Ready the family ark
Some time ago I received a telephone call from a man who said he ran an arts and crafts business in the east and wished to learn more about Twin Rocks Trading Post.
The gentleman wanted to know who we are, what we do, and what connection we have to local Indigenous tribes.
As we talked, I realized his questions indicated an interest in preserving Native culture. He said his name was Leon and that he was from the Micmac and Penacook tribes.
Leon went on to say he had become seriously concerned that the history of his people was all too quickly being lost.
Over the years, many legends had come to him, and he accumulated them for transmission to members of his tribe and to any other interested party.
Leon counseled we must collect the thoughts of our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, children, and grandchildren, whether or not they are Native American.
He told me that of all the stories he had heard, there was one in particular that was most meaningful. The story was about a young man and his journey on the road home.
The legend tells of a group of Native people who lived in an expansive wood. One by one the people passed on, until only the youngest was left.
One evening the youth fell asleep and dreamed of traveling a path populated by his relatives. As the boy greeted each one in turn, the elders related their personal stories.
Eventually, the young man came to a rainbow with a longhouse on the opposite side. In the longhouse were people of all nations speaking in a common tongue about their traditions and living in harmony.
Beyond the great-house stood the Creator with his arms open, welcoming the young man home, and telling the boy he had learned much and been given a great gift.
As the story unfolded, I began to think of the youth as an ark in which the history of his people was being invested, a vessel to carry the traditions across the waters of time.
I was reminded of my paternal grandfather “Woody” Simpson singing his Biblical chronology, “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I saw the apple they was eatin’.
“I’m the man who swore, cause I’m the one who ate the core.
“Then came Noah stumblin’ in the dark, tryin’ to find a hammer just to build himself an ark.
“Then came the animals two by two, the hippopotamus, the kick kangaroo, then came the lion, then came the bar, then came the elephant without any har.”
I could see Woody bouncing my brothers and sisters on his knee as his tune spilled out into the living room of his small white house in great clumps of irregular harmony.
I distinctly remembered Woody sitting next to me at Blue Mountain Trading Post on an old blue sofa purchased at the Phoenix flea market, relating his experiences as a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
I have since discovered some of his adventures were fiction, but I still love having them.
Although I remember him well, I have virtually no stories from my maternal grandfather Joseph Correia, a quiet, gentle man who worked hard and said little.
As these memories eddied through my mind, I suddenly realized the young man of Leon’s story had died, and with him the stories of his tribe ended. The ark had sunk and the legends of his people were lost.
My grandfathers both died many years ago, and with them their family stories. There is much I would now like to know about these two men, but it is too late – that boat sailed without me.
Leon cautioned me we must preserve the past and practice the traditional ways when possible. He said most of us are not sharing the legends the way our forebears intended.
At 56 years of age, Leon had made a commitment to spread the word, so he can stop the cultural hemorrhage and keep this body of knowledge alive.
For much of Native America – and the rest of us as well – the rain has been falling some time, and our culture and traditions are drifting away.
Many of our narratives have either not made it into the ark or have been washed overboard and are forever lost.
We must build a solid vessel and fill it with the stories of our ancestors, our own stories, and the stories of our children and grandchildren. If we don’t, like the unicorn, they will not survive.