My father's grandfather was Henry Marcy Harjo, a man in good standing with the Mvskoke community. He was of the Eufaula Canadian tribal town and became a Baptist pastor with a ministry among the Seminole in Florida. He was a transitional principal chief for one day in the early 1900s. He and my grandmother Katie Monahwee even owned a plantation in Stuart, Florida, and traveled there with the children every winter. The plantation was a large tract of land for farming. The land had been used for growing pineapple. My grandfather didn't like pineapple and had every one of the plants dug up.
His wealth came from the family's allotted lands in Indian Territory. In November 1905, before Indian Territory became the State of Oklahoma, a huge oil gusher was discovered on the allotted lands of Ida E. Glenn. This became known as the Glenn Pool. It was the largest oil field in the Southwest. The family lands were part of this oil find. The family became wealthy. My father's mother, Naomi Harjo, and my aunt Lois Harjo were well educated and received their BFA degrees in art at Oklahoma City University. My aunt Lois Harjo told me that family once owned much of the town of Okmulgee.
My grandmother Naomi died of tuberculosis when my father was a small child. My father had to cross a gulf of sadness left by her absence to find a place for my mother, and then me and the rest of his children. His mother was unreachable except by memory.
In the end, we must each tend to our own gulfs of sadness, though others can assist us with kindness, food, good words, and music. Our human tendency is to fill these holes with distractions like shopping and fast romance, or with drugs and alcohol.
My father's father, Allen W. Foster, married the caretaker of his children. My father gained stepbrothers and a half-sister. He grew up in a house that became known as the Foster Estate, though it was on his mother's Creek land. When I was growing up, my father received enough in oil royalties to support his love for fine cars. I remember him taking apart and putting back together his black Cadillac and his Ford pickup. When my father passed from this world, the oil royalties were divided among his children. By the mid-eighties my brothers, sister, and I were each receiving about thirty dollars a month. Then the oil company stopped the payments. Stories can be very demanding and need care and assistance. The family oil story has a spirit and it wants my attention.
Reprinted from Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2012 by Joy Harjo. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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