One of my most memorable Juneteenth memories of a community celebration happened over three days in 1955. Paul Randolph drove Howell Woodard, Mama, Mat and I to a “Picnic” on Roanoke Island with our relations. It was back in the woods on sandy soil. Men sat in a circle and beat ancient rhythms on skin drums. We danced around them in a circle. When I turned 21 and attended my first Pow Wow, I realized the ‘Picnic” of my childhood was a family Pow Wow celebration. Indigenous gatherings were against the law during Jim Crow so we celebrated by having a Juneteenth family picnic. I was still wearing casts on my feet because I was born crippled but tied on either Mama’s or Yat’s back with a sheet, the heartbeat of the drum captured my tender heart.
We wore three-tier tear cloth skirts and matching long sleeve blouses with bertha collars sewn by my Momma before she left to attend summer school at Penn State University. Our outfits were on indigo dyed cloth. We wore aprons sewn from tea stained hemp cloth. The top of the bib had a round pinecone quilted puff. The bottom of the apron had rows of ribbons and sea shells.
My great-grandfather was Howell Running Deer Woodard. He was born on Roanoke Island to a Mattamuskeet Tuscarora mother named Fawn and a father named Buck “Trapper” Etheridge who was born near Fort Chicamacomico. He told me Tusky blood was strong in me because I was the only one who was his. We shared a unique relationship, and he was the first person to tell me about ourselves. He knew his grandparents and three of his great-grandparents and passed down their stories and ways of knowing to me. Our stories are told through pottery and textiles connected to the Outer Banks from around Jones & Pennys HIlls, Salvo, Silver Lake harbor, Chicamacomico and Fort Neyuheruke.
His grandfather was a slave who escaped on the Underground Railroad to the Mattamuskeet End Stop. Remnants of the pre-Anglo Mattamuskeet township are at the bottom of Lake Mattamuskeet. My grandpa was very fair skinned like Mama, and made a living fishing, trapping, and as a river guide. He was born after the Civil War during Reconstruction. The Etheridge last name comes from the son of the Freedman. Nothing in my family stories is known about him until he showed up at Mattamuskeet. My grandpa knew him during his lifetime and described him as mulatto. He took up with an Algonquin female ancestor and adopted her ways. Most of my other ancestors from this time were free indigenous people who didn’t have last names. They were masters of blending in, hiding out in plain sight and living off the land, ocean and sound.
I’m the last living Toisnot Tuscarora. I’m 73% Native. My father was a full blood Seminole from the Big Cypress Rez in Florida. I started doing genealogy in high school when an African American teacher told me I was lying about being Native and gave me an F until I could prove it. So I proved it. Most of my family lineage is accounted for. I’m a mixed blood but I’ve always known I was Tusky. I knew two blood great grandparents and one Algonquin step great grandfather and one Algonquin Tusky great great grandmother. Each of these ancestors knew their grandparents and some of their great-grandparents.
I have proof that I’m a daughter of the American Revolution and a daughter of the Confederacy but those relationships were forced upon my female ancestors by rape. I carry their polluted hate filled colonizer blood but I refuse to acknowledge their Anglo Saxon/Roman cultural history.
Juneteenth 2020 I dance with my ancestors from Currituck around Jones & Pennys HIlls, Salvo, Silver Lake harbor and Chicamacomico. My prayer is Divine Mercy for the world, and I dance to the Drum of Northern Cree. Round Dance Song.
I dance Cree Round Dance to honor Riley Kucheran, an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation). Riley transferred an important Cree teaching to me as an Algonquin Elder to share with indigenous children. To honor the sacredness of the knowledge transfer, I dance Cree Round Dance to the Drum of Northern Cree.
Women’s Northern Cree Round Dance Example >> YouTube