James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, On 21 May in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.

******

You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”

“Three.”

Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”

“Aye.”

The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”

******

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

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The Royal Demise of King Charles I – a snippet from “Dark Destiny”.

King Charles I

King Charles I

Historical Background

Parliament appointed a High Court of Justice in January 1649.  King Charles I was charged with high treason against the people of England for his part in the English Civil War. The King’s trial opened on 20 January. He refused to answer the charges, saying that he did not recognise the authority of the High Court, but he was found guilty of the charges against him and sentenced to death on 27 January 1649. The King was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall on 30 January.

This event is dramatized in my novel DARK DESTINY, book three of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  Here is a snippet from the book.

From a chapter named “Royal Demise”

January 30, 1649 – London, England – 9:30am – St. James’ Park

            It was a bitter morning in London, with temperatures hovering in the low thirties.  It was so cold that the Thames froze over.  The sky was overcast, a harbinger of things to come.

King Charles knelt beside his dog; a brown and white spaniel named Rogue, and caressed his ears.  “Never fear, my friend.  Someone will care for you.”  The dog gazed at him with innocent eyes.  Charles knew that he would never see him again.

“My King!” William Juxon cried.  The Bishop of London looked stricken.  “I would be pleased to take him to your family or keep him myself if need be.”

Charles looked up.  “Thank you, friend.”  The old man was a devoted companion.  “May God smile upon you.”  The King stroked the dog’s back and planted a kiss on his head.  Then he struggled to stand, relying upon his weak ankles.

“Let me help, your Majesty!”  The Bishop reached out to assist him.

Charles waved a hand.  “Nay, let me do it.”  After a few more attempts he was upright, facing the Bishop.  He gazed at the sky and sighed.  “Such a beautiful morning.”

Juxon raised his eyebrows.

The King smiled.  “Ah…  I know that it is not.  Humor me.  For it is the last morning that I will ever see.”

“Oh…”  The Bishop was close to tears, “I wish that was not true.”

The King squeezed his shoulder.  “Weep not for me.  For this is my second marriage day.  Before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.”

Juxon wept openly.

Charles barely heard him.  Now that he’d said goodbye to the dog, he obsessed on events that led up to his predicament.  After a long incarceration, he’d escaped to the Isle of Wight.  Betrayed by the island’s governor, he’d been confined to Carisbrooke Castle.  From this location, he bargained with various royalist parties and signed a secret treaty with the Scots.  His offer was simple.  If they would invade England on Charles’ behalf and restore him to the throne, he would tolerate Presbyterianism.  Factions of royalist Scots invaded England, sparking a brutal second civil war.  They were soundly defeated.

After failed negotiations, the King was moved to Hurst Castle in late 1648, then to Windsor Castle.  For encouraging a civil war while in captivity, the monarch was accused of high treason.  The House of Commons passed an Act of Parliament to create a court for his trial.

Charles had thought that this action would fail.  It was dangerous to accuse a King of treason.  Indeed, many potential commissioners refused to serve.  Then the unthinkable happened.  In early January, he’d been put on trial before sixty-eight commissioners who urged him to enter a plea.  Charles refused, claiming that no court had jurisdiction over a monarch.  He argued that his authority to rule had been given to him by God when he was crowned and the trial was illegal.  Three times he refused to enter a plea!  It was seen as an admission of guilt.  The trial proceeded, witnesses were heard, and fifty-nine of the commissioners signed his death warrant.

The Chief Judge had delivered the sentence, “Charles Stuart is a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good of this nation.  He shall be put to death by severing his head from his body.”

The memory infuriated him.  When the sentence was passed, I tried to defend myself.  They would not hear me!  I was taken from the court by armed soldiers like a common criminal.  He’d been granted a few days to make peace with God and say goodbye to his family.

The Bishop of London helped him to prepare for the ordeal, joining him for morning prayers and administering the Sacrament.  He read the lesson for the day, ‘The Passion of the Christ’.  Charles found it reassuring.  Like Christ the Savior, he was ready to endure this final humiliation to meet his maker.  Some thought him guilty.  But God would absolve him of wrongdoing.

