the bill somewhere.
SG: Oh of course they were able to tell you that.
JG: Yeah, right they did tell us that! But my grandfather paid and we were very poor, I don't know how in the world he managed it but he did pay, because he could not stand to owe anything. He always wanted to take care of everything. And so my mother was buried as we were later told in a potter's grave, and this was the term they used. Now, they didn't explain this to me, but I already knew this was a potter's grave because of the lack of space and the need to put so many people in a small area. I do know that they break your limbs and fold the body so it's very compact, and it's put in an unmarked grave. So she is buried somewhere in or outside of Detroit, Michigan, in an unmarked potter's grave. And there was no way in the world because they didn't make any records, you know, I could never have located the body and had her removed and, and given a proper burial, there was just no way to do that. So it was an impossible situation, and so I did not see her after she died, we just left and came back and left it to turn on the wheel the way that it would. That's a very sad thing because she was so bright, so intelligent, forty-one.
SG: You said she was just forty-one.
JG: Just forty-one years old. And what a loss because of the things that I could have learned from her, I feel a great sadness at knowing that the things that she knew could not be passed to me. And probably may not have anyway, Susan, because her mind was so disorganized, it really was, I mean she was in a fog, and so I don't know, but still there is that question, could I have learned? I did speak many times to my grandfather when I was a child. He would tell of after his mother died— oddly enough, his name was Frank Battle Mooney, and his father, and his mother, were both named Mooney before they married, they had the same last name before they married. OK, this—my grandfather's mother died at his birth or shortly thereafter. My great-grandfather remarried a white woman, and she was very cruel to my grandfather, and so he ran away from home when he was six years old. And he rode trains, he picked beets, he cut cane, and he sustained himself. He never learned to read or write until he was really an old man, and he did learn how to read a little bit, and he did learn how to sign his name. But he was not, certainly not educated at all. But he told me that when he was a very young boy, like eight, nine years old, he used to slip on the trains to ride the rails underneath, and he said a, a train detective, which is what they used to call them, a train detective found him, and put him off the train in the middle of the desert out West. And he said he knew that the Spirit would protect him, and yet he knew he must do something to show sign that he (hadn’t died). And so he gathered up tumbleweeds and he made a fire. A white man had given him a small harmonica and he began at dark—and it comes hard, it crashes on the desert, you know. And the temperature changes so dramatically—and my grandfather said he began to play the harmonica and kept the fire going by burning little pieces of the tumbleweed and little pieces of wood that he found to keep the wolves away. He said he could see their eyes, and that he as a young boy was so frightened by that. And so fortunately the next day another train came through that way, and he managed to run, because it had slowed down and he managed to get back on the train without being seen, and he did get off the desert. But it always taught me a great lesson to hear that story, about how strong he was, because he was very young, most people would have folded under those circumstances, and yet he had the endurance, he had the strength to get himself out of what could have been a deadly situation. He might have died there. And he would tell me this story, not often because he didn't much like to talk about it, but sometimes he could be talked into telling it. More often my grandmother would tell it for us, and say, "This is Papa's story." And then he drifted across the country, and he did odd jobs and various things, whatever was labor. But I have his picture and I want you to see him, there's such strength in his face. And he was a very remarkable, remarkable man; had a volition that very few people have. He was not a materialistic man. Things didn't mean very much to him. But he was very insistent to me and to my two half-sisters who lived with him for a period too, in addition to myself, and spiritual things were the need. This is what you learned; this is what you practiced; you might fall short in other areas, but the spiritual things were the important things.
SG: Is this the same grandfather you were just quoting to me? About the eagle and the hawk?
JG: Yes.
SG: Would you say those again?
JG: And I don't really know where this came from, Susan, but it's always had a profound effect on my life. It says: "I am the eagle: I live in high places, in lofty cathedrals that reach to the sky. I am the hawk: there's blood on my feathers, but time is still turning, they soon will be dry." That's a very profound thing to me, and even as many years as I have repeated that to myself, it still has the same effect. It has a calming effect, to me, because it says what the circle of life is, and that there is adversity, but adversity builds character, adversity makes you strong, with each obstacle you overcome, your strength increases. And this, to him, was the meaning of life; life was supposed to be a struggle; it was not supposed to be easy.
SG: And I gather, my own interpretation there would be that wing feathers may be bloody, but you can still fly.
JG: Exactly, exactly, you can still do what you're destined to do. And this reminds me of another thing that he said! He said to me many, many times, "I'm Indian. My spirit is Indian. I will do what is expected of me." So this was a profound teaching. When you are responsible, you accept your responsibility for your actions. And there is no excuse. He was not a man who could accept excuses. We would use to laugh and say, and his sons used to laugh about it. “Pop could stand in the middle of a plowed field, and say 'hand me a keg of nails,' and you'd better have one!" Yeah, he was very demanding. You never questioned his authority.
SG: I bet your mother did.
JG: Oh, she did. And look where she went. I don't know why, but I never remember being a child. I remember being small, never a child.
SG: You had responsibilities.
JG: Oh, awesome responsibilities even when I was very, very young. And I don't remember thinking like a child, I always thought in terms of what has to be done. What can I do? And it always came back to me. What can I do about the circumstances I am in? I knew I needed education, all I could get; I knew I needed great strength of will; and I knew that the, the problems were gonna be very great because of my background. And because of having been in an abusive situation many, many times, in different homes, foster homes, I came to see myself, I suppose, as, almost as a martyr, and I don't like to use that word. But I wanted so desperately to overcome; I almost didn't care what it took. If I had to be hard, then hard I would be, and I was that way for many years. I built a very strong wall, and I taught myself that if you love someone, then you become very vulnerable.
SG: That's no place to hide, is it?
JG: No, no. And so you exclude that from your life, because it's risky. And so you don't do that. And you create this barrier that keeps people just back far enough. I think I've overcome a great deal of that, in, say, the last twenty years. But still I have a tendency to be suspicious of people. I have a tendency to be a terrible loner. I don't have close friends. I have many acquaintances, but not real close personal friends. My husband is my best friend. Fortunately for me, we are very, very good friends. But past that, you know, it's, it’s very hard for me to get close to someone, because way in the back of my mind somewhere, it's saying to me, “Watch out! You'll get hurt from this. This opens a door where harm can enter.” And that I know that I have, I’ve had many great losses due to that feeling. I have lost perhaps the opportunity to be close with someone, because of that inordinate fear that's way in the back of my mind that says, "This will hurt me, this will turn out to be a bad thing."
SG: You mentioned foster homes, so were you in and out of your grandparents' place and then in foster homes?
JG: Yes, I lived at several different foster homes where I could help with the work, and I remember one specific instance. Where there was an old man, and I even remember his name. Mr. Chandler, white man. And he and his wife were very old, to me at that time very old. I don't know how old they really were. But the old man had had a stroke, and he was bedridden. And he could not read. And the strange thing is, Susan, and I can't explain it, at my, my mother's, and my sisters will verify this. No one taught me to read, I came here reading. I read the Selected Passages from Plato before I started school: it's a little tiny book, and you may have read it yourself. That little book, I would give anything if I could find that now. But that was the name of it. And I remember, and this was, gosh, a hundred years ago when I read this! But it says in that book, "Man is just under compulsion, and not because he wills to be so. For every man believes in his heart that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice." Now I read this before I went to school! And I tell you where I got it. My uncle--. There's Bob! My uncle--,
SG: I saw him driving in.
