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5 April 2007updated 27 Sep 2015 5:44am

Growing up a Cherokee

The importance of family life and of knowing when you are rich

By Kathy Van Buskirk

Growing up as Cherokee children we didn’t know that we were different from any other person. Although we did not have much in the way of money for food or other items needed to take care of a family of 8 children (6 girls and 2 boys) we did the best we knew how.

The only one that worked was our father, our mother stayed home to take care of us kids. This was very common with most families in the late 50’s and 60’s – the time frame in which we were born. There was always a lot of love in our home, and religion has always filled a big part of our lives. Our father was a minister in one of the local churches; there was a lot of faith and I believe most of our surrounding communities were that way.

There are a lot of Cherokees that live in our town and all those we know were considered poor people although we did not know what this meant at the time. With our father being the only provider in the home, we never had to do without. We always had a home, a vehicle to drive and food although it may not have been the best it was great to us.

Most of the Cherokee families that I knew were in the same position as we were. We all went to church together in our town or in the surrounding churches nearby. We always went to church and as a child I was baptized at the age of 8 years, and I believe from that time on I was fully aware of God, Jesus or what we Cherokee people call U-ne-tla-nv.

Today I look back and think what a wonderful childhood we had and how much love our parents had for us, although we never heard them say ‘I love you’, mom would always say I care for you all the same, which in her native language meant the same thing as I love you.

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Not very many families raise that many children anymore. It’s as though they could not do it in today’s society, with the cost of living being so high. These days it is very difficult for only one person of the home to be the provider, and raise their children.

In the Cherokee society we still take care of each other because we feel we are all one family; you may see a son or daughter along with their spouses and children, living with mom and dad and even grandparents, in the same household taking care of each other.

The faith is always there and very strong, that is why our family made it as well as we did in our younger days. Even today, my husband and I who have two children are a working family, we still do not have much, but that is okay. We have always been taught that our needs will be met, and that is instilled in our hearts. I know that is not just the Cherokees, but other people as well have been taught that way. That is really something to know, our faith and what we teach our children today are going to be our teachers of tomorrow and in my family God is number one!

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