Healing Through Indigenous Textiles

“What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.” Job 22:28 NIV

Both grandmothers, Minnie Haskins and Mat Randolph, taught me that there are 13 moons in a year. According to what they were taught by their grandmothers, we all can expect to experience trauma in our lives. The ways of our ancestors say that we have to walk out, walk on and walk in our trauma for three sun rotations of 13 moons. That’s the meaning of the ancient indigenous sun symbol passed down from one generation to the next as if it was coded deep inside our beings to help us survive 500 years of captivity. On this new day after walking out my three sun rotations of 13 moons, the lessons of these ancient teachings are written on my heart.

conoe_circleMy mother, Doris Jones, recognized the importance of textiles as a source of identity, cultural heritage and material culture before I did. She was a home economics teacher with a passion for sharing fabric dyeing, sewing and quilting. Mat Randolph’s passions were crochet, embroidery, weaving and indigo dyeing. Mat was Gullah from Georgetown, SC of Edisto, French and West African ancestry. Mat didn’t give birth to me, Doris did. But as a nurse Mat, pushed me out of Doris’ exhausted swollen belly. Her hands were the first to touch and hold me. I’ve often wondered if that’s when her spirit imprinted me. Because all my life I’ve been more like Mat Randolph than anyone else in my family. However, I have Doris’ intellect, curiosity, and desire for learning.

IMG_2545Minnie Haskins gave me the valuable lessons that come from bonding with the land that we walk on. She could read the signs from the forests, bogs and animals, inherited and taught to her by Howell Woodard. Howell was a Tuscarora tracker who took rich Anglos hunting and fishing on the Contentnea and Neuse Rivers, the Pamlico Sound all the way to the Outer Banks around Chicamacomico and Pea Island. I get my phenomenal sense of direction for Eastern and Coastal North Carolina from Howell Woodard. His father was one of the lifeguards on Pea Island. The last six months of his life, he lived with us on Atlantic Street and he stuffed my child’s brain with as much of his indigenous knowledge as he could. Every day was a story that he would make me tell back to him because he said I had to remember where we came from. Howell Woodard was the first ancestor to tell me that I was born to be the last of us and was destined to be a Seed Keeper. Before he died, he made my first medicine bundle and transferred the importance of keeping the old ways sacred.

The workbook for Indigo Blues was written and published last year. Now it’s time to finish writing the short stories associated with growing, harvesting, and creating color with indigo.  Today I begin anew blogging my journey as practice for writing memoir and binding up my sorrows into bundles of cloth to be transformed.

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