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The Old Squaw


CarlHoliday

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She was my great-great-grandmother. She came into the marriage with children having lost her first husband in the California Gold Rush; she bore a few more.

 

There were two tintypes; one of my great-great-grandfather and one of her. She looks very dark, too dark to have been out in the sun too long. Her features are very Native American. There is one family story that says she was half Indian. My grandfather said she was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but he never acknowledged her as being half Indian. He never saw her before she died, so never knew.

 

Her tintype is missing.

 

Her existence never bothered me until now when one of my cousins asked to see my mother's photo album for additions to the family archive. She asked if I had the tintype for "the old squaw."

 

She would've been born in Virginia of the early 19th Century; a time when being Indian wasn't good. According to one report I read on the web, Virginians weren't quite certain what to do with the Indians living among them. They were definitely not white, but neither were they black. They just didn't fit into the social scheme. Another report said that full-blooded Indians not on reservations were practically nonexistent by the early 19th Century, so her being half-Indian comes into question.

 

And, yet, she bothers me almost daily.

 

There is a story in all that mess and I've been trying to work out the pieces.

 

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Depends. My family was never on a reservation. We were absorbed into the local populace long before the reservations came into existence. And there were Natives around in that area at that time. More in in the Carolinas, but in Virginia as well.

 

On the other hand, there are other ethnic backgrounds that produce much the same features. I'm often taken for Iranian, or North African, or Italian.

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