The Benefits In Knowing Our Ancestral Culture: A Chat with Grandma

Today I had a great opportunity in speaking with my 90 year old Grandmother about her experience in being a Narragansett Indian woman in the early 19th century, United States. The chat was such a great opportunity in that I’m glad I asked so later I don’t have to wonder. Still so many questions and stories I want to hear but today I will move forward in sharing the knowledge given to me today. The conversation started off with me asking her what she felt the benefits of knowing her ancestral culture gave the family during her years growing up. She expressed that she found pride in who she was because although the whites who came into America tried to deny their existence before their own arrival, the tribe knew better. She said it made her proud to know who she was especially after the fact that the Europeans attempted a genocide during the Great Swamp Massacre [December 19, 1975]. According to Wikipedia the tribe was defeated completely in April of 1676, however my Grandmother expressed how the tribe continued to fight and have kept some of the land in southern Rhode Island in recent years. She spoke of private meetings the tribe would have because whites did not allow them to congregate publicly. As a young woman she felt pride in knowing her family was continuing the fight even after the attempted genocide. I asked her if she felt family life created better relationships within the family during her days living on the reservation. Although it seems obvious, she expressed that having those Pow Wow’s are what helped keep the Native spirit alive during a time when celebrating this was prohibited or sabotaged by whites.

She went on to explain how the small bit of the Narragansett’s left after the attempted genocide had split them up by some going to the city [Providence, RI], remained [South Kingston, RI], or moved to the Pequot’s [CT tribe] side because of the closeness in location and bloodlines. Those who moved to Providence mixed with blacks and some whites which caused a bit of division in the tribe. Many who stayed in southern RI [South Kingston], kept the bloodline going and some had mixed with the whites. Having this conversation with her allowed me to regain my Native pride that had once withered because some of the darker skinned kinky haired Natives as myself aren’t considered “real Native”. Even as I have more Narragansett blood in me then some who are mixed with white, they as my Grandmother said, “like a certain look“. My Grandmother said that some in the tribe have referred to other darker skinned Natives as niggers. Regardless of what people like to say for some sort of control, by way of Jim Crowe, I hope those who feel detached from who they are will hang on to their roots. Knowing who we are will only allow us to come together without the ignorance.

In the ending part of my conversation with my Grandmother we were talking about how there are so many artifacts that have been hidden from our knowledge from early Native American civilizations up until after the Europeans invaded. I advise as I have before, for those interested in knowing who was really here before the Europeans to check out Hidden Colors part 1 & 2. African’s have been coming to America long before any of the Euro people. Here is a link to an introductory video of Hidden Colors which is already out, make sure to check the ‘About’ tab where links to books and other miscellaneous info is.


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