JG: had married a young woman--. Hey darling! Honey, this is Susan? That I told you so much about? My husband, Bob.
SG: Hello, Bob. I'm glad to meet you.
BG: A pleasure.
JG: And we’re just talking away. How’d your hunting go this morning? Didn’t see anything.
BG: ( )
JG: We’re both big history buffs. We love history. And he’s interested in. He’s found an original copy from the Union Army. And he’s very interested in finding out something about it.
BG: Trying to find any piece of information ( ).
JG: Because you need to verify those things.
BG: ( )
JG: Oh I guess.
JG: All the original stuff he is very interested in.
BG: ( ) stuff like that.
JG: ( ) Would you like a cup of coffee although you probably still have a thermos.
BG: Do me a favor without me interrupting much, ( ) on my vest will you?
JG: Oh your vest, which vest?
BG: ( )
JG: Oh OK. Yes I will.
BG: I just want to find out what it cost ( ).
JG: Oh, you’re in the middle of a trade. OK. I’ll do that in just a few minutes. Come have some more coffee Susan. Are you running out?
SG: No I’m not. It’s about three-fourths full.
JG: Coffee we never run out here. Bob drinks it all day long.
SG: And you sleep too?
BG: Oh yeah I’m a regular health fanatic.
JG: [laughter] She’s fun. So tickled because I was asking her if she minds.
BG: A couple pots of coffee ( ).
JG: Get your pump going.
SG: Jump start you.
JG: That’s what it takes.
SG: Um-hmm. The older I get I try to have less after I got going, but to get going is ( ).
JG: That’s it. I don’t drink it after about three in the afternoon because it does keep me awake. It really does. But I really enjoy it up until that time.
SG: And (Cricket) is really your girl isn’t she?
JG: Oh I was telling Susan, Susan says, “Boy she loves you,” and I said, “You don’t know anything ( )” Bob. Yeah that’s his baby.
SG: Yeah she challenged me to throw things for her.
JG: Oh yeah she got go and play.
SG: ( ). Yeah I think of myself as a cat person but she’s really adorable.
JG: She really is a good little animal.
BG: ( ).
JG: OK honey.
BG: ( ).
JG: OK. In fact if you want to pull it out the file it’s under jackets and boots or boots and jackets I forget which way we put it. Top, top drawer it’s right in there. Look under boots and jackets I believe that’s the way [laughter]. I think I did it the organized way. ( ).
SG: Are you under Jackie or under Garneau? You know I ( ).
JG: Right. Write it down whichever comes to you mind first. Did you find it honey?
BG: Yes, ma’am.
JG: OK I’m an organized somebody.
SG: Oh goodness.
JG: Oh I am a stickler for that. I really am I keep good records.
BG: All you have to do is walk out of the shop to see how organized it is.
JG: It is! He lays it down and loses it.
BG: I know exactly where it is as long as ( ).
JG: As long as you don’t lose it either.
SG: We won’t even discuss my study right now.
JS: Yeah let her out a little bit. Where were we, Susan; what was I talking about?
SG: About the Selected Passages from Plato. And the foster homes and--,
JG: OK. Because I was in charge of my siblings, I read to them. Now, I do not know how. My mother certainly never taught me to read, I didn't spend five minutes with her. She was always drinking. But my aunts verify the fact that I have always, always read. I came here reading, and they call it the gift of words, the Indian people refer to it as the gift of words. And so I have always read things far beyond what I should have been interested in. I took a handbook, engineering handbook, and taught myself to rewind a two-pole three-slot motor and it worked, it actually worked. This was many years ago. But the things that I read, I read Will Durant.
SG: I love his books!
JG: Yeah. I read Plato. I read Marcus Aurelius.
SG: Me too I love those books.
JG: Yes see I love, oh I do I love.
SG: A fascinating man! He was emperor, and he was writing letters to his philosophy tutor!
JG: Right! Right I loved reading him. And that was so fascinating to me. And so I was really caught up in that kind of reading, and I don't really know why, because I should have had no interest in that. And I know what I was going to tell you, where I got the books. My uncle had married a young woman, who--her last name was Long--and her family built the Wesley Long hospital in Greensboro, and it's still there, you know, or another one. Anyway, it was a small hospital; her family was quite well to do. And the most marvelous thing that ever happened to me, my grandmother took me with her one day to visit this daughter-in- law's family. And I went into this big like a Victorian house; it was a house, can you believe it, there was a library! I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I really did. And the lady had a maid to bring the tea cart, and they served tea, and of course I'd never seen anything like that. And I began to walk and look along the shelves. And the lady said to me, "If there is anything that you would like to look at, please feel free just be careful with them." Well, I grabbed up a book called “Ab the Caveman.” And it's funny, because I was only, say, seven or eight years old then, and I, I just couldn't believe it, it was a real book, this was a book I could put my hands on and, and I could sit down and look at it. So I looked and looked, and I read that book while I was there. Of course, it was very simple, like a child's four lines on a page with a big picture, you know. So when the lady, when Mrs. Long saw that I was so vitally interested, she said, "Jackie, if there are books that you would like to read, I could see that you care about books, and you'll take good care of these. If you want to, you can choose a couple of books and read them." And I did.
SG: I’m sure.
JG: And then I cajoled my grandmother into taking me back when we had to return the books, and then I got more. And then I got more. And in those books, somewhere sticking between two bigger books, was this little tiny, thin hardcover book. And it was Selected Passages from Plato. And I was so enthralled, because I thought this is the greatest gift that I could ever be given. So then the Bookmobile began to come close to where I lived! And I would carry them, Susan, and I couldn't see over them, you know. And read them all. The bookmobile came every two weeks, and I would read everything I had before the bookmobile came back.
SG: I'm sure you had them read long before those two weeks were up?
JG: I did, I was chomping at the bit, where are the other books? So, I have always been vitally interested in reading and I, I have even sat and read the dictionary. I've just done that for entertainment, because I loved words. Words are living things to me. They are pictures of life, they are friends, they take you places where you could not otherwise ever go.
SG: To whole other worlds!
JG: Oh, oh it is. And to me it was an entrance into a land of total magic. Words! They actually, to me, and you may feel this way, I don't think I've ever described it this way to anyone else, but the words, when I look at a page, I don't see like a printed page. The words march across the page, and they come alive, and I don't see words, I see pictures. For every word that I see, I see pictures of what this is. And very descriptive books are so wonderful to me because of, I love the idea that people can put down something so beautifully that you can feel it, you can sense it, you can taste what they taste, you can smell what they smell. And I know a lot of research has been done into the idea that we can, we have powers of recall that enable us to recapture odors from the past. You can literally smell something again. And so this is kind of how words work for me. Words are things alive; they're not just a group of letters, they're actually alive. And they are messages. And so I still love books that way, I still am a voracious reader. I, I will read, in desperation, if I don't have something that I think I will like, I will read something that wouldn't ordinarily capture my attention.
