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April 13, 2010

Recently, I’ve been studying our family genealogy book, Wendel Miller and his Descendants. It’s been a powerful experience, sometimes exasperating, but always illuminating. I’m a little surprised that it has taken me so long to embrace my family history. However, if truth be told, I have legitimate reasons for this slow journey towards self-knowledge. Blest with the strength to forgive, I am at last letting painful memories of an abusive childhood go.

My father’s mother, Carrie Josephine Miller Frye, was born a double Miller. Two gene copies of the German immigrant, wealthy planter, and Revolutionary War Patriot, Lieutenant Wendel Miller, are carried in her bloodline. Carrie’s father was born from Wendel’s first wife, a full-blooded Cherokee, and Carrie’s mother was born from Wendel’s second wife, Christina. I know what you are thinking….it’s not that bad – her parents were fourth and third generations removed respectively, kissing cousins.

But the really weird part becomes evident in the compilation of two distinctly separate indexes: one for each wife. My great grandparents, John Samuel Melanthan Miller and Mary Jane Antinette Miller Miller, and their descendents are only acknowledged in the second index. A more disturbing omission emerges when looking for my great grandfather in the index.  Even though John was born from Wendel’s first wife, he is only listed once in the second index as Mary’s husband. Strange, huh?

Whatever the reasons for omitting the double nature of my ancestry, simplification or shame, our genealogy compilers selectively recorded the family history and in so doing, reframed memory. The power to suppress knowledge lies as close to us as our own parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles: those in charge of our well being; those with full access to information; those with power and willingness to cover up. Is that not precisely what the United States government did at Guantanamo Bay by covertly mandating torture upon foreign soils? If, under the guise of terrorism, we allow the justice system to be manipulated, then later our government can commit the same crimes by virtue of simplification. The violation of human rights becomes all too easy to accept as historically sacred rights continue to be whittled away.

Because we deny our connections with the whole when denying the few, I BELIEVE IN MERCY, LOVE, AND COMPASSION for all people: accused terrorists, as well as politicians who continue to deny the rights of others for whatever reasons, democracy included. I believe that until the strong advocate for the least among us, particularly the children of the oppressed, we can never truly be free. I believe that as we, the people of a united world, joining to form a more perfect union, strive to realize unity, peace, and love in each of our hearts, reconciliation will become an unalienable Right and war will become no more.[3]

Postscript: Marriages with indigenous peoples during the time of the Revolutionary War were not legal so documentation of Wendel Miller’s first marriage was prohibited. No records for the identity of Wendel’s first wife were available so the family relied upon word of mouth. We do not know her name.

(Dawn Celeste Frye Sheppard is a sixth and seventh generational descendent of Revolutionary War Patriot, Wendel Miller. She was born on the 4th of July.)

The People of Project Talent

Choosing identity is a sacred thing but most of the time we don’t even know we are choosing, not until it’s time to break out of the cocoon, or we get washed ashore. As a very young child, I was not able to stand up to the violent chaos in the house and my small voice wasn’t powerful enough to get the attention of caregivers outside of the family. I was not able to choose my own identity without risking physical death.

Survival is deeply ingrained into our genetic coding and so survival, having a biological imperative, became a normative behavioral template rather than thriving, a very hard nut to crack. Finding the freedom to choose my identity took many years of patient whittling. Authentic revolution first begins on the inside. Until then, starting over is just starting over rather than a cure. Major revolutions are not necessary if transformation is consistently applied. The Earth revolves daily.

By linking our voices as adults, survivors stand united under a common agreement to facilitate transformation by calling attention to systemic societal problems where many layers of dysfunction in the collective psyche serve to hide predators like my father. We carry a burden to defend and protect others from enduring the same plight. Learning early in life that my family, teachers, doctors, and hospital staff could not read the obvious clues and intervene, I projected traumas, fears, and suspicions onto the larger social structures which also embedded, nurtured, and protected. The rules of society were very confusing.

Consequently, I have always been ever watchful, anticipating and dreading the dynamic forces that shape our lives. To me, the eagle in the ‘Great Seal of the United States” looks suspiciously like the hawk wearing a solar disc upon his head[4] signifying the Egyptian deity, Horakhti, ‘Horus-of-the Horizon”.[5] It is time now for me to speak out in unison with others, standing up to what I used to dread. If I never stand up for my truth, how can anyone else stand up for me?


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  1. At last! Someone who undearsntds! Thanks for posting!

  2. A wonderful job. Super heplufl information.

  3. R Scott Miller permalink

    You are a true Miller! Compassion is instilled in our hearts and there is nothing we can do about it! I agree that humanity has been heading in a very scary direction for years!

    Thank you for posting!

    Robert Scott Miller

    Wendell > Henry > Jesse Wendell > Daniel Jesse > Jesse Nicholas > Robert Palm > ME!

    • Delighted to meet you! I never expected to meet another descendant of Wendell through this blog. Thank you for your comments.

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