NativeTech: Native American Technology & Art

A Message from Les Tate

I'm a retired federal worker who was born, raised, and still live in Alabama. I was a chemist and environmental specialist while working, my wife is a social worker, and both daughters are still (as of 2003) in college.

I first became interested in Indian issues about 1991 through the Native American organization in the agency that I worked for. Shortly after joining the organization as associate member (I didn't know about my Indian heritage at that time), I was appointed to work on their executive committee as newsletter editor. Based on that work, I was nominated and elected an officer in the organization in 1993 and remained an officer until my retirement in 2000. Shortly after retiring, I helped organize the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE), which is now a recognized non-profit national organization. Based on my work for SAIGE, I was given lifetime membership in the organization by its initial board of directors. I still serve as the moderator of SAIGE discussion list and also as moderator of the Indian Heritage List.

I first found out about my Indian heritage around 1995 during conversations with some elderly aunts and uncles. As far back as I can remember into my childhood, my parents never mentioned their Indian ancestry. It was only after my parents had died and I started working on my genealogy that I started asking questions. My mother's siblings told me their mother had told them about having Indian ancestors, but they didn't recall her discussing it in any detail. One younger (in her 70s) aunt said she recalled her grandmother telling stories about their Indian relatives, but remembered no details. My aunt did recall that when she was in grammar school the children were asked to stand and tell something about themselves at the beginning of the school year. She told me she had proudly stated "My daddy's from England and my mama's an Indian." When I mentioned my Indian ancestry to an aunt on my father's side after he and his siblings had all died, she told me that my dad's grandmother had told her about having Indian heritage. After several years of genealogy work, the only definite thing I know of the land of origin of my ancestors is that my maternal grandfather came from England as a child. The rest of them are still in the U.S. as far back as I've yet been able to trace them. I have found no indication that any of them were recorded as being Indian, which is not unusual for southeastern Indian people. Many have only oral family history to go on. Despite this lack of documentation, a Cherokee man honored me a few years ago when he commented about me: "He may not yet have found his Indian ancestors, but they surely have found him."

I've been fortunate to meet personally or through the internet many Indian people. Some are full-bloods, some part-bloods, some I-have-only-family-story bloods. I've made many friends and learned many lessons.

A few years ago I went to the Qualla Boundary (the Eastern Cherokee-owned land that called a reservation, although it's not) with a friend who was born there. While there we went to his uncle and aunt's house. During our visit his uncle remarked "I'm only 25% Indian, but I'm 100% Cherokee!" This concepts resonates in the story "Are You An Indian" you'll find here at NativeTech.

An elderly full-blood Mohawk medicine man told me "Every drop of Indian blood is important. If I find a drop here and a drop there, pretty soon I have a whole bucketful." He also said "Being Indian is more in the brain than in the blood. It's not the 'heart' because that only pumps blood. Your brain is where your thoughts are."

If you have Indian blood and want to honor it, you have to find your own way to do it. The following lesson may help you. In talking with my Mohawk friend a couple of years ago, I asked him: "We hear sometimes about Indians having Original Instructions given to them by the Creator. What are they?" He replied without hesitation, "There is only one: 'Love one another.'" He has also told me "Don't ask for anything. The Creator knows what we need better than what we do. Be thankful with what you have and what you get. When you wake up in the morning, give thanks for being able to take another breath. When you go to bed, give thanks for another day. Look around you and give thanks for what you see at that particular time and season. Think about the Creator always and you will keep a peaceful mind."

I have a peaceful mind.

Les Tate

Back to the Poetry and Stories Menu

Text © 1998 - 2009 Les Tate. E-mail:

NativeTech Home Page

Web Design & Graphics © 1994 - 2009 Tara Prindle.