SG: And I always have something in the car.
JG: I do, too!
SG: In case I get holed up someplace.
JG: Oh, Susan! I carry books with me to the gun shows; when Bob's busy I read, yeah I read all the time.
SG: Why do I associate you with Oklahoma? It's that conversation at the Unity Conference--.
JG: I think because I lived there. I did live there, yes. On the Cherokee reservation, at Tahlequah, well, no, not actually right on it, but I have family right outside it in Jay, Colcord and Stillwell.
SG: Oh yes.
JG: And then I lived with relatives for awhile on the Pawnee reservation in Oklahoma; my family had married into the, some distant relatives, into the Pawnee and into the Comanche, one of the boys married a Comanche girl, one of the Pawnee boys married a Comanche girl. And their grandmother was Sioux. And my step-brother-- RECORDING INTERRUPTED. RECORDING RESUMED.
JG: He's descended from the northern Cree of Mohawk.
SG: So where did he grow up?
JG: Thirty miles south of the Canadian border in Vermont.
SG: I was thinking it must be up that way.
JG: Yes and so it's his mother's line that comes from the Mohawk. We even have a letter here about his uncles being thrown out of one of the villages at Sandgate, I believe was the name of it, because they were consorting with the Mohawk women!
SG: Wonderful!
JG: What a great skeleton to have in your closet!
SG: Yeah uh-huh.
JG: But at any rate, my family is scattered. We are typical Indian people, we do not keep close contact. We don't write letters. Indians do not respond, in general I'm speaking, to the written word.
SG: I have found that, yes! [laughter]
JG: So you know all about that! I'm one of the few, and Ruth Revels can't get over it because she says, "You answer my letters, and you always send back the contracts, and you always show up where you're supposed to be!" So that's different to me because of my training in the business, in the corporate world for so many years. You know you get--.
SG: Is that where you worked.
JG: I worked for Ford Motor Company for many years. Yeah I was a zone manager for the--,
SG: Were you really.
JG: about the first woman, very close to the first woman zone manager. But at any rate, that was a, a wonderful experience for me in a great company for me to work for, really a great company, very good training. And so I got to go to a lot of different schools and seminars. They were very good to me; they honestly were. But due to that training I think in part, and maybe part of it's just my nature, I am extremely organized. That's the only way I could ever keep my life together was to be extremely organized. I keep excellent records. When I get a letter I respond to it immediately, I'm not a procrastinator: I do things when they come up. And if the task is unpleasant, I will tackle it more quickly than I would otherwise, because I want to be out from under it. But responsibility is a tremendously big word to me; I am accountable. And this was training from my grandfather. You are accountable for your actions, and people judge you on what you do, how you conduct your life. So I consider that valuable training.
SG: Yeah so you were in Oklahoma for--?
JG: A while. And then, yeah, both Pawnee and Cherokee. Also I taught under the Bilingual Cultural Center, which has long ago been disbanded out there, they don't have that anymore. But I did that, teaching in the schools on the reservation, the satellite schools that were out away from town. And I have taught over here at Cherokee, in their school yeah. So I have been greatly blessed by having access to all these things that I've been able to do. You know, not everybody gets all those chances. Not to say that I have not worked very hard to reach the point where I would be acceptable to do that kind of thing. So it was not all just something that fell into my lap. I have studied in addition to what I learned from my grandfather and my family. I, I have studied my whole life on, not just my people, but all the other tribes that I could get my hands on, any information about. And I, I have not even scratched the surface.
SG: There's such diversity there. And such depth, that's, that’s how I feel.
JG: Yes, and ( ).
SG: ( ) to a sense that it wouldn’t be ( ) at the surface.
JG: Just barely, just barely.
SG: The more you know the less in life ( ).
JG: True. And that's very true. I've, I’ve realized every day how really ignorant I am. And that's not even a derogatory thing to say, you know, I'm not stupid, I'm ignorant. I just, I never seem to get enough. It's like a burning desire, an obsession, really, to learn. I have this obsession to know, I, I have this insatiable desire to absorb all the stuff you know. And you’re knowing all the time that you're human, and that you don't have the capacity, or the time, and, and I devote an awful lot of time to it. And when you look through my books, you will see that I do.
SG: ( )
JG: But things that are very profound to me, they stick, they, they register, so I'm able to get a lot more than I would be if I didn't have that gift of retaining something that's profound to me.
SG: Which reminds me of the other, you quoted from your grandfather, about seeking knowledge, when all you have to do is (remember).
JG: Oh yes, yes! He used to say that we spend our whole lives seeking knowledge, when all we have to do is remember. Because we have believed that intelligence is pre-existent: That you come here with it, and that your power of recall is what you have to hone to a real skill in order to call up this information. But you came here with it, it's programmed into you, and it's there, it's simply that we don't have the ability, I suppose due to the pace of life now, we don't have the ability there's, there’s too much interference. When if we lived like our ancestors did and had the quiet times, with no interference from airplanes, lawn mowers, radios, stereos, television, other people.
SG: ( )
JG: Right! Exactly! ( ). The trailer in the middle of the road! But it makes me work hard to know my own true feelings, to know what I see is the truth. And I do try very, very hard to stay centered in the circle, to be grateful for the gifts of the Earth Mother. And I really try very hard to make myself more and more aware of what is available for me as just one person. And I try to see how it affects my life and the adverse effects that happen when I don't--, when I don't stay centered in the circle. If I begin to, because of outside interference, begin to get towards the edge of the circle then I can feel it! And I have gone out here under my trees. And I have laid on my stomach until I could feel the heartbeat of the earth, feel it pulsing. And I saw something recently that brought that so vividly to mind. I saw the movie "Ishi, the Last of His Tribe," and he made reference to the same thing, he said, right, do you not hear the earth mother sing? And these are the experiences that I have had when I've been so stressed out, and I know that there's no centering myself until I come back to the center of the circle, and begin at the beginning. So I will lie face down on the earth. It's almost like supplication; it is almost like going into a period of preparation, for, like, the vision quest or for the sweat lodge, where you become as you were when you were born, when you came here, and you have nothing, you are nothing, and you are in a state of petitioning the powers that be to give you strength. And it does work.
SG: We were talking earlier about the concept of the creator and power. You said such beautiful things then. How one thinks about a creator.
JG: And, and in that, Susan, I can only give you my opinion. And I have found that if you ask ten Indian people what their religious beliefs are, you're very likely to get ten different answers, because it's a very personal thing. And it was considered in times very long ago to be a very discourteous thing to do, to ask, what, you know, "What is your religion? What do you believe?" But my personal beliefs are very profound to me, and I'm very sure of them, and in that is a great peace. When you feel very sure of what you believe, and you don't question, even if it's something very out of the ordinary, and if you, if something happens to you that you just, you say, "Why in the world would this happen to me?" And if you are sure of what you believe, it begins to fall into place. Everything does. And I made the reference to the creator as being genderless because I do believe that--.
