Interview with Pa’Ris’Ha’s Mother

 Interview with Pa’Ris’Ha’s Mother and Senior Citizen’s Newsletter (S.C.N.) 

 S.C.N.: “What is your name?”

Jacky: “My name is Jacky.”

S.C.N.: “Where are you from originally, Jacky?”

J: “Tennessee. That’s where I was born. Then we moved around a little in the South and the South East. I finally settled here in Ohio. Ohio has been my home for better than forty years.”

S.C.N.: “What is your traditional background? What is your race or nationality?”

J: “Well, I’m Cherokee, Eastern Cherokee, and I don’t know what tradition I am. I don’t think I even understand that question.”

S.C.N.: “Well, tradition means the way you were taught to live and influenced by beliefs of family, bloodline and customs. That’s what I’m really asking by the word ‘tradition’.”

J: “Well, goodness, girl, then ask that. I can understand it now. My family was people of the land, good people, hard working, and caring people. My mother was a holy woman and she practiced and lived the way of God. My real daddy was a healing man. My mother was a healer and taught those people who came to her to help themselves and taught them how to pray and prayed over them to heal them. She loved the country and didn’t have much to do in her way with city living. She raised Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] in the country and they knew the woods better than most people know their houses.”

S.C.N.: “Did you ever learn your people’s ways of healing or worshipping?”

J: “No. It’s always scared me silly. Oh, I learned how to use some of the old remedies and like that, but the Indian ways, no. They were too much for me. I respect and believe in the old ways and all that. It just scares me. You know, you just feel like some things are too powerful and you really have to be pure and good to use my mother’s way, and me I liked to do other things and I wanted to go to the city. I like shows and having a beer and dancing in the roadhouses and cafes. My mother never did anything like that and she loved the country. I didn’t want to stay in the hills. I was too curious for my own good, I guess.” [Laughter between Jacky and the interviewer.]

S.C.N.: “Yes, I am curious myself. I understand that. When you said your mother was a holy woman, what do you mean by that?

J: “What do I mean? Well, she believed you were here to do God’s will and she lived that way. She was a good woman and she lived the old ways all the time. Her whole life was in serving God and being good to everything. She prayed and did the holy ways. I guess you don’t know much about Indian ways, Hon!

S.C.N.: “Well some. I have read a lot about and talked to a lot of people on reservations and I studied their history. I like their ways.”

J: “My family wouldn’t live on a reservation. No sir. Her people hid out in the hills until everyone stopped looking for them. Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] knows more about how they stayed up in the woods and all. My mother and father never registered to the government. I heard her talk about those days. She said no one could tell her she wasn’t at home and that she would have to be registered like foreigners that come over here and get a card, letting others know where she was all the time. No, not any of her close family was on the reservations. I have cousins still out there in the towns and they are real Indian looking, black hair, dark brown eyes, brown skin. They still won’t say they are Indians, so they would have to be registered. They have businesses and homes in the towns, but they won’t get their citizen’s card. They say they are not foreigners. They don’t have to report and get counted and have to stay in certain places to please people who come here from other countries. You can’t really blame them. It’s a shame some of what has happened between the people and the white man. But it’s a long time ago. It’s time to get over all of this bitterness.

S.C.N.: “How old were you when you left home?”

J: “Well, I was just a girl. Likely about fourteen-years-old. I married a man much older than myself. I wanted to get out of the country, then into the towns and cities, and that’s just what I did.”

S.C.N.: “I have agreed not to go into some areas with you in regards to your people’s background. So I am just going to let you take it from here and tell me what you are willing to share.”

J: “Well, I don’t know what you want to know. I don’t care for people today who try to say they don’t believe Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] is a Medicine Woman, or that she isn’t Cherokee, and that she does strange ceremonies; that she was mixed up with other Indians, and they didn’t want her to help and teach other people what our people knew and did.

But it really gets me upset when that Jim Fry and the man from that cultural center, Mel-whatever-his-name-was, were saying she wasn’t even Cherokee. I had to almost go back to the hospital.I had just got my stomach taken out from cancer. I got so bad, my blood pressure is really high and so I try to not even listen to all their lying tongues. So I try to go to the TV station to make a statement. When that newsman on Channel 3 set her up, and tried to make them all look like sneaky, lying rats. She came back to town and tried to set them straight, and they wouldn’t listen. They tried to make it a big fiasco. I would have really told them off, if she would have let me get there! He showed things on the film that were cut and made it sound different from what she said. It looked really bad. She is just like my mother; she never got upset or said any bad about them.”

S.C.N. “What was the TV program about? Was it a news show?”

