My Pap-pa, Hoyt Cook (my mother’s father) used to tell us stories about when he was a little Indian boy. These were tall tales about how he crossed the river by using alligators as stepping stones and killed three turkeys and a bear with one arrow. He also told us his mother was part Indian (that’s what we said back in the 1970s, instead of Native American).
I would swear that when I was talking to him about it once, and I asked him if his mother was part Creek, that he told me it was Cree, not Creek. I looked it up in my trusty Book of Knowledge encyclopedia, which informed me the Cree were in Canada, far from Georgia, where my great-grandmother, Dolly Allison Cook, was born.
Decades later, my great-aunt Bonnie Holland, about a year before she passed, said that their mother was part Creek, and that’s what my mom said she’d always heard growing up.
Our Cook-Allison family genealogist Pat Lowe has never found any documentary evidence of Native Americans in our family tree. DNA testing shows a very small percentage – one might say a smidge – of indigenous characteristics.
Going back to the family legend, my mother pointed to some of the family members’ straight black hair as “evidence” of Native American heritage.
Then there’s the story that they had to leave Georgia and go to Oklahoma. Growing up, I always imagined my forefathers marching along the Trail of Tears.
Not so much.
They didn’t leave Georgia until around 1903 or 1904, about 60 years after the enforced relocation of Native tribes. From Pat Lowe, who interviewed many of the older generation before they passed, they went by train and were involved in a train wreck. Dolly Allison’s mother, Delila Bruce, died of injuries from that train wreck. One or two young children followed her to the grave soon after, and her husband, S. John Allison, basically died of a broken heart. The remaining children shortly packed up and moved back to Georgia.
Perhaps someday I’ll find the ancestor who gave me my little smidge of Native American DNA. Until then, I will remember the tall tales and the true stories of my Cook-Allison family.