BG: [over intercom] ( ) carport yet?
JG: Anyway, I believe that the Creator is a supreme power and is genderless. And I suppose it goes back to the old stories of the eagle. They say that because the eagle is the bird of power, the bird of mystery, and flies higher, and nearer to the Great Spirit, than any other thing. And it is said that one of the eagle's wings represents the female, and the other the male. And therefore shows the balance of power. And the European concept is only now coming to this, when for eons my people have had their own place, in the order of their own society. And women had their own role, men had their own role, but nothing was taken from either. The women were so revered that under attack the strongest warriors might be held back to guard the women and the children, because they were the future, the life-givers. So I believe in a supreme power that is a force, a universal force. I am not presumptuous enough to believe that we are the only creations of the Creator. I cannot make myself think that. I, I think that we are perhaps all under the influence of the Creator everyday, even though we don't know it, people who are not even aware of why and how their life is turning and twisting. It is because of the universal power, and there is such a thing as universal law. If you get to a point in your life where you are breaking universal law, the Cherokees say that there is no such word as "disease." The word is dis-ease, you are at dis-ease with the harmony of the earth, and therefore by negative thinking, negative acts, you bring bad things to yourself. And I believe this is true. I believe that the creator in his ultimate wisdom allows us to make terrible mistakes because we learn from them. And we are only here, for a short time, in the span of things, because time doesn't really mean anything, time is now. It's not yesterday. It's not tomorrow. We have now, and this is all we have. So, time in the way that the culture of today looks at it is clocks and calendars. So, you don't know in the scope of universal law whether a week is actually a week, or a month a month. And our people referred to it as moons or seasons, you know. But I do believe that there is a universal law. And there are old Hopi prophecies that tell of a time when everything will be marked by the mark of the bear. Which is, you know, a bear marks a trees by long, straight claw marks. The analogy has been given to me by another Indian person: look at your product codes; everything you buy has a product code in these long, straight marks. The Hopi have also said through their prophets that there will be long, black ribbons which will stretch across the earth, roads, highways. They didn't use those words, but this is we think they mean. They said that the earth is coming to the fourth shaking. The first shaking of the earth by the creator was by fire. The second shaking was by ice. The third shaking was by water. The fourth shaking is coming. The prophets have said it would be a combination END OF PART 1 Begin NAGA0004b, part 2
JG: of the first and third, fire and water. Steam! Nuclear, volcanic eruption, earthquakes, can all be related to steam. So these are ancient stories that, that tell of what the people foresaw coming into the future. And for many reasons the Native people have not been able to adjust, perhaps because we are programmed otherwise, but we can't really adjust to the white way of thinking in many instances. Therefore our actions in many cases are, are stimulated by what we believe and have been taught, and, and have learned from the elders coming up. And that doesn't always fit in to today's society. It doesn’t always work. So we're, we're kind of, a people caught between two worlds, really, in a lot of ways. Now our young people see the need to make dollars, money, when money used to hold no importance whatsoever, there wasn't any. And so you did the spiritual things. You, you worked for honor. You worked for respect, and the things that you did in your life that reflected who you were, were the important things. And that's why on the medicine wheel at the west, where the color is black, the sign is the bear, and the wisdom there is retrospect. We live in retrospect with death. And we look back over our lives, to see what we have done to honor our people, and to bring honor to our families, to our name, and to our communities. And today a name means very little. Nobody, there's very little respect for other people, or other people's belongings, because that's the way we've been taught: this is mine, this is mine, this is mine, and yet most of what is, is in this house here, we are simply guardians of, these are old and spiritual things, and they will pass on to other guardians at our passing because it's not anything that you can own.
SG: Uh-huh. Oh, no. You know I teach this course in Native American Women's Writing, and I tell my students first thing, "This is really an academic construct; you know I don't think many of these writers think, 'Oh! I'm a Native American woman writer, and I want to be published and classified as"
JG: Yeah right!
SG: You know, that sort of thing. Hey Cricket, yeah.
JG: It’s raining that’s why she wants to come in yeah.
SG: And so I tell them that, and so I'm struck increasingly by the absurdity of what I teach, although the little pigeonhole works well for the curriculum, because now the department can say--.
JG: Right, exactly, you're exactly right! Multi-cultural. Oh, yeah, they got to do that today.
SG: But from the way you have been talking. Am I right in thinking that traditional Native American women would not really have thought of themselves as women first? Or that that was their most important aspect?
JG: Let me see, let me see if I can answer that. Let me see if I can answer that to your satisfaction, so you will, you will know what my true thoughts are. Women perceived themselves as being the life-givers, being the structured part of the society because they were responsible for the home, which is the center of the family. They were responsible for the children until the boys got old enough to be trained by the men and then of course they were taken away from the mother's care. But because of the clan system in a matrilineal society the father, as you know, would discipline his sister's children, and, and so the mother's brothers would discipline her children. So you've got a family unit type of training people brought up with the same priorities, the same beliefs, and I believe that young girls were taught that they were an important part of the society because they were the, the life-givers. They were the ones who brought new generations into the world, and so I think they perceived themselves as a valuable part of the society. It was never said in my presence that I recall, even when I was small that, you know, some societies, and I have read of some cultures who think that a girl child is not an important child, they wanted male children, right until we have male children. Maybe the reason for that was because of physical strength that they could be more help but, you know, whoever said, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world" was pretty close to right, because the woman is the influence with the child for many of the first years of its life, the, the teacher. How many--, and I know there are single parent homes now where fathers are taking care of the children, but in the order of things as I see them, the mother, and I never had this, but I raised my own children, you know, I didn't have this growing up. But the mother is the one who teaches the child to talk, virtually, to respond.
SG: "Mother-tongue"
JG: Exactly, exactly! You go right back to that. So I think Native American women have always perceived themselves to be an important, very important part of the culture, because without them there would have been no need for what the men did!
SG: I think what I was stumbling towards before is that for Western feminism, I think the way that we've been brought up to be female is problematic.
JG: Right.
SG: And I think what I was, that what I'm aiming at, zooming at here, is that I don't think, in traditional societies women thought their existence was problematic.
JG: No. No.
SG: They were convinced it was necessary.
JG: Exactly, that was my point. We felt necessary, and women felt necessary. And in fact I'll point out a couple of books to you, Susan, one is called “Daughters of the Earth.”
SG: Oh, I know that!
JG: Do you have that book? OK, I've got another one over there on women, I can't think of the name of it right now. But I've always been very interested in reading about other tribes and how they perceive their women. You see, the women, as you know, from all the reading you do, they had their own secret society just like the men, and they were just as secretive about some of the things that they did. So, you know, I, I believe that the Native American women have always perceived themselves to be, not problematic, but very, very vital to the society. And goodness knows, if there was ever anybody any more self-confident than I am, I don't know.
SG: I don't know that person myself! [laughter]
SG: No, I'm very self-confident, and have always been, in the face of all kinds of adversity because nobody ever told me, in fact, quite the opposite, that, you know, because I was an illegitimate child, from an alcoholic mother who abandoned me and all the things that psychologists say today.