His family was another story.  His two oldest sons and younger daughter were living in Paris, under the protection of the exiled Stuart court.  It gave him comfort that his son James had escaped parliamentary custody to travel to France, disguised as a woman.  His bloodline would continue and eventually prevail.  The only ones left in London were his wife Henrietta, his thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth, and nine-year-old son Henry.  He hadn’t seen his wife in more than four years.  They’d quarreled over fundamental issues, one being her unfaithfulness.  Therefore, he’d snubbed his wife and allowed only his daughter and son to visit.

Charles got revenge.  His last words to his daughter were “Tell your mother that my thoughts never strayed from her, and that love should be the same to the last.  I have always been faithful to her.”  This innocuous message pleased his children, but he knew that it would wound his wife.  He’d investigated her infidelity and found that she betrayed him.  He confronted her with evidence and extracted a confession about that traitorous Scot, Lord Gordon.  He gritted his teeth.  How many more were there?  French whore!

Colonel Thomlinson approached.  The uniformed man was in charge of the two companies of infantry guarding him.  He stroked his beard nervously.  “It is time, Your Majesty.”

The King unconsciously touched his neck.  They will escort me to my death.  Breathe, Charles!  Dignity is required.  You must not show fear.  He had dressed in thick underclothes so that he would not shiver from the cold.  It could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

“Your Majesty,” the Colonel repeated.  “The signal has been given.  We must go.”  The guards raised the Colors and began to beat drums.  A young boy accepted the leash and led the spaniel away.

The King’s bowels churned.  He’d eaten no breakfast, but instead had taken the Sacrament.  Nothing more.  He did not want to vomit.  Oh, how he wished for a swig of laudanum!  Charles looked around.  He was surrounded by soldiers.  No one would rescue him.  There was no chance of escape.  “I am ready.”

Ah…  But a handful of his supporters were there as well.  He saw them remove their caps to travel bare-headed as he would.  The Bishop, his attendant Thomas Herbert, and a few more…  Such brave men.

Bishop Juxon placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Come, your Majesty.”

Charles watched as his partisans lined up before and after him.  For an instant, he felt protected by his friends.  The foot soldiers formed a barrier around them as they began to walk across the park with Colors flying and drums beating.  The Palace of Whitehall loomed in the distance.  He could see a large crowd gathered around it.

Charles held his head high.  His outward manner was calm, but his mind was a raging storm.  How dare they do this to a King!

The procession left the park and passed crowds of curious onlookers gathering to see the execution.  They took the stairs up into the Gallery, then into the Cabinet Chamber.  There the King continued his Devotion with the Bishop.  To avoid fainting from hunger, he drank a glass of wine and ate a piece of bread at noon.  Another hour passed.

Charles thought that it was cruel to make him wait.  He’d been informed of a delay.  The official executioner refused to do the deed.  There then followed a frantic search to find someone to take his place.  Finally, they’d located a man and his assistant who agreed to do it masked.

The King hoped that he knew what he was doing.  An unskilled ax man could take three blows to sever a head.  Charles swallowed hard.  He wished that it was over.

The story continues in Dark Destiny, book three in the Dark Birthright Saga.

Read about the series:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Medicine and Healing in 17th Century Scotland

Midwife / Healer

Midwife / Healer

Medicine and healing in 17th century Scotland

 

If you lived in Edinburgh and had money or stature, you could have engaged a trained physician. Healers, midwives, and bonesetters were available for common folk.  This trade was passed down from mother to daughter.  These women were skilled in the use of herbs and natural materials such as tar, honey, and garlic to cure disease or treat wounds.

Garlic was known to calm spasms, kill parasites, and fight infections.  Honey healed stubborn wounds.  Alfalfa treated digestive weakness and restored lost vitality.  Burdock was good for skin eruptions; it induced sweating.  Blackberry relieved diarrhea.  Catnip calmed nerves and reduced fever.  Dandelion root and flower stimulated digestion.  Borage was good for rheumatism. An infusion of mugwort could restore a woman’s moon cycle and was good for digestive ailments, frayed nerves, and sleeplessness.

