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The Importance of Including
Family Oral Histories

Adkins Oral History_edited.jpg

The quote above comes from The International Journal of Arts and Humanities, Volume:02, Issue:10 "October 2018".  It clearly states what the rest of our Adkins bunch KNOWS to be true.  We have, for hundreds of years now, been passing our family histories down from generation to generation.  


Those of us involved in disputing the inaccurate blog know it.  The author of the above article knows it, and the person that the author interviewed knew it.  The fact that we Adkins use oral history as part of our family tradition is PUBLISHED material in a reputable and respected scientific and peer-reviewed academic journal.  Yet, here we are fighting to uphold the oral history related to our Native American heritage, from a person doing everything in her power to strip it away.  We won't stand for it!  We will NOT be silenced by someone who has NO Adkins' blood flowing through her veins.   

Native American history is not only modern history, it is also PRE-history.  Native Americans, at least until the time period of the rolls, did not document their stories on paper.  Yes, there are a few stories documented by petroglyphs and geoglyphs by American Indians, but these are exceptions rather than the rule.  Oral histories were HIGHLY valued in Indigenous cultures - so much so that there were tribal members whose roles were as keepers of the stories and storytellers.  



For these reason, traditional genealogy fails us.  There are no paper trails in most cases for people who have native ancestry.  A good genealogist will understand this and make note of it.  Most online genealogical forums, however, have no place for such notations, or are unwilling to add the ability to record an oral history as part of the record. 

The importance of oral family histories is not lost in the halls of higher learning.  Anthropologists have long understood this and include ethnography in any solid body or research material.  Most of the familial ties amongst tribal people EVERYWHERE is undocumented.  For this reason, the field of anthropology holds ethnography as a legitimate and necessary methodology in understanding not only the history of a tribe, but also the history of family groups.  That is not my opinion, rather it's an academic fact.

Paper Trails and Oral History

As you read this particular blog and view her posts on the genealogy websites where she is ‘moderator’, keep in mind that she repeatedly demands a ‘paper trail’.  Of course, for colonist and European genealogy, this is usually practical and a paper trail is standard procedure and accepted methodology.  A paper trail SHOULD be the high standard of genealogical work WHEN and IF a culture utilizes such procedures to record life events. 


HOWEVER…  Most of indigenous history, prior to the rolls, is not recorded on paper.  There were no tribes using written records of births as we do today.  There were no death records in books sitting on some dusty Clerk of Courts office.  Marriage records, likewise, did not exist.   Native Americans did NOT take their own census’.  


Shawnee history did NOT begin with the rolls, they have been on this land since time immemorial.  In fact, most scholars agree that Native American history – including family history – was passed down by ORAL tradition.  To ignore this fact makes a genealogist incompetent.  The blog author, in my opinion, is negligent in her work by omitting or refusing to acknowledge oral history of Native Americans.  In fact, her absolute rejection of oral history makes her so rabid, that she appears to textually abuse and assault any descendant who cites any family history that is based on tales passed down.  Because of this, Indigenous people, and people with Indigenous ancestry have to fight to uphold their very beings because of this type of genealogist.  Who we are, who our grandparents were - all of it is lost if we can't have our family stories, and it is angering to those of us who are subject to people who don't understand this fact.


Traditional Knowledge (aka TK) is a legitimate paradigm, recognized by Indigenous Scholars. 

Yvette Running Horse Collin defines it as:

“knowledge and values, which have been acquired through experience, observation, storytelling, from the land or from spiritual teachings, and handed down from one generation to another”

(see:  The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse:  Deconstructing a Euro-centric Myth, PhD Dissertation by Yvette Running Horse Collin)


As a side note, I’d be remiss to not point out that the problem that Ms. Running Horse presents in her dissertation is that Western Cultures refuse to consider oral history and TK of Indigenous Peoples. 

Apparently, she shares the same frustration that the Adkins group shares.


Ms. Running Horse continues to describe problems with the Western perspective in regard to oral history:

“…the majority of Indigenous societies in the Americas preferred to preserve and pass their TK forward orally, rather than in the written format preferred by the dominant Western culture”.


Ted S. Palys, in his “Prospects for Aboriginal Justice in Canada” states:  


             “…The European (and academic) bias toward paper documentation, coupled with the fact that Aboriginal cultures have been oral and/or used other media (e.g., wampum belts) to transmit information from generation to generation, have left aboriginal peoples among those peoples who, from the European perspective, have no history.”



Now of course I would be mistaken if I said that oral history should be absolutely relied upon when doing genealogical work.  I do not believe that and want to make that perfectly clear.  Ethnography is only PART of any anthropological or genealogical work.  It is just one cog in a wheel of evidence.  But it should NOT be ignored.  Genealogy fails by not allowing oral histories to be mentioned. 


I’m an advocate for there being a way to cite oral history in some way on a family tree, and to categorize it as such.  Even if we categorize it on a genealogical record as ‘unproven’, but at least record it.  For early Native American histories, this is ALL that exists in the majority of cases.  Yes, oral stories can be embellished or diminished from one person to the next, or from one generation to the next.  Oral stories can be mangled beyond recognition that is true.  But if you think about it, recorded histories have been mangled at times as well. 


Recorded histories have been lost to fires, lost to hurricanes, and lost to ignorant civic leaders not knowing how to care for them.   In fact, I work closely with the Historical Society near where I live.  They told me how there were old documents found in the county buildings that were being destroyed because they were not cared for and became victim to mold.

This is NOT a rare event across our country. 


Oral histories should be included nonetheless, so that they can become a jumping point for research.  Maybe it will lead to a dead end, maybe it will lead to a vast amount of recorded history – but that is what genealogy deals with regularly, and that is what families deserve.

Oral histories seem to be discounted at her whim, and therefore, people’s bloodlines are being defined by her.  And worse – through her blog and the role she has on these websites, it seems that she convinces others that the Adkins’ group is not entitled to their heritage.   It appears that she is inebriated with the power that she yields to enforce her Euro-centric bias


What is happening to the Adkins’ group on the genealogy websites where the blogger is yielding her iron fist and the block/ban/delete button - is modern day colonialism in my opinion


The article by Don McCaskill entitled “Native People and the Justice System” sums it up perfectly.  He says:           

“Colonialism involves a relationship which leaves one side dependent on the other to define the world.  At this individual level, colonialism involves a situation where one individual is forced to relate to another on terms unilaterally defined by the other.”

I think that I speak on behalf of my Adkins cousins when I say:

"We are TIRED of having our ancestry defined for us by outsiders!"

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