Thursday, 18 July 2013 14:29

Grandma Was An Indian Princess - The Role of Traditional Family Stories

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family history family storytellingOne of my first connections to family history, was to my 4th grandmother, Clara Rohrer or Mo-ko-maun-e-quay (Little Knife). Clara was the daughter of O-taun-tug, a full-blooded Chippewa of the White Earth Mississippi Band and Daniel Rohrer, a young clerk at a nearby Army outpost in Minnesota.

Family tradition – as started by Clara herself, was that she was an Indian Princess…I know all about the old mythical Indian princess story cliché, so stop rolling your eyes and stay with me here folks! But, as a child living in a family that moved like migratory birds with no extended family around, I latched on to this story. I was the granddaughter of a PRINCESS! How cool was that?! I felt unique and special with this wonderful, romantic family history story.



As a young girl, I use to study Indians and horses by the hours – just in case the tribe should ever need me to come back and take over the throne vacated by my grandmother…hey, it could of happened – okay on Disney, but still, I had hope! False though this idea was, this fascination kept me connected to my family history.


As I grew older I was, I admit being disappointed to finding out that there is no such thing as an “Indian Princess” in the Chippewa tribal structure, but I stayed with researching my family history to go on and discover Clara’s real story, which was far more fascinating than my imagined one.


Even though the Indian Princess story wasn’t true, it drew me in – it helped a lonely little girl feel connected and part of a family. I found this to be true while working at the Family History Library one day and assisting a young soldier on leave. His father was an inmate in prison for most of this your man’s life. This solider needed to know if he was more than just a convict’s son, was there more to his story? He needed some new, better stories that added to his sense of worth and identity. He needed a bigger picture of his family tree.

family history family storytelling
We all want to be connected, to be a part of history, to be a part of a family. Alex Haley, author of Roots said it best when he stated: “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we come from. Without this enriching knowledge there is a hollow yearning. No matter our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” 


What stories and traditions does your family cherish and share? 


Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 12:58
Valerie Elkins

Vlaerie is the CEO and founder of Advantage Genealogy and serves on the Board of Directors for both Story @ Home and for the Utah Genealogical Association. She utilizes her experience to blend research and technology with the art of storytelling, to help make the past come alive. Valerie believes that every family has an amazing family history full of stories of love and loss, guts and glory, victory and deafeat... along with a few skeletons in the closet. Finding those stories and learning to dance with them is her passion. Valerie is a Pinterest "pinja" and a blogger at Family Cherished. You can find Valerie on Twitter @elkinsvalerie.

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