SG: Oh, that you're marked out for disaster, yeah.
JG: Right. I was on a collision course, according to what people think today. And yet, I, I, I never can remember a time in my life when I wasn't confident about who I am or what I needed to do. I could do anything that I needed to do because I am a whole person regardless of what has happened to me in my life. I am a complete person. I have gifts and I have failings. We all do. But to me this is very easy to accept because I understand that perfection is an illusion. It doesn't exist. And so, you struggle with what you have, you do the very best you can, whether it's digging a hole, or whether it's beading a dress. You do the very best that you can. And many times, with people such as you or myself, it's not satisfactory to you! [laughter] Most people would accept it, say, "Oh, boy, that's great!" But then I can find flaws. Not to say that I think that I am perfect: no, certainly not! It's just that I know when I've done what I consider a really, really good job. It has never been perfect! It's been close. I have done exceptional things in my life, through great effort on my part and so I feel a great sense of accomplishment about that. I feel a great personal reward for that, in the doing of a thing like that. But I have never doubted, and I mean never, I don't guess I can ever recall doubting that I would be able to do something that I really needed to do. And even my husband has said that to me; he said, "You have a characteristic that, if I were to choose one characteristic I would like to have, it would be that one. When you think you have to do something, no matter how insurmountable the odds, you can do it." But there is volition, there is the will to succeed in what you do and in order to be balanced spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, you have to have volition, you have to have will, you have to really use everything at your disposal to be the very best that you can be. And I've never, and I will never, I will never achieve what I think I should achieve. I can do some good things. I have, I fail ignominiously at some things. I have this terrible temper, I'm very quick-tempered, very candid, very outspoken when many times I should not be. And yet that's a typical Indian trait you know.
SG: They're forthright.
JG: Yeah, they used to say at Ford Motor Company about me, "You might not like what Jackie says, but you won't misunderstand it." [laughter] I don't know if that's an accolade or not! But anyway, I'm very outspoken. I am, I'm very, my beliefs, I'm very committed to what I believe in. Perhaps even tunnel vision, some might say because I'm not easily swayed. Someone asked my grandfather one time a long time ago, "Why do you do this?" or "Why--," and I've forgotten what the thing was, but his answers stuck with me. He said, "I know what I know." Enough said. And he was that sure. And so I feel very fortunate that I have whatever gave me this attitude of being sure that I could do whatever I needed to do. I can't do everything I would like to be, simply because I won't commit myself to it. But once I commit to something, if I really believe that I need to do this, I could do it.
SG: Would you tell me how you became a storyteller?
JG: Almost through a leading, a calling, a leading. I heard the stories when I was young and as I got older I began to seek them out and read them. And of course I told them to my children. But somehow the, the stories have such a profound impact on me, even today, the ones that I've told hundreds and hundreds of times. There is a newness in the story. And the ancient ones have said that, you know, if there is bitterness or anger in your heart, the spirits of the stories will not bring the stories. The old Cherokee people say the storyteller was held in great esteem because we have to be not only an actor but a mime, a singer, a dancer.
SG: A one-person show really.
JG: Right! The whole thing, the whole thing. And you should, if you are a real storyteller, you should be able to become the animal about whom you speak and to take on that animal's personality. And I can say with complete assurance that when I tell these stories that I honestly feel that I am looking at the people through the eyes of the animal, and I'm seeing their reaction to the animal that I'm talking about. And with each different personality of each of the animals, there is a different feeling inside, for me. I feel like I believe the animal might feel. I speak in the voice I think the animal might have.
SG: You make a wonderful coyote.
JG: Oh I love Coyote yes! Ruth wants me to write that down for her. But coyote to me because he is a trickster, he's kind of laid back, you know, he's kinda cool, what we say today. And he does that because he can manipulate you much more easily if he is that way. And I think he is a manipulator. He is a, a trickster of the ultimate kind. He can just lead you down the garden--. RECORDING INTERRUPTED. RECORDING RESUMED.
JG: a group of kindergarten students, poor baby guys, was coming down the hall, and she had them in a line, like they're taught to walk, you know, everybody says "single-file in Indian style", you know of course we know why that was done. But at any rate, one or two of the kids kinda hopped out of line, probably to see me, because, of course, I had on something different, it was interesting. And she said, "You get back in line, or I will have her to scalp you--"
SG: Oh, Jackie!
JG: This was a schoolteacher. And so that, that kind of stupidity annoys me terribly, you know, she knows better than that. If she's been to college and got a teaching certificate, she knows some few things--.
SG: Oh, not necessarily, I mean a lot, especially about Indians, the counter-stereotypical.
JG: Yes, yes. And it's kind of like the Peter Principle. People are educated beyond their intelligence. [Laughter]
SG: But the storytelling, then, this was after you were working for a while?
JG: Oh, I had been, yes, oh yes, and all during that time. I would do it off and on, you know, until, finally, I just started to do it full time. And found it so rewarding and such a natural calling for me, it was a thing that I felt so comfortable doing and a thing that I felt was predestined for me that this was what I was supposed to do. And the more I worked, the more calls I got, and the more invitations I got, and you know, just on and on and on. So it kind of, at one time I stayed booked up three years ahead.
SG: I remember you telling me that yeah.
JG: And I don't take that many contracts anymore. But, still there's more work than I want to do, Susan. There is just always an enormous amount of work. If, if I wanted to stay on the road year round I could just work all the time. But I don't really choose to do that. I love my pow-wows, you know, I get a great deal of strength out of that, I love the gatherings of Indian people, where we get to renew old friendships and make new ones and I really enjoy that. And yet today there seems to be more dissension among the Indian people than I've ever seen.
SG: Why?
JG: Well, I don't really know and Ruth Revels and I talked about this. She said a guy down there, Jim Brewer, who's been putting.
SG: Oh, I interviewed him! Mr. Jimmie? He's an older man?
JG: He got mad and left the pow-wow this year packed up and left the first day of the pow-wow!
SG: Why did he do that?
JG: I never got the complete story on it. She said he became angry and I don't know about what, but I don't know it seems like some of the people want it run one way, a lot of people are more interested in money than they are in other things, or this is what I've been told, anyway.
SG: I think he spent some time not emphasizing that he was Indian.
JG: Oh, did he, see I don't know that.
SG: Yeah I think so he’s really rather conflicted.
JG: Yeah, that could be. Now I don't know, I know who he is, but I don't know him personally, so I don't know what the conflict was or what happened, but Ruth told me that he packed up and left. And he'd been putting that pow-wow together as far as, setting up the trailers and all that stuff for twenty years!
SG: Yeah I think it’s from what I've been told, he didn't talk about it directly, but when he first relocated to Greensboro, it seemed like the price of success was certainly not emphasizing that you were Indian.
JG: Oh, it wasn't.
SG: But that since he's been in retirement
JG: I see.
SG: He's become active on the Commission of Indian Affairs and the Housing Authority and so on. And I found him a very charming and delightful man. I would just suspect in this instance he might have thought about some aspect of the pow-wow that it was giving the wrong idea about Indians to the mainstream public?