Medicinal herbs were often administered in teas or salves.  To strengthen them, they were dissolved in vinegar, which had healing properties of its own.  Vinegar was thought to improve skin tone, strengthen bones, and balance the four bodily humors.

Healers were called upon to reset bone fractures and adjust dislocated joints.  Sometimes they used comfrey for bone setting. The plant’s roots were dug up in spring and grated to produce a sludge, which was packed around the broken limb.  This hardened to a consistency similar to plaster.  Comfrey leaves, boiled as a tea, brought down swelling and muted pain.

Such was the state of medicine and healing in 17th century Scotland.  In my novels, I tried to make the healing and midwifery scenes authentic, given the time and place and resources available.  My advice to the reader is to NOT try them at home without formal training.

By Jeanne Treat, author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a tale of old Scotland

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Comfrey

Comfrey

James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, On 21 May in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.

******

You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”

“Three.”

Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”

“Aye.”

The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”

******

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

In Search of a Grandmother

Granny - Clara Crate

Granny – Clara Crate

My search for my great-grandmother, a native American medicine woman, takes me to the north woods of Canada.

I have always been the family historian, researching genealogy, recording the stories of elders, and tracking births and deaths.  I had been successful with my father’s side of the family, documenting our history back to the 1500’s in England and Scotland.

My mother’s side was another matter.  There was a story told that her grandmother had been a native American medicine woman before she married a Hudson Bay man, moved to Saskatchewan, and founded the town of Rocanville.  They said that she practiced hands on healing and herbal medicine, delivered babies, treated wounds, and set fractures.  Known as “Granny”, she was the only midwife for miles around.

In 1994, my seventy-three year old mother found a tin-type picture of her grandmother and expressed a desire to learn about her heritage.  There was very little to go on.  We knew that her Christian name was Clara Crate and she’d married a Hudson Bay man named Auguste Rocan Bastien.

I sent out letters of inquiry to research societies, churches, and government agencies in Canada.  We were able to find information on Auguste in the Hudson Bay profiles, but nothing on Clara.  The town of Rocanville acknowledged that she had lived there, was buried there, and had been an important part of the town.  But they claimed that no one asked about her tribe because it wasn’t proper.

Early in 1995, my uncle offered me some engineering diaries that his father James (Clara’s son) had kept after he moved his family from Canada to Niagara Falls.  They were faded texts with crumbling covers, written partly in French and partly in English.  Drawing on my high school French skills, I spent months translating these work diaries, which contained personal information as well.

Towards the very end of the last book, I translated an entry that was to be a clue to finding Clara.

11/06/1933
“Sister Eveline’s 65th birthday.  Oh how I think of when we were little tots.  Don’t seem so long ago but what changes since.  Our mode of travel from Norway House northern Manitoba was by York Boats, 8 oared and helmsman.  There were 5 of these boats about 6 tons each fitted for the Hudson Bay Company.  We went from Norway House to Fort Carlton on the Saskatchewan River in the year 1875.   I believe it took us 4 weeks to make the trip.  I was baptized at Pas (or Ross) Mission, close to Norway House.”

I studied a tribal map of Canada with great expectation.  There was a reservation at Norway House and the tribe was the Woodland Cree.

An inner voice told me loud and clear “YES, YOU ARE CREE.”

I switched my focus from Saskatchewan to Manitoba and wrote to the pastor of the church at Norway House.  We sent him our information and hoped to get a speedy reply.  But months went by without a word.

My inner voice told me to travel to Saskatchewan and visit the reservation in Manitoba.  Logic told me to wait until we had more information; but the voice was persistent and won out.

I began the process of booking a trip.  It was easy to get transportation and accommodations in Saskatchewan but getting to the reservation was another matter.

I wanted to rent a truck in Winnipeg and drive north to the reservation at Norway House, but there were no real roads going up there.  A man at Travel Canada told me that the roads were dotted lines on the map, which meant that they were dirt roads at best.  Once we left Winnipeg to travel around the lake, there would be no place to refuel, buy food or water, sleep, or pee along the way.  Not real friendly for me and a seventy-three year old woman.  In closing, he said that they’d been fighting forest fires up there but that they would probably be out in a week.

