My middle name is Belle, after this woman who was my mother’s mother’s mother. She was the wife of a Methodist intinerant minister in Minnesota; a midwife; and did lovely needlework and beadwork, as well, clearly, as hooked rugs. I have one of her small hooked rugs, which I treasure. Also an orange bead necklace—I’ve tried to figure out how she made it, because it’s a kind of narrow tube. And a beaded purse, so delicate, I’ve described it in my novel Looking Through Water. Fascinating woman. She lived out her last years in a home for Methodist ministers, and was bright and cheery to the end of her life.
I am her namesake. I feel an affinity for her.
Recently a friend and talented teacher facilitated a session on “Choosing Your Native American Name.” Out of the thousands of possibilities, I chose Sacagawea, because she was of the Sioux Nation, from North Dakota where my mother was born and grew up. Mom was at great pains to let us know that the correct pronunication was not “Saca-ja-WE-a” but “Sa-COG-a-wea.” Bird woman. I decorated my name plate with owls (the Watcher) and a fierce Tlingit symbol, the eagle, with its wings spread. I have always loved Sacagawea, and she appears in my novel, Looking Through Water. Loved her for her humility, her willingness to lead a band of white men to Oregon, acting as go-between when they met up with Indian warriors who would happily have killed them, and willing to forgo credit for being the main reason Lewis and Clark made it to the West with only one casualty. She was a brave and wise but humble woman, a mother (with Charbonneau, a French member of the Expedition), and all of that while she was yet a child! Without her, we would not be here. We might Be, somewhere, but not here.
Without my grandmother Belle, I would not be here. I’m not sure if I would even be Somewhere.