Thursday, March 15, 2012
Tale O' the Murphys
Right across this blog is the name of a Native American. I'm a Murphy.
It's usually white people who ask me about my name and “how did you get that name?” Sometimes they can't believe it and other times they're sort of rude and say, "you don't look like a Murphy." For a long time I never gave much thought to it, it's just my name. And I'm going to say this is the attitude of all Natives. That's just their name, it came from their parents, that's it.
Smith. Johnson. Freeman. Arviso. Garcia. Mitchell. Craig. Bennett. McCray. That's what roll call sounds like at any school on the Navajo reservation.
I get my name from my great-great grandfather. No, he wasn’t Irish, he attend an Indian boarding school headed by a priest named Murphy.
Around the assimilation era in Native history (1871 to 1928) many Native children were taken from their families and put into strict, military-like boarding schools. These boarding schools were always lead by religious groups. There was a lot of abuse that went on in these schools because orders were given to “kill the Indian, save the man.” Apparently being Indian was devilish and wrong. Kids were beaten for speaking their language and sexually abused by the snake priests. Here, their Native culture and language was stripped from them including their names. My great-great grandpa was given the name of the priest who was at the head of that particular boarding school in Fort Wingate, five miles east of Gallup, N.M.
From what I’ve read and have learned, Native Americans were given white man names several different ways; boarding school teachers came up with all the white names they knew and listed them on chalk boards for the children to choose; soldiers who were dealing with Native groups and families gave them names that were easier for them to say; and Natives intermarried.
There is another side of my family that intermarried. They are the Arviso’s.
Jesus Arviso was a little Spanish boy who was captured by the Apaches and then sold to the Navajo. He became a Navajo-Spanish-English translator who negotiated with the U.S. Army and Chief Manuelito before the Long Walk about 1865. It’s believed that he was kind to the Navajos, because he grew up with them, and did what he could to relieve some of the cruelty brought on by the military. Arviso had children during the Long Walk and the Arviso children have always been light-skinned like the Spanish.
Grandma Red Hair, the medicine woman, on my dad’s side and Red Beard on my mom’s side. Makes you wonder. What’s the genealogy there? Not Irish.
Sometimes I’d like a real Native American name, the kind you hear from up north like, Eagle Bear, Ecko Hawk and Iron Eyes. But Murphy is all I know.
Oleta "Grama" Murphy
Willie "Papa" Murphy