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Yellow Bird: Remembering all relatives a big chore
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Filed Under: Opinion

"Remembering who our relatives are may be simple for some. But for families on reservations, it can be a chore because we have such big families.

One sad and memorable day, we all gathered at the hospital because Wesley Plenty Chief, my uncle, was dying. One of my father’s elder sisters came to sit with us. I greeted her simply. She turned immediately to my mother and scolded her. She said “Dorreen doesn’t even know that I’m her grandmother. You should teach her who her relatives are.”

I never forgot that and always looked for her. It is one of the things in American Indian culture, this respect you show the elders by acknowledging them. It is the children who must remember who’s who, and it’s the responsibility of the parents to tell them about family.

During all the recent graduations, I met a lot of my relatives who are now grown up. Perhaps they don’t realize that what they looked like at 5 is different from what they look like at 18. For example, I saw my nephew, Hunter Packineau, whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. He shot up to 6-foot-5 and is a sophomore, most handsome and a basketball star. I will remember him from now on. He towers over me.

When I was younger and hung around with teens my age, we would smile when the grandmothers and grandfathers asked, “Who are you?” My wonderful Aunt Pearl always hugged all of them. She only knew they were her children by some relationship.

As my mother grew into her late 80s, she had so many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren that it was no surprise she didn’t remember them all. She had 13 children of her own. At a family reunion some 30 years ago, there were more than 100 immediate relatives — even though one whole family was missing, as were many children."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: Pomp, circumstance and tears (The Grand Forks Herald 5/28)
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