J: “It was that Tom Sweeney or whatever-his-name-is. Tom sneaky! He wanted to ask her about Joanne’s death. Well, she told him how it was and that she didn’t die in a sand hole. She told him how Joanne was anemic, and that she would have died no matter where she had been. He had a black man on there. It was this Jim Fry man, and one was black and one was white with no native blood at all. It was a real dumb thing he did. He wanted to see them all against each other and the two men tried to gang up on Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha]. She just told them how it was and how Jim had [cheated] all those Indians out of those clothes, and the collection that he had done. He was no spokesman for any native people. The black man just showed his green citizen’s card. I guess he had some Indian blood in him somewhere. One thing for sure is that he was a Negro man. Tom Sweeney was just making them all look bad. Well, I was going to go down there and tell them she certainly is a Cherokee, and I don’t care who believes it or not. But she didn’t lie; that bunch did.”

S.C.N.: “I’m sorry to hear you got so upset. Does Pa’Ris’Ha’s name mean anything? I was told there is no ‘R’ in the Cherokee alphabet or language.”

J: “There surely is an ‘R’ in the syllabary of our language. [Jacky is showing C.N. a chart.] “Near here; it is near the ‘Pa’.”

S.C.N.: [She is showing me a chart of letters that are called a Cherokee syllabary created by Sequoia, a man that provided a means of alphabet and writing for his people’s language to communicate and keep his people united.]

S.C.N.: “Yes, you are right Jacky; here is a big ‘R’. What does her name mean in your language? Your mother’s language?”

J: “I don’t speak Cherokee, so I don’t know how it goes. But my mother named her because she was prayed for and came here to be a holy woman for my family. Her name in Cherokee, the old Cherokee language which they don’t speak anymore I’m told, was ‘She who’s long red hair touches the earth.’ When she grew up, all of them called her ‘the Beloved Woman’ and she stayed with them till she was grown up.”

S.C.N.: “Your mother helped care for her as a child?”

J: [Laughter] “No, they were more like two peas from the same pod. She took Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] like she was her own born. She raised her according to the way she believed and Patty (Pa’Ris’Ha) was like her shadow, she was so close.”

S.C.N.: “Did you ever want to know more about your roots and your people today?”

J: “No. I used to feel bad about Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] not growing up in my house, but she’s real clear with me that everything is just fine, and that she was happy, and would not have wanted to live in town. She loved my mother and my mother loved her.”

S.C.N.: “How old was your mother when she died?”

J: “Well, I guess she was pretty old, near a hundred. Back in the old days they didn’t have doctor records and birth certificates. So I guess she knew when she was born, but I don’t know what year it was.”

S.C.N.: “I found in my research that a lot of natives and old Americans didn’t have birth certificates. I think it is because of home births. Someone told me your daughter Pa’Ris’Ha doesn’t have a birth certificate either. How is that? Was she born at home?

J: “She wasn’t born in a hospital, but she sent away and bought a birth certificate when she was grown up because she needed one to travel overseas. They gave her one of a ‘no-name’ child who was born on the days she was checking for. Sure enough, they gave it to her. I had a doctor help me to give her a birth certificate. When she was born there was no place to get a record of her birth.”

S.C.N.: “How are things today for you and your daughter, Pa’Ris’Ha?”

J: “Good, real good. She uses the old ways to work on me and she does make me better than all these pills the doctor gives me. I had cancer surgery twice now. I only weigh 83 pounds and can’t gain any weight. But I feel good! Patty (Pa’Ris’Ha,) helps me a lot. She does the old religion for me when someone dies in our family and I really like that. She will send my soul to the Wind and the Sun when my time comes. She promised my mother she would do the prayers for all of us as we go. She did for my brother and it was really beautiful.”

S.C.N. “Do you wish you would have learned the Medicine ways of your family now?”

J: “Sometimes I think I do, but when I see how much travel and work there is for Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha], she’s always helping somebody, no time to herself. I’m glad I didn’t. When I’m with her and I remember my mother and father, I see how good Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] is. I wish I had learned more myself. I’m all ready though, and I’m real happy that my daughter is still keeping the old ways and that she will safe-keep the ancient, holy ways of our people and my mother. She is a good woman and she makes me proud. She makes me proud to be her mother. It’s a wonderful feeling to see your child become a great person. Patty [Pa’Ris’Ha] is a holy woman of our religion. She uses the good ways of our people and she loves everything. She trusts everything to God in the earth.”

S.C.N.: “I thank you for this delightful interview and hope I haven’t tired you too much. Thank you.”