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  1. jakecaller

    my family history

    The Poet will publish my poem, “My Mother’s History” in an upcoming anthology on Cultural Identity. My ethnic background is a bit complicated. Depending upon how I look at it, I have 18 to 20 nationalities in my tangled family DNA. From my father’s side of the family, I inherited a German family name, Scandinavian blue eyes, with ancestors coming from France, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Lapland, Norway, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, and somehow the Basque region. I also have some Jewish ancestry and a trace of Mongolian ancestry as do most people of Eastern European background. And my DNA test also claims that there is some Italian ancestry somewhere and perhaps Spanish ancestry. From my mother’s side of the family, I am part Scot, part Irish, part French, part Dutch, part Cherokee and part Nigerian. Since she was part of the lost tribe of the Cherokee Indians, her story is particularly complicated as her ancestors fled before being enrolled in a tribe and lived in the Ozarks intermarrying with other Indian tribes, Scot and Irish settlers, and escaped slaves. In any event, there are so few people in her ethnic group -perhaps 25,000 that they don’t show in DNA tests. Since her parents show Cherokee that means I am anywhere from 1/8 to 1/8 Cherokee. I met my uncle once and he looked Cherokee to me. The following are my poems exploring my ethnic history. Enjoy. My Mother’s History One day many a year ago My mother spoke to me About her family’s tangled history, She spoke to me Of lies, half-truths, and myths Some of which may have been true And throughout the evening Her history came alive. She was born in the hills of North Little Rock The 10th of 11 children Of an ancient dying race. The Cherokees who had run away Refusniks Refugees who fled in the hills. Part of the lost tribe of the Cherokee nation Part Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole and African Americans Who fled to the mountains To avoid the trail of tears. Rather than join the rest In the promised land Of Oklahoma. They did not exist I did not exist. The BIA told us No Indian scholarship For you Since you can’t prove You are in fact Of Native American ancestry, I asked my mother What does this mean? She said No BIA money for you, My non-Indian son. Her family and Bill Clinton family Were related Bill Clinton and I are distant cousins When I met him I related my family history He concluded that we were indeed cousins Said I could call him Cousin Bill And he would call me Cousin Jake And he too was part Cherokee Irish, Scotch, French And African American Part of the lost tribe Of the Cherokee nation I told my mom This story She said It was true She was a distant cousin Of Bill Clinton Still did not like The lying SOB Her people disappeared From history’s eyes And DNA data banks My history was over As was hers And so, I learned at last The painful truth That due to the genocidal crimes of politicians so long ago My mother’s people Lost their land, their culture, and their hope And became downtrodden forgotten people Hillbillies they were called Living in the hills and mountain dales Clinging to the dim fading memories Of their once glorious past As proud Cherokees Now no one knew their name The old ways were forgotten And the new world never forgave them And they never forgave the new world As they lived on In the margins of society Forgotten people And I vowed that as long as I lived Their history would not die As I knew the truth And I would become a proud Cherokee And make my mother proud of me And my accomplishments When I am down and out I recall her stories and her warnings And realize it is up to me To live my life To let the Cherokee in me Live his life And in so doing My mother’s history does not die It lives on in me Until the day I die Long live the Cherokee nation Long live my mother DNA Does Not Like or Does it? I sent way For one of those DNA tests That promises to reveal Your ethnic heritage The only problem is that claim Is not yet true The results were surprising To say the least Family lore would have it That I have 18 nationalities In my tangled family history Mostly Northern European Part German, Norwegian, Swedish, Finish, Danish, Dutch, Laplander, Russian, Scottish, Basque, Mongolian, Jewish, Spanish, and French from my father Part Cherokee, Dutch, Irish, Scottish, English, Italian, Nigerian, and French from my mother 100 percent born and raised in Berkeley The DNA results showed that I am 68% northern European with trace elements of Jewish, Basque. Italian Mongolian and Nigerian stock, No native American at all And my Germanic last name For some reason Did not register at all Go figure I said And I read the fine print The state of the art is such That claims that they can tell Your ethnic background Are exaggerated The fine print read Explaining why it is often inaccurate The Cherokee background Disappeared Because my branch of the Cherokees Disappeared into the mist of time Part of the lost tribe of the Cherokee nation Part Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole and African Americans Who fled to the mountains To avoid the trail of trees The German background Got swept up into the northern European thing And at the end of the day I remained as much a mongrel the breed as anything else Typical American I suppose All in all A fascinating experiment Family History Revealed The DNA results Revealed some aspects Of whom I am Where I am from But not everything Was revealed And much of my history Remains hidden My father was from Yakima Ran away to the Bay Area Where he became a college professor Taught the dismal science economics Along the way He met my mother And after a whirlwind romance had four children My older brother, Me Younger brother And sister She was a refugee From the dust bowl Fled Arkansas In the late ’30s Never looked back Settled down In the Bay Area Yet the south lingered on She trained herself To speak without an accent The only time the southern came out Was when she was talking to her sisters She was the 10th of 11th children Father was a moonshiner A Cherokee medicine man to boot Lived life in the Ozark mountains She had two sons From a prior relationship That went south We never really knew them My father was an atheist And a morning person And a man with a plan For everything My mother More make it up As she went along And a night owl How and why They met and stayed together Is beyond me They had a stormy relationship My mother always said Germans and Irish Don’t mix And never should marry She also said The world is divided into morning people And night owls And they are doomed to marry each other Yet I suppose There was real love Beneath all the drama And bluster Thoughts on Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC Sam Adams Had never been To the Holocaust Museum, Despite the fact He had lived And worked in DC for decades One day after he retired He said to himself It was long past time To finally see the holocaust museum He went the week After Charleston, When the mob had chanted, Jews will not replace us. The museum affected him deeply He had just confirmed Through DNA That he had at least 10 percent Jewish ancestry Among the 18 other nationalities Swirling among these bloodlines Sam Adams was concerned Those elements of antisemitism We’re emerging among The MAGA crowd. But he dismissed The fears that Trump Was another Hitler As liberal hyperbole It could not happen here A new holocaust Would never happen But now he was not so sure
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