Forest fires?  I asked the logical question.  Was there any other way to get there?  I was told that Perimeter Airlines flew out of a small airfield in Winnipeg.

Later that day, I sat across from a confused AAA agent, insisting that this airline existed.  Not referenced in any books or computers, she called dozens of contacts at Winnipeg airport before anyone would acknowledge it.

With phone number in hand, she called Perimeter Airlines for reservations.  The girl on the other end said just bring cash, we will get you on.  When the agent demanded a reservation number, the girl gave her the name ‘Gertrude’.

We had no set itinerary, yet my inner voice was insisting that we go.  It was telling me that, “ALL YOU SHALL NEED WILL BE PROVIDED.”

It was two days before the trip and we still had no definite plans.  Then a miracle occurred.  I received a phone call from a historian in Winnipeg, who said that a letter I wrote to the pastor at Norway House had been sent to him.  Ray Beaumont had our entire history for us in written form.  There was so much information on Clara’s mother Sarah Nekahwiw that they’d made a school project about her.  The school district had always wondered where the medicine woman, Clara, had gone and who her descendants were.  He was eager to talk to us.

We juggled our trip so that we could meet with him for an entire day before we left for Norway House.  Two days later, my mother and I flew out of Toronto for Regina, Saskatchewan.  Traversing that province, the ground appeared below us like a patchwork quilt, blanketed with squares of bright green canola and purple-blue flax, and adorned with miniature oil wells.

In Regina, we visited a local museum and spent time at a library researching birth and death records on microfiche.  Then we got some sleep and the next morning headed east across a desolate prairie to the town that her grandparents founded.

Downtown Rocanville had been a hub along the Canadian Pacific Railway in years past, but no more.  What remained was a wide street with tiny stores, a post office, a bar, and a dreary-looking Chinese restaurant.  A sign claimed that the population was 918, but even that looked outdated.  The townspeople were nice and showed us the cemetery where Clara and her husband were buried.  Tombstones claimed that many had been lost in the 1916-1917 world flu epidemics.  We toured a little museum where my mother saw a chair that her grandfather had made.

Such a tiny community!  We left that place thinking that if we ever needed to be in the Federal Witness Protection Program, here was a place that no one would ever find us.

We stayed the night in a motel and in the morning we were off for Manitoba!

In Winnipeg, we spent the day with the historian, who provided us with a complete family tree from my great-grandmother back five generations.  We received information on the Cree syllabic language, the Hudson Bay settlement, and Clara’s mother Sarah.  We learned about her marriage, her children, what jobs she held, ceremonies she attended, and what she bought and sold.  We found out why we had trouble locating information on Clara Crate.  She had been born Clara St Germain.  When her father died, her mother remarried a man named Crate and Clara took his last name.

The historian asked us if we had a guide once we got to Norway House.  We told him that we weren’t sure what we were going to do once we got there.  He made a call and arranged for us to have a guide meet us when we arrived.

He also offered to connect us with a distant cousin of ours, a full-blooded Cree living in Winnipeg.  When we returned to the hotel, our cousin Ken called and asked if he could come over to meet us, so we gave him our room number.  In the meantime, we went down to the lobby to have coffee.

Fifteen minutes later, a man came into the hotel, looked us over, and walked to my mother.  He touched her cheek tenderly with the back of his hand and held it there.  It was Ken.

He said “You don’t even have to tell me who you are.  I know who you are.  You look just like my grandmother.”

We spent an evening with him looking over the genealogy, discovering how we were related, and talking about Norway House.

Early the next morning, we arrived at a small airport and boarded a Perimeter flight for Norway House.  The aircraft was so tiny that you had to stoop to enter it and keep your head low as you walked the narrow aisle.  We were separated from the cockpit by a drape and the pilots looked like they were nineteen years old.  We sat down and looked around.  The plane carried ten people, all native Americans, who promptly put earplugs in their ears.  I remember having a ridiculous thought that we wouldn’t get breakfast on this flight.