JG: Maybe so, maybe so, because that does happen.
SG: Again I think that might be a possibility. But to go back to your point about an increase in factionalism, yeah, I wonder where that's coming from?
JG: I don't know, I really don't, because I think Indian people are very different in that aspect, Susan. They, you know, the reason the Native American people, in my opinion, cannot get much done through government agencies is because you can't even get a block vote out of Indians, we're so individual, we're so individual, we are so independent. We want to be sufficient unto ourselves. And we've been trained through generations; don't try to influence anyone else, you know.
SG: You don’t want to reach over a boundary and be completely ( ).
JG: No, no, you don't, you don't. And so that's kind of foreign to our nature, you know. Perhaps there is some conflict over that. I agree with what Jim has alluded to, that perhaps the mainstream community is getting the wrong idea. There are very few traditional pow-wows. Yeah. Right now a pow-wow is where people go and pay to get in and spend money! That's not what the big western pow-wows were about, no, I've been to many of the closed pow-wows where outsiders were not allowed in, especially not white people; they had several tribes represented there, but you wouldn't have white people there, they would be very traditional in their respect for tradition. For instance, when the traditional women entered the arena, everyone stood, no cameras allowed, nobody takes pictures, you know. And, and the men always stood to the right of the traditional woman, and all the old things that were--, were adhered to so closely; they don't do those things anymore. A pow-wow now, you won't find a sweat lodge, you won't find preparation for a vision quest, which we used to have. I mean this was leading into when you went through your period of fasting and preparing yourself spiritually. You might begin that with a large traditional pow-wow. And then go on into your fasting period and your meditation and praying period and then working with the medicine people and going on to sweat and then to vision quest. We don't find that anymore. So see the pow-wow has changed. And even though there are people at every pow-wow who are very traditional, who believe very strongly in the old ways, the circumstances surrounding the pow-wow do not lend themselves to those kinds of activities. They want traders there. The more traders they have, the more people will come, the more they will buy this is how Indian people make money.
SG: The pow-wow circuit, yeah. But one of the initial great surprises to me when I started interviewing Lumbee people it's happened with Cherokees also, is that I have found such a profound Christian influence that to put it crudely, I sometimes think they've been brainwashed.
JG: They have been.
SG: And so that’s, what one might value in tradition, they actually don't.
JG: Exactly. You're exactly right.
SG: Or they at least hide it pretty well.
JG: Well, I, I think in the beginning, Indians were quote, "Christianized," un-quote, because it was the line of least resistance. They said OK we will--. [laughter]
SG: ( ) Indian too. [laughter]
JG: Right, they would say to the missionaries, and to all the Jesuits that went into different areas, they would say, "Yes, I believe that!" And it meant absolutely nothing! Right with that it's over, because that made life simpler. It's kind of like, I'm certain my grandfather did many things to pour oil on the water, it made things run more smoothly because when I was growing up, it was far worse to be Indian than it was to be Black.
SG: That seems ( ).
JG: And it's, it's an awful thought, but that's how it was, and even then children were still being whipped in school for speaking their own language. And so it's, you know, it's understandable that they have migrated towards something that makes life simpler. But I question this, I question whether the people who tell you this are truly deep in their hearts sincere about it, or whether it's a means to an end. OK, if I tell you I believe this, you'll leave me alone. And I, I've had people from, what group, the Seventh Day Adventists to come here and knock on the door, they only came twice.
SG: Right up here?
JG: Oh yeah, oh yeah! They came twice, and I spoke no English to them. And so, that was the second time. The first time, I did speak English to them. They said, "What denomination do you belong to?" [Laughter] We’re bad I think I went ballistic! I think first I said, "It's none of your business" and then I said, "Just for your inquisitive mind, I am Native American." Well see, that means nothing to them except "heathen."
SG: Yeah. Because they think you need saving!
JG: Oh, you are desperately lost, and I'm gonna save you, you know how that goes. But now, I do not belong to the Native American church, although I have friends who do. And I'm talking about the traditional Native American church such is practiced out West, with peyote ceremonies.
SG: Right.
JG: Now the Native American church in Charlotte, as I understand, is a Christian Native American church.
SG: United Methodist--
JG: Oh, is it? OK, I've never been there, and have no intention of going. But to each his own. I don't have to sell what I believe in. What I do believe in, I believe in very strongly. I'm very much against people you see fear is very conquering it's very debilitating. And through fear you can almost intimidate someone into saying they believe anything. And see, this doesn't mean that you really believe this. It means you're afraid to say that you don't.
SG: Otherwise.
JG: That's all it means. And so I'm against the fear tactics. This is fear is what has been used to destroy our people. When you destroy a culture's religion and their language, you have conquered the culture.
SG: Yeah N. Scott Momaday uses this interesting expression, "(undeocide).” So kill a people's gods, you know
JG: Oh sure!
SG: Or even, even the ( ).
JG: I never thought of putting it that way, but that says it all.
SG: Doesn't it?
JG: Yes, it does. It sure does.
SG: He was talking about the Sun Dance amongst the Kiowas, and how the last recorded one was in 1880-something; there wasn't even a buffalo skull, they had to get a cow from a trader and so forth and so he said that was the real low point of his people.
JG: Yeah.
SG: But what astonishes me about American Indians is the mere fact that they are still here.
JG: Still here!
SG: And they're not going away!
JG: We are survivors, we are gonna be here. It doesn't matter what Indian people tell you, no matter how they acquiesce, what they believe inside is very often something entirely different than they may have agreed to you that they believe. People have outright asked me, "Do you believe in the Bible?" And I say, "Well, I believe in far beyond the Bible," and I kind of avoid a definite answer, because see I don't like to get into religious or political things, you know, because it leaves me no escape route, without just admitting that "OK, I'm a heathen, you got me, hands up! You know I give up! I'm a heathen!" But if you would look at the ancient cultures, and the Japanese are another example of this, they're more devout, or have been, I understand things are changing now, more devout to their spiritual beliefs, as a Native American was. You know, we've been called dirty Indians and yet the Cherokee began every day with the bathing in the river. And Mama called it "living water," because it was moving. And you, you prefaced everything with prayer! Everything! And yet we were "godless heathens", you know. But it's just like so many people today honestly believe in their heart if you don't believe like I believe, then you're automatically wrong. They couldn't possibly be wrong but you are automatically wrong. And I've spoken at many churches.
SG: Have you?
JG: Yes. And, what I do is to, really to give people the understanding that we do believe in what you call God, we call him by many other names, but it is a force, a power source and, and we do believe in that otherwise we would have not have been so committed to our religious beliefs, if we didn't believe there was a higher power, a supreme power. But it is said by the ancient ones that all things move in a spiral within the universal law. And so there again we're back to what Geronimo called the high laws and the low laws. The high laws were the spiritual laws, and the low laws were the physical laws: lust, greed, avarice, these things. Like the seven deadly sins! OK, you can, you can go to almost any tribe you want and find a story of a great flood. It's in the Bible!
SG: Yes.
