Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Prayer Book


This is the prayer book that was passed down to my family from my father's mother.

Recently, I gave the prayer book back to my Father. He's going to take it to someone at the Smithsonian, to see if they want it, or if it has a value to anyone besides us. It's just falling apart in my bookshelf anyway, and I thought it would be good if someone else got some enjoyment out of it. I took the photo because I thought it would be a good way to remember my "heirloom."

I had a project to do for school, once upon a time, with the boys; it was a creative writing parent/child class. I told my Grandmother's story for that class, so I have a good reference on her life.

My grandmother was born on November 24, 1921, in a house on the Kahnawake Indian reservation just outside of Quebec, Canaca. Her mother and father were Mohawk Iroquois. They had been married when they were about 18, but they separated when my Grandmother was born. It wasn't talked about, so she didn't know the reasons. It may have been because of her father's job. He was an iron worker, and he had to travel. (The Mohawk Iroquois often took jobs as ironworkers, building the skyscrapers and bridges of big cities like Manhattan.)

My Grandmother was named Alliene, but her Indian name was Kanietahawi, which means "brought the snow." She was born on the first snowfall. Gram had her mother give all of the grandchildren indian names, but it was just for fun. My indian name was Full Moon, and my sister is Half Moon. We don't know what that is in Iroquois.

Because the Mohawk were on the East Coast, there was very early contact with missionaries and white settlers, and my family didn't retain any of the original American Indian religion. My Grandmother seemed to be more of a lapsed Catholic than anything else. The prayer book was published in 1879, and it was Catholic. There was a beautiful church at the reservation, and my Grandmother seemed to like visiting it when she went back.

Maybe, if she had stayed on the reservation later in life, she would have learned more about her Native American roots. She was very young when she got married and had her first child, and she lived in New Jersey with my Grandfather's Italian family. An older woman may have questioned her family more about family history. I feel like a lot of that tradition is lost to us.

I don't feel like the book, given to the Smithsonian, would be lost to us. And my Gram, who has passed away a while ago, is still here in spirit.

Happy Birthday, Gram!
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Beth said...

Beautiful post....happy birthday Gram!!!!

Anonymous said...

Will have to put this in my scrapbook, however, you failed to mention that the book is written in Mohawk. Mom

Sue said...

Beth - thanks! :D

Mom - do you want me to edit the actual post? I can add it with no problem...

Anonymous said...

That is up to you if you want to add it. I don't care. I will edit it when I print it for my scrapbook.

Seraphine said...

i love hearing some of your family history, sue. beautifully said.
and happy thanksgiving! to you and your family. especially to gram and your mom too.