Sunday, June 25, 2023

My crafty bag.

I spent today out at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, helping to skirt some of the fleeces that other folks sheared from the ranch's sheep a few weeks ago. Skirting a fleece involves picking out stuff like straw and poop, so that the fleece can be sent to a mill for processing into roving (which is then spun into yarn that can be woven on a loom). It's not tiring work, but it's dirty, and it was hot. So I'm not going to write a lot. Instead, I'm going to tell you how my tote bag turned out. Here's the finished product, if that's all you're interested in. If you want to learn about the process, you can keep reading. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023

Still here? All right, here we go.

You may recall that I wove the fabric for the bag on the ranch's hundred-plus-year-old loom. (There's a picture of the bag on the loom at the link.) Once we cut it free from the loom, I took it home and sewed up the sides. Then I set to weaving a strap. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
The device in the background is called an inkle loom. An inkle, according to the Oxford English Dictionary via Wikipedia, was originally a type of linen tape. An inkle loom produces narrow bands or tapes that can be used for various purposes: belts, straps, and so on. The Wikipedia article has several pictures of inkle looms. Here's what mine looked like while I was working on the bag: 
Lynne Cantwell 2023
While I may know just enough about weaving to be dangerous, I knew nothing about weaving on an inkle loom. I warped it from a diagram on a printout, then realized I'd done it wrong, went to YouTube, and re-warped it the right way. And there were other issues. See the medicine vial hanging off the loom on the right? It's there because a warp string broke and I had to put in a new one. I also didn't understand how tightly I was supposed to pull the weft (the dark green yarn on the shuttle), so my band ended up looking less like an inkle loom product and more like I wove it on a regular loom.

Anyway, at last it was done. And it was long enough to make both the strap and some trim to cover the raw edges of the top of the bag. I decided to go a little '70s hippie with ends of the strap and add some braids and beads. Here's my high-tech (ha!) setup for that -- the Starbucks cup and stapler held the strap in place so I could do the braiding. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
I pulled the beads and the big concho from my crafts stash. The concho is backed with a leather rosette that I also happened to have in my crafts stash. (I needed two for a knitting project, and at the time, I couldn't find online a smaller quantity than 100. If you ever need a leather rosette, let me know -- I have plenty, in a variety of colors.) The loop that goes around the concho is simply a few strands of leftover warp from making the bag; I twisted them and tied them together, then sewed them to the back inside edge of the bag.

I guess I should also mention that I dyed the yellow and terra cotta yarn in the strap the same weekend that I dyed the turquoise yarn in the bag, and I spun the white yarn in the strap from some churro roving.

All in all, it was quite the project. I tried it out today and it works great -- I don't have to keep my phone in my shorts pocket anymore, which is such a plus.

And now I'm going to learn more about inkle weaving, so the next thing I make on that loom looks more like it's supposed to. 


These moments of strappy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

That old Cherokee princess legend.

Last week's post stirred up more interest than it had any right to, particularly on the subject of Native ancestry. So this week, I'm going to try to explain why you may not have an Indian great-grandma, after all. 

Purely for illustrative purposes! Don't @ me!
JosefKlopacka | Deposit Photos

For starters, let's talk about the Cherokee. says that "so many people falsely claim to have a Cherokee great-grandmother that it’s been deemed an anthropological phenomenon." In a 2015 article for Slate, Gregory D. Smithers said this is particularly prevalent in the South, and there are a few reasons why. First, the Cherokee tried hard to accommodate White settlers in their lands during the 17th and 18th centuries, and one of the ways they did that was to allow intermarriage: "we know that Cherokees viewed intermarriage as both a diplomatic tool and as a means of incorporating Europeans into the reciprocal bonds of kinship." So it's not outside the realm of possibility for a White person today to claim Cherokee heritage. 

But: Southerners fighting for the preservation of their own way of life --yup, that would be slavery -- kind of came to admire the Cherokee, after they'd been forcibly moved to Oklahoma via the Trail of Tears, for the way they had resisted leaving. Smithers again: "Throughout the South in the 1840s and 1850s, large numbers of whites began claiming they were descended from a Cherokee great-grandmother. That great-grandmother was often a 'princess,' a not-inconsequential detail in a region obsessed with social status and suspicious of outsiders. By claiming a royal Cherokee ancestor, white Southerners were legitimating the antiquity of their native-born status as sons or daughters of the South, as well as establishing their determination to defend their rights against an aggressive federal government, as they imagined the Cherokees had done. These may have been self-serving historical delusions, but they have proven to be enduring."

They're also racially suspect. So if you don't want to be a racist jerk, how do you prove your family legend? 

