Narratives are personal stories that help enrich the reader’s understanding of a time period, person, place, or event. These are first-person views of history taken from personal recollections, memoirs, diaries, and oral histories.


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Many years ago, I found a relative on the 1835 Indian Removal document. He was born in Cherokee County, Alabama, ca. 1832. That would make him a child during the Trail of Tears. Next we find him in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He had two wives, and most of all the children survived. He survived too. The census finds his daughter Adeline Bell married to Bradly Woods; I heard they met on a wagon train. They farmed around Hot Springs until they moved to Eastland, Texas, where they homesteaded a large plot of land. There were stories of Adeline going to Oklahoma at times to serve as a midwife to other families. My grandmother served as a midwife in Texas.
There is hidden history in our family. No one spoke to openly about the tribe. They seemed to wish peaceful co-existence. I know that my immediate group never landed in Oklahoma. I realize they must have had extended family there. Names of Cherokee were hard to follow, especially the females. I don't know if anyone could find the possible names of my great-grandmothers. There would be no formal marriage records. It is sad that so much culture and history is lost.
We would have large family reunions. Children were highly valued and we played freely. We laughed and told stories. I look back and feel frustration about not knowing more about the true heritage. The commitment to extended family was amazing. I don't find that support system these days. Surnames would be Bell, Campbell, Woods, and Fox. I have searched for Emsley Woods everywhere. He dies in Hot Springs shortly after or during the Civil War. He never shows up on immigration records, only an Arkansas census. He dropped into Arkansas from who knows where.


Nancy Lake
Phoenix, AZ


As a child, I remember my “uncles,” brothers of my grandmother, Lina Woods, going to powwows and not paying, around 1930. They seemed to straighten their posture and just walk right through. I now realize that they were Native American and they knew it (white or non-Indians paid two dollars). I said this to my mother, who was told she is “dark Dutch,” and she looked puzzled, saying, oh, I just think my uncles had good tans…they were excellent farmers. I don’t think that is it at all.
I remember some other cultural stuff in my family from Arkansas and Texas. Quite normal for them, but non-white.They honored women and their insights. Only the men seined the river for trout. They were feeding about thirty family members. They had a profound respect for nature and leaving it unadulterated. The women enjoyed each other, sewing around a fire at night. That is where most of the needlework was done. My grandmother loved needlepoint and embroidery. No, they were not using beads.
The food might be a bit different for holiday gatherings. Of course, we had turkey, and young black-eyed peas were a treasure. Those were in the pod still. Cornbread and beans were a staple. I just remember so many things coming from my uncles’ gardens that I miss now and would be hard-pressed to find.
Because women are naturally tied to the mother earth energy, men are connected by water and other types of purification. Going fishing while in the water and as a group using the net is one of those acts. On hunting trips, they would also purify in different ways.
They never once said that these customs are Cherokee. I just realize it now. I felt very loved and appreciated among this side of the family.


Nancy Lake
Phoenix, AZ