A poet and professor comes to terms with her Native American heritage.
Though many tribes have been better able to sustain a collective identity—whether on a reservation or through perpetuation of their legacy—Low (Jackalope, 2015, etc.) never knew much about her Delaware (Lenape) heritage when she was growing up in Kansas. When the Delaware “sold” Manhattan to the Dutch in 1626, many of them dispersed in various directions, sometimes in different clans (“Wolf, Turkey, and Turtle”), but they retained no sustained tribal identity. Low’s mother rarely acknowledged that bloodline and showed disfavor toward the daughter who so resembled her grandfather. “Discrimination against Native people has been so fierce that many people, like my family, suppressed their identity with non-Europeans as completely as possible,” she writes. “Some black Cherokees chose to identify with African Americans because it was easier.” As the former poet laureate of Kansas and a dean at the Haskell Indian Nations University, she found herself traveling around the state, hearing stories from those with similar backgrounds. She became even more curious about the legacy that seemed lost, the history her family never spoke about, the one it had tried to hide, to marry above, to leave dead in the past. “This process has healed me,” she writes, allowing her to deepen the sort of relationship with her mother that they’d never had when the latter was living, to discover just how much in common she had with her grandfather, and to realize how those earlier had suffered at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and discrimination in general. “The story of my grandfather and my mother has become my own, as my past grows longer than my future,” she writes.
An engagingly written mix of research, reportage, and memoir, infused with the passion of discovery.