JG: It's in the Bible. There is an oral history among the Cherokee about a, a man who walked this continent at the time that Christ is not mentioned in the Bible. When he was in the temple, twelve years old, teaching, was the last time until he was thirty-three and about to be crucified; well, where was he? And you know, it's--, Indians have an acceptance that a lot of ethnic groups do not have. We can accept something just on its face value; we don't have to see it, we don't have to touch it, we say OK, if we, if this is, I have sought the truth and this is the truth. I can accept this. I don't need to see the creator; I see his work. I see complete evidence of a supreme power around me. And the fact that many mornings I go out to pray the birds will gather and the trees will just be full of them! And so I see evidence every minute of my life, in the smallest, smallest things that there is a supreme power. I mean, look at the order of things that, the food chain! I mean, look at the order of nature. This is all well designed, this is all well planned, this is not a haphazard thing we're talking about, it's very carefully designed. And so I don't think it's my right to question what the great mystery, the Life-Giver, looks like; I don't really care!
SG: Yeah.
JG: I mean, what difference would that make; that would not change my feeling about my beliefs.
SG: Could you talk again about the life you lead here? You've often said that you do your best to live traditionally, insofar as is possible?
JG: Today. That's true.
SG: Yeah and it's such a beautiful place and one feel so grounded here.
JG: You are, you are, because this is our prayer for those who enter our lodge, that they will feel the spiritual connection, that they will feel the peace. We are surrounded here by many, many medicine things that are reminders of our spiritual connection. They're reminders that we are responsible, that we are striving as humans to be more spiritual, more connected to our spiritual beliefs. And this old house was originally just a cabin, a one-room cabin. We understand it's about a hundred years old. Then it's been added onto, and added onto, and torn out here, and the front door used to be here the driveway is, and there was a porch there, and the kitchen used to be back where the bedroom is and--.
SG: Really?
JG: Uh-hum yes. And this just was a, really nothing much, an old vinyl-topped metal cabinet with an enamel sink sitting on it.
SG: Oh yes I can just see it yeah.
JG: And the cabinet was a plank nailed to the wall! [laughter] Where you set your dishes up! But anyway, we've done a lot of work to it, but nothing to change the spiritual things here. This house, and many strange things have happened to me here at this house, and I know there are many, many people who do not believe in this sort of thing, but I can tell you from my own experience that I know for absolute fact what my grandfather said, "I know what I know." These things have happened to me; there is movement here, not what you would call an apparition [coughs] excuse me, an apparition or anything like that, because there's movement, and it's always only in two places. It is always at the back door, towards that side; it's only about this high off the floor, it’s always low to the floor. And you will catch it just momentarily out of the corner of your eye; if you try to pin it down, it's gone. The other area is at the bedroom door. Same distance from the floor, very low, and just fleeting, you know, it's not anything you can, but I always recognize it when I see it. [coughs] There have been, I bet you a dozen times, I've heard a knock at the front door and have gone and no one is there. And even on occasion I've been brushing my teeth, and water running! And I would still hear the knock and I'd go to the door. The dog doesn’t bark. But it's always a definite rap-rap, you know. But you go and there's nothing there. Just a feeling of presence, I guess, in the house, all good, nothing fearful. I have an old, I call her grandmother, who's visited me only a few times in my life, and only since I was given a gift out on the Pawnee reservation by one of my relatives; an old lady who didn't speak a word of English. But I signed to her one day that she was beautiful. She had this craggy old face, you know, and she was very old. She didn't smile, didn't acknowledge anything, and I knew she understood what I meant. And she just all of a sudden disappeared! Well, when she came back she was carrying a shawl, a black shawl, which I have. And it's old, it's hand-carded cotton and it's embroidered with silk white roses, flowers. And she signed for me to hold out my arms, and I did it, and she laid this shawl across it. Well, after, her daughter, her granddaughter told me, she said, "This is a very special shawl, it's very old", and she said, "Please don't let anyone else handle it", and I said, "No, I won't". And I, of course you don't think, you know, you don't think. So I told her daughter I was very honored by the gift and could she tell her grandmother that. And so I brought the shawl home, and put it across the foot of my bed. And strangely enough, in the house where I lived then, all the bedrooms were upstairs, and the, the bed that, one of the guest bedrooms was where I was sleeping because I had had a beautiful brass bed in my bedroom and I'd sold it. So there was no bed in my bedroom, so I was sleeping in one of the guest rooms. And during the night I was suddenly wakened by the intense feeling that someone was there. And I was laying on my left side and I rolled this way and looked at the door, and there was an old woman with her hands up like this. And she was shadowed; I could not see a face, I just knew it was an old woman. And at first my heart jumped because I thought, you know, I'm, boy, this is really something to be afraid of, and I felt fear. But then almost immediately that feeling was replaced by something else: a visit, it was just a visitor, and she was gone in an instant. When I sat up in bed, she was completely gone. And so I got up and put tobacco gifts out all over the house and thanked her for coming. And I went back to that bed and went to sleep. And I slept, it felt like, when I woke, I had slept for a month, I was very rested, very rested. And so I had seen the old lady when I was asleep and she was, she made a sound, which I thought was a sound, not a word. And she said, "Mufawnwi, Mufawnwi" and I'd never heard the word, and it was not familiar to me. And so I went to my brother, my Pawnee brother and I told him and he said, "Are you sure this is what she said?" And I said, "Well, it sounds like it was not a word to me, it was a sound." And he said, "Jackie, that is an ancient, ancient clan of people that very few people know about." And I said, "Well, I don't know if she comes from those people or why she visited me." And so, after then she visited me two or three times. She's been here once, and only once. But she comes and sits down on the side of my bed and you can feel the bed shake just like that for an instant and then it's gone. But I know what it is, it is a reassurance to me that in so long as I accept responsibility for my actions, I'm being watched over. And I don't mean to sound like one of these weird people who have all these things going on; I don't have. These are just profound instances in my life that have kept me on a clear path. And so perhaps they're useful to me if to no one else because they steered me on a straight path. But, I have had many experiences here at this house that let me know that there is other presence here that is good and renewing and it's fortifying for me; strengthening. And so I love this place. I, the realtor down the road there told Bob and me, I guess just two or three weeks ago, that if we were interested in selling, she could get four-five times what this house, what we paid for it. And I said, "Oh, no, no! Number one, I don't know of anywhere else where I would rather live" and number two, even if she did that, it would cost ten times to replace what we have. I mean, Bob's got a two-story shop out there, and the house is getting in good shape, we've still got to put a new roof on, we still have to finish the siding, and we've still got things to do. But that's the joy of it.
SG: How long have you been here?
JG: Twelve years, uh-huh, almost thirteen, it'll be thirteen years in May. And we have loved this place, absolutely loved it, it is the most calming place to be, it's very soothing. You can just be so stressed out from travel and putting up with people and going up and down the road and trying to meet schedules and be where you're supposed to be and bad weather and everything else and I can just ride into this driveway and it all seems to melt away. So that's what home is, you know. So this is a wonderful place, we have place for all of our spirit gifts, and we do gift the animals and birds all the time. When we'll walk I'll show you, if it's not--, well it is maybe pouring rain right now.
