On flat and even ground I ran the lengths of a dreamforest where the perfectly spaced trees grew straight and even without variance to size. The smooth trunks split into branches out of sight, far above my head. I cannot tell you why I ran, whether to or from.
I stopped as quickly as I started to ponder it. In the middle of these woods I stood, calm and composed; no physical evidence of the run before. A Native American elder with long, slate-grey hair and weathered face appraised me. His clothes were simple and ordinary, all white cotton and loose-fitting. Not at all the native stereotype often conjured. “You are Clever Beaver.”
I nodded, composed and respectful. I felt honored, but also somewhat disappointed. I wanted to ask many questions. What was Grandma Goldie’s real name? Why a beaver? I never felt a connection to beavers, let alone dreamed of them. Most of all, I wanted the real name, not the English translation.
My father bounced beside me, excited. “What’s my Indian name?”
The elder chuckled, deep and rich. “Eager beaver.” The amused quirk in his lips and crinkle of his eyes indicated he just might be joking. He turned back to me. “Your grandmother was Helpful Beaver.”
I knew he meant my great-grandmother, Grandma Goldie. Something about the spirit world prevented her from coming personally, so he delivered the message for her. She wanted me to know and he carried the message willingly. I still lacked the strength and knowledge for a direct connection. Perhaps why I only heard the names in translated English.
I woke without opportunity to ask more. I dreamed this entire sequence back in 2003. I remember at some point prior, an old Sioux (fairly sure she said she was Sioux) woman told me my great-grandmother has been with me my whole life, acting as a spiritual guide of sorts. I remember feeling those attempts several times, a warm connection despite never meeting her and knowing very little about her (followed with an intense curiosity since I first learned of her).
The old Sioux woman, who insisted upon being called “Grandmother” also told me that Goldie was not my great-grandmother’s real name (I’ve always just called her Grandma Goldie), but one she used after leaving her tribe for the love of a white man. She said this act resulted in her status as an outcast. She regretted the loss of our ties and heritage. All anyone seems to know of Grandma Goldie is what happened after she no longer lived on the Cherokee reservation where she grew up.
Grandmother Sioux informed me that most tribes, Cherokee included, hold pine and tobacco sacred. I should create a space or shelf in honor of my great-grandmother that incorporates these things. I should buy or make a candle specifically for lighting it in her honor. I was to write the name I knew my great-grandmother by and place it under the candle, replacing it with her real name should I learn it. Then, each night I was to light the candle, meditate, and think of my great-grandmother or read about the Cherokee. She insisted these acts would strengthen the connection between us and allow her to communicate in my dreams.
Life quickly grew extremely hectic and I think this dream came months after I stopped lighting the candle.
In my search for a surname to pair with Saronai (I borrowed Aldarion from Tolkien elves as a filler), I tried coming up with one to honor my Grandma Goldie’s memory. I remembered this dream and the name she gave me. It rekindled my research into my Cherokee ancestry as well as the symbolism behind beavers.
I’ve already learned two interesting things, beavers are truly admirable creatures, both symbolically and in reality, and most often the maternal grandmother names a Cherokee child (or other maternal female elder). Grandma Goldie is my paternal great-grandmother, but she’s the closest Cherokee-raised relative in my family tree (with none coming from the maternal side that I know of). I learned both of these things almost a decade after this dream.
I need to learn more. Names are not often in block translation. For example, I found a reportedly Cherokee name for girls, Tayanita, that means “Young Beaver.” Doya (sometimes Toya) is the Cherokee word for beaver, in this case Taya is a variant of doya, but nita, nor any variants, exist for the word young, little, etc. Young translates to Ayoli. In just that example you can see why “Clever Beaver” as a name is likely not Doya Uwolvtsadi (though it most likely starts as Doya, Toya, or Taya).
Meanwhile, I’m thinking about creating a new space. The carved, pine-branch candle sits on my desk shelf, waiting. Perhaps this time I’ll write “Helpful Beaver” on the slip of paper.
Want to learn more about the Cherokee? Go to the Cherokee Nation Website. It features a translation device, pronunciation guide and even free classes in the Cherokee language!
You might also visit Native Languages.