My latest release, Crow Magic, is about a Native American shape shifter. I was asked how I attained my interest and knowledge of Native American legend and lore. My response became a story.
After the Civil War, my great-great grandfather, Gardner Avery, left his New York regiment to settle with his wife, Helen Greenleaf Kern, in a rural area near Grand Rapids, Michigan, named Jamestown. He kept a diary, which remains in the family, of his daily activities and expenses. On the land he purchased to farm, a tribe of Native Americans resided. The couple let the Potawatomi continue to live and hunt on the land.
At the time, Grand Rapids was one of the first large scale trading posts used by the Ottawa, Potawatomi and the Chippewa. My ancestors learned valuable information from their relationships with these tribes, which lead them to have a successful farm and healthy family. Despite the Avery’s wishes, the government forced the tribe off the land and into a reservation. According to family legend, Helen and her dearest friend spent the last days together. After hugs and many tears, she stood in a field and watched the tribe travel until they were out of sight.
The information, stories, and traditions my ancestors learned have been passed down through the
In the 1950s, my grandparents purchased property and build a cottage on Coldwater Lake, not far from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. We spent many summers at the cottage, where we collected arrowheads we found in the local sand pits. A Chippewa family owned a cottage near ours and “Indian Dave” would share their stories, dances, and traditions with us while we sat around a bonfire.
I could say the knowledge of herbals and spirituality lives in me because of the ties of my family with the tribes of Michigan and beginning embraced by each generation of my family.
To add to my family history, my cousin’s father was from a Seminole tribe and my brother-in-law is a descendant of a French Trader and Blackfoot Indian woman. Funny, how a person with the Welch/Swedish/German heritage I have, can be neatly blended with Native American legend and lore. Grandmother used to tell us that our legacy isn’t only family blood but also the land we live in.