DNA Doesn’t Matter

November is “Native American Heritage Month,” which seems very appropriate, since the Wampanoag tribe supposedly helped the Pilgrims celebrate the first Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure if they’d known how Americans would destroy their way of life, they’d have passed up the opportunity. Thank goodness they didn’t, because we wouldn’t have corn if they hadn’t taught us how to grow it. Or so the story goes.

One of the places I grew up was in Winslow, Arizona, which is on the edge of the Hopi and Navajo tribal lands, and I have a great affinity for anything American Indian. Part of that may be because I grew up thinking I was part Apache and part Comanche. Unfortunately, I took one of those DNA tests and found out that’s not true. Bummer.

I spent a week feeling totally cheated out of something I loved when I found out my parents either lied or were wrong. Then I discovered the test is based on the mother’s DNA, not the father’s, so there may still be a chance I’m part Native American on my father’s side. I finally realized it didn’t really matter. Tests will only tell you so much. It’s what you feel inside that really counts, isn’t it?

Maybe because I grew up in Native American territory and went to school with a bunch of them, I love American Indians. I spent my childhood on Route 66, living there or traversing it when my parents decided to leave Arizona or California and travel back to Oklahoma, where all my relatives lived. Given my option, I’d probably walk around with braided hair and wearing moccasins. But, according to my DNA, my reddish hair indicates my Irish ancestry, so I’d probably look pretty stupid if I dressed like a Native American.

That doesn’t stop me from wearing their jewelry, though. A hundred years ago, my father bought me a beautiful three-stone turquoise ring. I loved that ring and wore it so much that the band actually broke. My solution was to wear it anyway, and I squeezed the band together so it would fit on my pinky finger. The only problem with that…every time I washed my hair, the band would catch. So I used to take it off and put it on the ledge in the shower. One time I forgot to take it back down.

I came home shortly after that to find my house had been burglarized. I think it had actually happened a week or so before, but the curtain kept me from noticing the window on the back door was broken. When I did figure it out, I looked around and realized a bunch of stuff was missing.

I really picked the wrong time to call the police. I had just gotten back from delivering a load of CHRISTmas toys to a Salvation Army family, and I had one more family to deliver to. The back bedroom was full of sacks, boxes, and in a general state of disarray. When the policeman saw the room, he scratched his head and said, “Wow. They really ransacked the place, didn’t they?”

Uh….No. When I explained the situation, I’m not sure if he believed me or thought I was a horrible housekeeper. But I did learn a valuable lesson…keep your house looking “normal” in case the cops stop by. Kind of like how your mother told you to always wear clean underwear in case you had to go to the hospital.

Whoever it was took every piece of jewelry I owned, except for what I was wearing. Along with a shotgun I had bought my father and gotten back after he died. A few other silly things, which led the police to believe it was teenagers. It hurt that I lost my dad’s gun. But I was more bummed about the ring. And then, I remembered. Sure enough, it was still on the ledge in the shower. Oddly enough, knowing I still had that ring made all the rest of it okay.

It’s funny, the things we hang on to. In my case, a broken ring that means the world to me. (Yes, I still have it.) And a memory of how my folks always told me I was a Native American, but DNA “experts” say I’m not. I’ve decided they’re wrong. I may not have the DNA, but I have the love and I have the memories of life on Route 66. And when Ed and I drove to Arizona a few years ago, we stopped at almost every trading post along the way. And came home with more memories. And moccasins.

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