Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sometimes You Can Feel A Place

The winding roads through the mountains and into Amherst County gave me the time to reflect on both all that we have seen thus far in our trip and also prepare for our next experience at the Monacan Indian Museum. I had called the museum during our drive through Lynchburg earlier in the morning so they knew that we were on our way… the most recent, as it turns out when looking at the sign in log, of a long list of family members that made the drive over the past week. Driving up to the small collection of buildings on Bear Mountain I could feel the connection with the place and the people there… it really is an indescribable feeling.

We were greeted warmly upon our arrival and after paying the modest admission fee we were shown to the next room where we watched a brief video about the history of our people. Given her recent passing, hearing Chief Sharon Bryant’s voice was both soothing knowing that her legacy lives on and also heartbreaking knowing all that she would have been able to accomplish if given more time. For those of you who have yet to view the video I have included it below and I encourage you to watch.

Upon the conclusion of the movie, we all got up and walked into the next room to learn as much as we could during our visit. Holding my son as I walked in, I was motivated even more to find the documents and information needed to become a member of the Monacan Nation. While looking around I was able to find a few more pieces of information for my research and I was able to speak with the woman who originally greeted us about what needed to be done (again, more about that later). Here are some of the pictured some the small but significant museum.
Even though the museum only consisted of three rooms we spent well over an hour looking around, talking, and learning about this part of our family history and heritage. After making sure it was okay to walk around and take pictures, we went next door to the Indian Mission School.
Given the years that it was used there is a good possibility that there were a few ancestors that received their education within those walls. It is amazing to think that the school was used until the 1960’s.

From within that small school house, one can look out the window and see the Episcopal Church just across a small creek.

A central part of the community, we walked over to the church to take a closer look…

…and when we turned the corner and approached the front entrance, a kaleidoscope of butterflies floated across the bridge laced clearing between the buildings…
…and converged on the flowering bushed in front of us.
As we walked away, the butterflies scattered into the wind. I am not usually one to think along these lines but I felt at that moment that was the way our ancestors were welcoming us back. It didn’t look or feel as though it was just a coincidence.  

Feeling both drained and energized, we got back in the car and drove up the road to another place I had only seen in pictures. Thankfully, we noticed the small sign along the side of the road and just a few minutes later I found myself standing in front of the final resting place for many of my ancestors. Within the lines of the single headstone at the front of the cemetery, many of my family surnames can be found… Redcross, Terry, Beverly, and Johns.
Behind this headstone are the graves marked with anonymous stones. All recognized as individuals but buried as a people.

It was the most moving part of the journey and gave me a lot to think about as we drove back through the mountains. Hopefully the next time I am able to visit will be as a member of the tribe and not just as a visitor.