It was strange.
My first white funeral….yet it it was my Cheweynie…. She was Ho Chunk. She spoke Ho Chunk with Gaga and Dad. I never knew what they were talking about, but wished I did. Even now, though I can’t understand 99 percent of it, I can tell when someone is speaking Ho chunk. My Aunt. The classy one. The most beautiful in our family…now is gone. I almost wish I hadn’t seen her, in her cardboard coffin covered by a white quilt with the furnace looming in the back. She had but only a few wisps of hair on her head and was wearing no makeup or glasses. This is not the Aunt I knew. She had long brown, waist length hair with glasses and was glamorous. Who was this stranger? I didn’t know. I pretended I had never seen this…this…person in my life. This is not my aunt. Not the one that I remember. The one I knew had a mouth on her, was in a band, and was my good aunt. The good Cheweynie.
Although I have only been to one funeral in my adult life…that being my grandmother…the service was not what I wanted. Not that I have anything to do with it. But I know that it is not what my Dad or even my other Aunt wanted. I know that a four day feast is incomprehensible in this day and age, and since she was married to a white man (the best man you will ever know in interracial marriages)…I wished that at least one of my elders would have spoken for her. That they would have given her the prayer of the dead and guided her on her way to the afterlife. Yet…my clan does not do that. What my clan actually does other than being general royalty, I would like to know. So I sat. I watched as my family said nothing because it is not our place. Yet… Uncle AD was so brave…I talked to my cousin Allen (he’s engaged!!), and asked him how AD was doing. He said he was doing okay, then I said…”It’s because he is still busy.” And he responded that he had’t thought of that.
Oh god. If I had known. I would have seen them.
I am really starting to understand what my father feels. It does hurt. I thought I was stronger than this…but … it does hurt. My cousins ( three in all) may understand…but they had family that was not around the indian way and thus the kids are more of “I am native american in a bit…” kind of way. They don’t know much. But my Mom and my Dad made an effort that my brother’s and I know. Even though we may not know the language…oh we know. Way more that I want to right now. More than my cousins know or will accept. What am I going to do with my kids? No, don’t answer that. I know. It won’t be the same. They will be…American. Which is why it hurts that she is gone. So few of us left.
I feel terrible that my kids, when they are older, they will admit in confidence to their friends or lovers that they are part Native American. The friends and lovers will be amused, or amazed. Yet…I know that my own children will not fully know. How can they? They will only be 1/4 Indian? It is hard enough for me…being 1/2 to justify myself, with my light skin and brown hair to other with a stereotype in mind (including other indians)…but what are my children going to do? Nothing. Which is why they will have the Benninghoff name. They won’t deserve my name. Not if I want to be fair. They will know a little…more than the average joe, but in all? No.
I should go to bed. Move on. This is my own burden to bear.