The Family Name

25 May 2008 – Brussels


17 August 2008 – Brussels

Plant Woman
Corn Woman

raises her hands
palms open

She calls for peace
a blanket of
a land of
in spirit

12 October 2008 – Neerpelt

Morning. Dream. Again the situation I first dreamed about before leaving Michigan in July. The State of Michigan required a class that I didn’t take in high school, so my diploma is “illegitimate.” Even though it is no fault of my own, and even though I am a college graduate, I am sent a letter that I, in effect, do not have a high school diploma. In order to “earn it” I must not simply take one class but repeat my senior year. This situation is the same as before, though what happens next is not. In this version I try to retake the entire year. I do miserably; I miss many classes; I can’t bring myself to attend. Someone proposes to me that I can take the exam for a G.E.D. (General Education Development) instead of worrying about the high school diploma. And I consider that option; yes that is a good solution.

This morning I stood in the kitchen talking with Tiny about this dream. Didn’t intend to go on as long as I did, but I went on for a long while telling her about the dream. About the recent circulation of categories for an organization’s membership distinguishing “real” Indians from “nonIndians”. About the conflict with academic Indian advisers who shamed my recovering who I am because of their politics. There is something here, something to be said, a story to be told. What is the story though?

I don’t have a family name, I don’t know my language, I don’t hold documentation. And yet I am held by a story from my grandmother, the same story her sisters told me when I visited them. The censuses tell me that Grandma’s family, her mother’s and father’s, lived in what’s now called Tennessee for generations. Grandma was born in Athens near the North Carolina border. On her mother’s side, there is Anderson Leamon, born in northern Georgia and apprenticed at age twelve in Athens, TN. Maybe Anderson is the link to Cherokee ancestors. Maybe not. Hours over months over a few years in genealogy of the State Library, and trips across North America to Grandma’s sisters, haven’t documented the link. So who am I to tell the story?

According to one organization’s bylaws I am nonIndian. For the Eastern Band of Cherokee, even if one day I document my ancestry, the generation may predate the Baker Roll from which citizenship is possible. If this ancestor is not in the Dawes Rolls, then I also am not eligible for citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Good thing I am not “after” citizenship. Actually I am not after any thing. The story has been “after” me as long as I can remember. So I will honor the story despite the pain in the telling. Despite Teachers who listened to me speak the story in public and a year later reproached me for public identification as Cherokee, as Indian. Despite being asked, “Why subject yourself to accusations of fraud?” The story is and is to be honored, as is my grandmother and the family name waiting to find me.

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The Family Name by Melissa Dey Hasbrook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

This entry was posted in Dreams, Journal Entries, Poetry, Race, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Family Name

  1. Sheila says:

    I came across your story of Anderson Leamon and I’m very interested in learning more. I’ve been researching possibly the same Anderson Leamon (who’s my 5G Grandfather). I’ve quite a bit of information, but am still stuck. My dad has even done dna testing for the Leamon family. You can email at address above if you’d like to exchange information. Your story is very interesting.

  2. melissahasbrook says:

    Great to hear from you! I look forward to our email exchange. Peace, Melissa

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