Now, as a grown-up in Florida, there is a portrait of a lady named Harriet Hubbard hanging on my wall, which I inherited from my grandmother. Her hair is in two funny buns on either side of her head, and her face looks hauntingly like my older sister. The Hubbard family heritage traces all the way back to the Mayflower days in Connecticut. Harriet, who was born on 1824, married a Frenchman named Pierre Spang. They and their kids eventually traveled to Sonora, California during the gold rush in the mid 1800s. The trip, fraught with disaster, included a shipwreck, yellow fever and a perilous trip via muleback through the mountains. Eventually, the family ended up settling in Lame Deer, Montana, where they opened a stagecoach stop.
The only Spang kid who went back to Connecticut was my great-great-grandfather Wilfred. The others stayed in Montana, and many married American Indians. Because of our roots in the colonial days, we are Daughters of the American Revolution, and have a genealogical chart of this part of the family tree. The names of these distant cousins of mine have always been a source of fascination. The Spang kids married indigenous native peoples with names like Calls First, Knows His Gun, Redrobe, Littlewolf, Shell Woman, Wildhog, Roman Nose and even Seminole.
Meanwhile, back in the less distant past, while reviewing writers' resumes from an ad I posted on America's Job Bank's Internet site, I noticed one from a woman named Victoria Westermark who had an interesting background, having written some PBS documentaries and NPR stories about Native Americans. I asked her to write a story about the Seminoles. When I noticed she lived in Montana, I asked her via email, if she ever heard of the name Spang before, remembering that they had settled somewhere in her vicinity.
Well, it turns out that her husband Don (Mr. Many Bad Horses) was born and raised on the Cheyenne reservation, where Lame Deer is the largest town. He had heard of my Grandma Harriet, and has relatives married to her descendants. The Littlewolfs trace back to Littlewolf, the famous leader who led the Cheyenne out of the Oklahoma prison camps, back to Montana in the 1870s. I also learned that Roman Nose was a very famous leader, medicine man and warrior.
Some of the Spang kid's offspring were named Crooked Nose, Snake Woman, and Tangled Yellow Hair. A woman named Rachel is the oldest survivor of the Roman Nose family (Crooked Nose was her grandmother).
I'm very curious about all these Nose people. Everyone in my family has a very unique nose. My two daughters have modified versions of these noses, and I have a feeling that some of my American Indian cousins are wearing a similar nose, not to mention the tangled yellow hair.
|"The whites told only one side. Told it to please themselves. Told much that is not true. Only his best deeds, only the worst deeds of the Indians, has the white man told."|
- Yellow Wolf of the Nez Pierces
Also while researching this story, I picked up a copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (Henry Holt and Co.) and learned a lot more about our nation's past, the story of the West told from the Indian perspective. I have also learned quite a bit about Florida's and America's history with its native people, and much of it is a shameful, terrible tale of greed, deceit, murder, superiority and denial on the part of the white man, but also incredible courage, patience and strength -- on the part of the Indians. I'm proud to say that as I peeked into my own family's past, I discovered that rather than discriminating against our nation's forbears, my ancestors opted to blend with them. The grim tale of how the West was really won is nothing new, but becoming more aware of the truth and distilling all this information in my mind and my heart, I can hear the echoes of these beautiful people, whose words and names still resonate within me.