My name is Kaya Gravitter. I am the great-great-great granddaughter of a love story that comes from a dark time in the United States history.
My great-great-great grandfather was a slave. He was forced here from the shores of West Africa, in the Atlantic Slave Trade. My great-great-great grandmother was a Native Indian of the the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe. That particular tribe was eventually combined by two other tribes; Oneida and Brotherton. Their love story started on the coast of present-day New York.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Natives on the East Coast were excited to meet the new White European settlers. The natives thought these white people were strange but were intrigued by them. The Europeans came with novelties that the Natives have never seen. The natives were very accommodating and hospitable. They taught the settlers how to grow crops and live off the land. The first Europeans who came on the Mayflower would have died if not for the natives or would we have thanksgiving to celebrate. This is the time when the people in this country were able to co-exist.
After more and more settlers came to the U.S., they started to lack respect for the land and the Natives. The Europeans were greedy and wanted to take the land for themselves. They no longer wanted to share the land with their native brothers and sisters, who were so welcoming and giving to them. The settlers could not leave their colonizing ways in Europe. They set on conquering the newfound land through bloodshed and invasion.
The Native population continued to shrink, as the white population continued to grow. There grew to be an overwhelming amount of invaders, colonists, and explorers. They were bringing diseases, such as measles, smallpox, etc. Just these diseases alone reduced the Native population because they were not immune to such diseases.
All of this led to a series of bad events for the natives: the Indian Removal Act (1830), and the Battle of Wounded knee in South Dakota in 1890, which is one of the worst massacres to ever occur in the U.S.
What many people know is that the natives hated the white man. Of course you would not like someone if he stole your land, either. The English slaughtered Natives, raped Native women, and stole native children. They sent these children to school to “civilize” them. They forced those children to rid themselves of their beautiful long hair for short hair. They made them give up their traditions. They forced them to dress in English clothes, speak English, and be Christians. Colonization at its finest!
So, how would the new European settlers turn their newfound country into a thriving nation? Historically it is known that the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.The settlers used slaves to build their homes and our country’s capital. They used them to work on plantations and take care of their children. They forced them to leave their religion of Islam or the other religions that they practiced in Africa, to be Christian.
Natives tried to fight for their freedom, but they were not just fighting for their own freedom.The Natives also helped slaves escape during the Underground Railroad. The natives wanted to helped the slaves leave the chains of the white man. My native relatives, in particular, helped many slaves escape during the underground railroad.
Love stories like my grandparents were common. According to my grandma, Native women co-mingling with black men or any different race was considered a good thing for a native girl. They thought that having a mixed-race baby would bring good spirit or good luck to the tribe. Though a mixed-race baby was thought to be good for a native tribe, that baby would forever be a slave to the white man.
The white man loved those part black children as well. If you were even a trivial amount black or appealed to be black, you were considered a slave and not free, to the white man. Even after natives were put on reservations, that land was only for the natives that had no black blood. The white settlers took advantage of anyone being part black, so they would never run out of slaves.
So what brought my grandparents together? Was it the hate for the white man or hope for a better life?
Stay Tuned… This is all from the research I am doing for my new book. God willing.