The noise level was deafening and without earplugs you could hear the pilots fighting over the gauge alarms going off.  This was quite an unnerving feeling as we were flying over the waters of Lake Winnipeg.  Because of a lightning storm, we were diverted to Cross Lake where we landed hard on a dirt runway.

The pilots collected money from a rider and we waited an hour for the weather to break.  Then it cleared and we continued on to Norway House, where we landed on a rough gravel road.  Disembarking the plane, we learned that the airport terminal was a 20×40 deserted shack with a telephone inside.

I called our hotel and said, “This is Ms. Treat.  My mother and I are expected as guests.  Will you send a shuttle to the airport to pick us up?”

This evidently was not something anyone had asked for before, as it caused a stir on the other end of the phone.  They agreed to send someone and fifteen minutes later we noticed a vehicle approaching in a cloud of dust.  Soon, an old man covered with plaster arrived in a beat up pick up truck.  Without a word, he tossed our bags into the back of the truck, nodded, and helped us up onto the bench seat.

The hotel turned out to be the local greasy spoon with a couple of rooms above it, vintage 1950’s with dark furniture and chenille bedspreads.  We were informed that for the most part only Hydro engineers stayed there.  My mother and I settled into our room and went down to the restaurant.

While we were having a late breakfast, a man appeared at our table, who stood silently for what seemed like five minutes.  My inner voice was telling me to “BE STILL AND LISTEN”.

At last he spoke, “I am Byron and I will be your guide.”

Byron drove us around the reserve, then to the old Hudson Bay cemetery, where Sarah Nekahwiw was buried.  He introduced us to his people and showed us their community center.

Norway House was beautiful!  We saw shimmering lakes and fast-moving rivers, with little islands in the middle of them.  Byron then took us to Rossville, where we went to the church on the point and met the Reverend John Crate.  If you ever needed a beautiful setting to believe in God, this was the place.

Our guide took us to see the York boats up close and a team of women rowing one in preparation for York Boat Days.  What more could we want from a genealogy trip?  We thanked him and returned to our hotel with a sense of satisfaction.  Our trip seemed to be over.

The plane was scheduled to leave the next day at 4:45pm.  At this point we didn’t expect anything else to happen.  The next morning, we were having breakfast in the restaurant.

Byron appeared, sat at our table, and lowered his head.  He sighed and said that this is a very small place.  Everyone wanted to know about the two new women and what their story is.  The tribal council wanted to meet with us.

First he took us to the school, where he gave us books on the Cree and videos of the history of Norway House.  Then Byron took us to the longhouse to meet the elders.  More modern than I expected, we sat around a conference table and listened to the sounds of a fax machine.

I had photocopied my family tree and gave each man a copy.  Talk was friendly and we soon found that we were related to three of the men on the council.

My mother spoke at length about her father’s diary so we gave them a copy as well.   When she told them about James’ account of his trip on a York boat, they presented us with a three foot replica of the boat to take back with us.  I wondered how I would get it on the plane.

At last we stood.  The elders offered prayers about ancestors and family and held a ceremony to accept their lost sisters back into the tribe.

My inner voice came forth loud and clear “YES GRANDDAUGHTER, YOU ARE CREE”.

My great-grandmother followed me back that day.  From that time forward I felt unafraid to touch others who needed healing or reassurance.  I began to intuitively know about plants and to practice herbal medicine on myself and family members.   I sought out a local tribe, participated in rituals and drumming circles, and studied alternative therapies.

Many years have passed.  My mother died in 2010, but I shall always remember the times we spent reminiscing about the discovery of her grandmother.

“Granny” has been a dear companion to me, helping me to heal myself and others, and protecting me from those who would do me harm.

It was a worthwhile trip, a grand awakening, and I will always be grateful for her love.

***

About the author:

Jeanne Treat is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  To research her books, she traveled to Scotland to visit castles, seaports, and stone circles, and talk to historians.  She has also published in local newspapers, magazines, and anthologies.  She lives with her husband Robert and two Scottish terriers, Maggie and Duff.

You can read  Jeanne’s stories, articles, and poetry at:

http://www.authorsden.com/jeannentreat

Read about the trilogy at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com