SG: Who knows how long it'll go on.
JG: Yeah, it might. Oh it does and to watch the fog on the mountains and it’s just so beautiful here but we can see, right up behind me is a bear sanctuary, right up there, yeah!
SG: How wonderful.
JG: Yeah, we had a great big old, old apple tree, right down there where the hole is in the front yard? And a bear was coming to it, he had shredded all the bark off, and I mean higher than I could reach. But finally the wind toppled the old tree over, and we had to have it pulled out of there. But there are deer and fox and bobcat and there's been reported sightings of what they call here panther, mountain lion, all kinds of guests; the red wolf is here. And just all kinds of, of things here that connect you to the earth. And I like that so much. I really do, it's a very, very wonderful place to live. That old hemlock out there, that huge one, it must be couple hundred years old, you know? And in the places surrounded by hemlock, you should see it when there's snow on the ground. Looks like a postcard! Then there's rhododendron that blooms, there's mountain laurel here that blooms, I've got jack-in-the-pulpit, and trout lilies down by that little branch that runs through the front yard, and it's just a very unique place, very spiritual place. And I have room up here to put my, up on that bank to put my questing place and my sacred circle. And there's just, it's a grand place to be. Nothing pretentious, but very comfortable. I mean, what more would two people need? Than a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom and a living room? You know, you don't really need anything else. Very inexpensive to heat; taxes up here are nothing.
SG: Really?
JG: Yeah, just nothing. And so, because of the tax base being so low, that's what's bringing a lot of the people out of Florida into this area.
SG: Oh I see yeah. Just as all round Cherokee, too.
JG: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
SG: Have I not asked you something you'd like to talk about?
JG: Well, let me think, there are so many things--.
SG: Well now there is something else now that I think of it. We were talking about being an elder, earlier, and we were talking about the "extended," what did you call it?
JG: Parental prerogatives.
SG: I keep wanting to say "paternal"
JG: "Extended parental prerogatives" and the old way of thinking is that parents care for you when you are young, therefore you care for them when they are old. END OF PART 2 Begin NAGA0004c, part 3
JG: And there is an old story that tells about that, and very briefly, it simply says: There was a man who said to his young son, "You go with your grandfather into the mountains, and bring back the basket that he carries with his things for his death." Because the old man was getting old, and he had certain things he needed to take with him for prayers and things to precede his, his passing. And the young boy said, "I don't want to go." And the father said, "But you must. You must bring the basket back." And the boy said, "I don't want to go, I don't want to do this, because it's a little bit frightening to me. I know my grandfather's going to die. Why do I have to do it?" And the father said to him, "Because, you must return the basket because it will become your turn to take it with you into the mountains." We all get a turn. And so death is inevitable and it is not frightening and that's the way the old people looked at it. The old people were held in great esteem because we were called the wise ones, the keepers of the secrets. And it would be extremely rare to find old Indian people in nursing homes.
SG: I should think so.
JG: Yeah because we take care of our own. Not only that. It's very difficult, next to impossible to adopt an Indian child. Because the extended parental prerogatives, we--if parents abandon or die, then brothers or sisters will take the children, the grandparents will take the children, and many, many grandparents raise children that are not their own, even their nieces and nephews. And I raised four foster-children
SG: Did you?
JG: in addition to mine. And these were children, well, let's see, three of them were related to me, one was not. But it is our way of thinking that the whole family is responsible for the children, and a good for instance of that is, at the big Western pow-wows where they're lots of children playing around, never mind that their parents are nowhere nearby. Any adult that is nearby is responsible for the children; and so that way of thinking is diametrically opposed to the, the white way of thinking, the European way of thinking. In other words, "That's not my kid," you know. And children end up in orphanages or in foster homes from abandonment or neglect or whatever because the family doesn't want any part of taking or raising those children. And see my grandfather took me and my two sisters and then I took four. I took a set of twins, another boy and one girl. And so it seemed like the natural thing to do, you know when I found out that those children had parents who had abandoned them. Now, in one case it was not, it was simply a case of discipline, where the boy's mother could not, she couldn't control him. I did. But if you go in with authority, and it's the same in a classroom, and you do this everyday, if you go in with authority, people immediately begin to respect you. OK, there's a person knows what they're doing, knows what they're talking about, they're not going to put up with any stuff. And so it's an aura that you have, or a demeanor, that says that you're serious about what you're doing. And if you don't have that, you can waste your time forever trying to convince anybody of anything. And I think that is why, the older you get, or at least it's been true with me, I am certainly no less confident than I was when I was younger. Because I was always confident, but perhaps even more so. Because I, I believe that I honestly feel in my heart that I've earned my place, that I really have nothing to prove to anyone. I have proven who I am and what I'm about, and from here on out is to maintain, as opposed to really gaining ground, because, as an elder, I think that I've well established who I am and what my concerns are for the Native American community. And I have twenty-one awards from different things over the years, and one of those is "tribal elder." But, I'm Keeper of the Fire, She Who Remembers, and I have--,
SG: ( )
JG: It is yeah, that's what that means, the Keeper of the Fire, and it is my responsibility to pass tradition on. Knowledge in and of itself is worthless unless it's conveyed. It will die on the spot. And so we who teach are responsible. We are responsible! You have all this knowledge that you worked all these years studying, accumulating and drawing on your powers of recall and if you were to die without conveying that what a tragic loss. What a loss. If you were not responsible enough a person to, to see the need to pass this on to another person who will carry the fire.
SG: Um-hmm. (And keep it).
JG: And you never know who is in your classroom that is going to be inspired by what you do, what you say, even your body language. Your, your presence, perhaps that will lead them. You see, I have a granddaughter who's a schoolteacher, a good one. And I'm so proud of her because it takes such a gift. There's a great difference between a teacher and an educator. And I see so many teachers who are not educators. But I truly believe that this young woman has the dedication, even though she is my granddaughter and, and it would seem that, you know, I just want to say good things about her because she is my granddaughter. But in looking at her very objectively she has patience, she has dedication, she has, she's an over-achiever, she has this intense desire to achieve, to be the best that she can be. I have sat with her when she cried over getting an A-, I mean cried! Heart-broken, you know, "I didn't get an A+, I'm a failure" You know that feeling! [laughter] But anyway, I think she has what it takes to be a good educator and she teaches in the High Point system, and she's already been applauded widely for the work that she's doing. And so I have great hopes for her, because we as educators have such an enormous task, enormous task! At least inside we do. You know, we think we've got all these things we've got to do, got to do, and I suppose this is what pushes us to convey the knowledge, to inspire someone to greater heights. To, to lead someone in a constructive direction, to where they will be a contributor instead of a taker or a user. And this is what creates a sound and profitable society.
SG: I have acquired a friend here.
JG: Oh, yes. You know, animals know when people like them. They’ve got great sense of knowing.
SG: Yeah.
JG: Well, let's walk on the porch, and let you look at my panther medicine and my medicine wheel. And we can chat if it's not raining--.