Whitehorse The Man
I often wonder why their children, my uncles, aunt, and my birth mother never appreciated Whitehorse. All my life I never once heard any of them say "Dad I love you." Who was this man they called Dad?" I know they were ashamed of him. They would tell me when I was growing up how proud they were to be Acuna's/Spanish and always reminded me they were Garcia's and I wasn't. Being proud of the name Garcia but not the man who gave it to them struct me as very strange. They had a name for me India (indian girl) but when they would call me this it would be in a hateful tone. I guess I was too much like Whitehorse. I loved my Dad and Mom more than anyone could ever imagine.
I moved back home with Dad in 1986 after Mom's passing. I promised I would take care of him and never let anyone hurt him again and I kept that promise. From the years I spent sitting and talking with him, I could feel his Spirit Totem--Horse--endurance, independent and strong. His children did not take the time to ask questions and never took the time to know who Dad's parents were. Everything in Whitehorse's life was taken for granted. "Oh he's just Dad" and that's all they needed to know--until now. Questions are being asked by family that they have no answers to. What were Whitehorse's parents' names? How old were they when he was born? How old were they when they passed away? Who is Whitehorse? I contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Arizona but they were unable to help me. It seems when he was forced to leave the reservation, and all those people passed away, records were destroyed. They don't have any record he ever existed. His whole life has been handed down through stories. I was fortunate to have him in my life. When I tell family these stories, they seem stunned that they never knew this side of Dad. My Uncle Adam (Mom's youngest brother) knew my Dad from a very young age and confirmed many of these stories, so it is not all one sided as some might think. Adam admired Whitehorse. He told me when he was around nine years old, he used to carry Whitehorse's bag to the boxing arena to watch him box. He said those days were fun and exciting for him because he was able to 'play with the big boys.' Whenever we went to Arizona to visit, Adam and his family always greeted us with open arms. They are in my heart and I think of them often. On one of Whitehorse's birthdays, we went back to Arizona. Yolanda, my cousin, baked him a birthday cake. It was so sweet of her. Whitehorse almost cried. He was so touched. They always treated him with respect. Adam is gone now, but I will always remember him. . .I will never forget the kindness of my uncle and his family. Sadly, this year we lost our Aunt Florentina, my Uncle Adams wife. She was 101 years old. Florentina was the last of her generation. Such a lovely strong lady, she will be missed by the family and those fortunate to have known her.
I'm still taken back by how large our family is yet how distant we all are. . .it's like not having a family at all. Is blood the only link we have? What about ties? As the saying goes, you can't choose your family. Was it not for my Dad and Mom, I shutter to think where I would be today.
The resentment of American Indians enabled poor record management. Many people were lost over time. All the "people" from that time are now gone, and their stories have gone with them. They were treated as though they had no feelings, no dignity, no soul.
Native Americans are dedicated to keeping their culture alive. One way is by telling stories. This way they preserve the history of our People. After the last meal of the day, the children would eagerly scurry around the campfire to see who would sit next to the "Story Teller." Elders are keepers of history and regarded as very important people. Each story is based on truth and told in vivid detail. Sitting there listening, you could feel the strength and wisdom of the Great Ones. These were real people with real lives and we hold these stories near to our hearts, because without them history would be lost forever. Whitehorse was my "Story Teller." I would sit with him for hours while he told me stories of his experiences and stories he had heard when he was growing up. He would capture my attention with body language. . .I can still see him spreading his arms like an eagle and soaring through the sky with such grace. I could almost feel the wind blowing through my hair. "Keep our heritage alive" he would say. . ."continue telling these stories and you too will find peace and tranquility." He would sit with me, look deep into my eyes. . .as if he could see my destiny and tell me everything will be just fine. I have been privileged with education and the ability to write his stories for future generations. Sadly, the days of 'story telling' are disappearing, but written stories will be preserved forever.
I couldn't be more proud to be Whitehorse's daughter. I truly see him as my Dad. He took me into his home three days after I was born and raised me as one of his own. Whitehorse had such an exciting and colorful life. It is a life that couldn't just happen and fade away. It had to be recorded. His life has had such an impact on me. He is 'MY HERO.' . . .He will always be remembered as Whitehorse The Man who lived through hard times; but never dwelled on the misery, confusion, and loneliness he experienced to those around him. I know he is an important part of my life and always will be. His life has many angles that can only be imagined. This is just the beginning of his life as told by me, his daughter. I have learned things that will always be in my heart and will be passed down from generation to generation.
Whitehorse and Theodora were married for fifty-nine years. She passed away two months before their sixtieth anniversary. He was so happy knowing she was by his side through good and bad times. She was our inspiration, and will remain with us, and especially Whitehorse, forever. I am so proud to have had the opportunity have had such wonderful parents. Whitehorse and I often talked about the time when he would join his beloved Theodora and our Ancestors. Well, that time came on May 28, 1996, ten years after Theodora and two and a half months before his ninetieth birthday. Their ashes rest together at the base of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona--their beloved homeland. They rest by the grave of his little brother. In his eighty-nine years, Whitehorse lived by his beliefs, hopes and dreams; ahh. . .yes his wonderful dreams. This year, Whitehorse would have celebrated his 115th birthday. . .seems like just yesterday I was wishing him a Happy Birthday. . .time passes. . .but memories are with us forever.
As of April 8th of this year, Whitehorse has no living children. Before Whitehorse's passing, he lost three sons and one daughter. After his passing, three more sons and one daughter. That generation is now gone but as they say, not forgotten. My Aunt Diana passed away in 2008. Diana was such an amazing woman. She would come by and give me a card on my birthday. . .No one can possibly imagine how much that meant to me. She is dearly missed. In my generation, we've lost one cousin in 2005, one brother in 2013 and one brother in 2017. . .these are people who in one way or another have impacted many lives. . .who's to say what the future holds. . . .
My Native American heritage has instilled a sense of self-worth and richness which words cannot describe. . .without my past I have no future; without no future, my past would be lost forever. On one of our last trips to Arizona, Whitehorse was saddened to learn he had out-lived all of his childhood friends, but reflections of his boyhood will remain with me forever. Whitehorse The Man is a true story with no ending, because as long as generations continue, HIS story will live on. . .
~~tell me the landscape in which you live and I'll tell you who you are~~