By Trevor C. Hale
We will never be royals. Um, speak for yourself, Lorde.
My family doesn’t put on airs, but we may have some royal blood. Not in the Queen Elizabeth sense, mind you, but a bit more than “I’m the king of my castle” sense.
In our family lore, our great5 grandmother was a Native American princess. We grew up hearing the story, but until last year at a family gathering at Lake Martin, I hadn’t heard it fully. According to my uncle Bill (a legendary enthusiastic storyteller, infectiously laughing throughout), our forbearer name a’ Higdon was in Kentucky after the Revolutionary War, about 100 years before B-ham was founded. After America’s independence from the colonialists across the pond, he met and fell in love with a true local—a Native American woman whose dad was either a Choctaw or Chickasaw chief.
They hooked up, hopefully after a romantic and gentlemanly courtship. #revolutionaryraconteur. The chief (I guess my great6 granddad) was not amused, said, “Say sayonara to the gringo princess,” brought her back to the village, and cut off her ear as punishment!
Higdon was a good tracker, as one would be in the late 1700s, and hid out close to the village biding his time, hankering for his honey. He may have wrestled a bear or two…or at least told tall tales about bear wresting after a few cups of mead (mead? #soRenaissanceFair. Maybe Kentucky sour mash).
Using the skills he honed under General Washington, driven by desire, he snuck into the camp and eloped with his Pocahontas. Fearing discovery and retribution (I have but one ear left to give), they migrated south to Alabama, and the rest is, literally, my history.
Wanting to test my lineage (and maybe apply for a casino license) I took a DNA test through ancestry.com. They send you a kit, you fill up a small tube with spit, seal it, send it, and wait for the results.
I received an email saying my DNA results were in. I was ready to embrace my Native American roots. #ChangeUrNameRedskins.
A few clicks later, and…not an iota of Chickasaw blood. In fact, 87 percent British! Six percent Western Europe, 5 percent Ireland, a pequena of Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), and a meatball crumb of Scandinavian.
On the bright side, Great Britain! Land of Shakespeare, The Stones, Mr. Bean. What’s not to love? I do enjoy giving British friends a hard time about their colonial ways.
Living in the Middle East, one has a great appreciation for the disaster of British imperialism. Exactly 100 years ago, Britain and France sliced up the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces in the Sykes-Picot agreement, creating borders that would impact today’s Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Saudi, Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey. These arbitrary borders ignored generations of tribal, ethnic, and religious history, helping create a century of strife and tension in the Middle East.
Remember in Lawrence of Arabia when T.E. Lawrence helps lead the Arab army into Damascus after taking Aqaba? The Arabs were promised the region in exchange for fighting against the Ottomans, but were betrayed (as was Lawrence) by the partitioning, which was signed in secret.
I just returned from Jordan, where they are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the events portrayed in Lawrence of Arabia (another column).
In Robert Zinn’s mind-blowing People’s History of the United States, he eloquently outlines (from the losers’ point of view—not losers, like Donald Trump losers, but the opposite of the winners who always write history) the outrageous atrocities Columbus and European settlers inflicted on Native Americans. There are heart-wrenching stories of gold plundering, pillaging, raping, disease spreading, and land grabbing in the name of monarchs and deities completely foreign to them.
Sorry to digress. It’s the Choctaw in me. Uncle Bill and others in the family say not to worry; sometimes ethnic traces don’t show up in tests after so much time and DNA dilution.
He worked it out on a 5×7 card, which my cousin Anita posted to the family Facebook page. Seems I’m .8 percent or 1/125th Native American, and it probably wouldn’t have shown up in the test.
Stiff upper lip old boy. Pip Pip.