A lot of folks think DNA testing is the answer, but it's not guaranteed to give you the result you're looking for. That's mostly because of the way DNA is inherited. As Gregor Mendel discovered in his genetic experiments with pea plants, children don't inherit all of their parents' DNA -- they get half, more or less, from each. And the farther back in your family tree you go, the less of each grandparent's DNA you inherit. So even if you do have Native ancestry, you may not have inherited a segment of DNA that expresses it.

Also, commercial DNA testing services might miss your Native DNA. Ancestry explains it this way: "The AncestryDNA test surveys over 700,000 locations in your DNA, but there is still a chance that we missed evidence of Indigenous American DNA. This is because you may have inherited genetic markers that AncestryDNA does not use to identify Indigenous American ethnicity. Additionally, some Native American communities are underrepresented in genetics research. This is largely due to tribal communities being rightfully distrustful because of centuries of extractive and exploitative research practices."

That underrepresentation brings us to the odious "blood quantum". Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. government instituted a system for determining membership in a Native tribe that was based on how much "Indian blood" you possessed, and that was determined by which of your ancestors, if any, were enrolled members of the tribe at the turn of the 20th century. Not that the feds cared, but Natives count their kin differently; they don't necessarily use direct descent. Moreover, the reason the government instituted the system was to dismantle the reservations. The thinking went that by giving each enrolled family an allotment of land of their own, it would free up more land for White settlers and, as a bonus, force the Indians to become more, y'know, "civilized". So you can see why some Native Americans wouldn't want to have their DNA tested.

So how can you prove you have Cherokee ancestry?

I have for you a link to an article called "So Your Grandmother Was a Cherokee Princess?" It was published by the Cherokee Cultural Society of Houston in 1995, and it outlines a series of steps you can take to locate your ancestor. I had to go to the Wayback Machine to find it. Here you go:

Good luck!


As for my own supposed Native roots: I haven't heard back yet from the Canadian government, and it likely won't matter anyway. After reviewing a number of additional hints from Ancestry, I realized I was researching the wrong bunch of Terwilligers. Moreover, my third-great-grandmother was married twice; my second-great-grandmother was from her first marriage, and that guy's last name was Fobare, or maybe Fobear or Forbear. The original name was probably Foubert, and I think he was from what's now Quebec. The name changed when they immigrated to Michigan.

The area where they settled -- Oceana County, Michigan -- was Odawa territory, so I could be Odawa. But if the Native connection happened in Quebec, I could be Huron or Cree or Algonquin. Or something else. 

I may never know. But I still have a few leads to follow up on. I'll let you know if any of them pan out.


These moments of "Indian princess" blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! And happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Sometimes family legends check out.


shepherd302 | Deposit Photos
As you may remember from a couple of weeks ago, after several nudges (either subconscious or Otherworldly, take your pick), I succumbed and signed up for a membership to -- whereupon I found out, almost immediately, that my brother had died last year

Of course, once you find out something like that, you wonder what else is going on in your family tree that you didn't know about. So instead of canceling after the free trial, I've gone on to flesh out some other details. In particular, I've been trying to confirm some family legends.

It's been easier to find stuff on my father's side of the family. (Mom's parents came from what's now Czechia -- back then, it was Bohemia, a province of the Austrian Empire.) For one thing, I've already seen a family tree developed by a distant cousin who was adopted young, went looking for his birth family, and found out he was a Cantwell. (We got acquainted when he called my parents' house, asking whether we had a Lawrence Cantwell in the family. He didn't want my brother; he wanted my grandfather, whose given name was Lawrence, although he went by Tug, and who died when my dad was nine years old.) So I already had a general idea of the Cantwells' migration: from Delaware to Michigan where my dad was born, with stops in Maryland, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

I remember hearing from Dad three family stories pertinent to this part of the tree: we were Irish, two brothers had married two sisters, and we had an "Indian princess" in the family whose maiden name was Terwilliger. 

About being Irish: That family tree I mentioned earlier (there's a copy in the Library of Congress -- ol' Henry Cantwell did it right!) traces us back to the first Cantwell in America, Capt. Edmund Cantwell, who came with the British fleet in 1664 to capture New Amsterdam from the Dutch. (New Amsterdam is now known as New York City.) The Brits were successful, and Capt. Cantwell stayed in the New World, marrying a Dutch girl born in New Amsterdam, and went on to have a successful career as high sheriff of what became New Castle County, Delaware. Anyway, the point here is that our first Cantwell wasn't technically Irish; he was born in Berkshire, England. He may have had Irish relations, and his immediate family might have emigrated from Ireland after Cromwell kicked them out. But there were also other Cantwells in England at the time. Bottom line: I don't know whether Capt. Cantwell was Irish. But if he wasn't, then which ancestor was?

I direct your attention to this snippet of a page in the 1870 census for the town of Rock, Wisconsin. 

On line 22 is William H. Cantwell. He's my great-grandfather. My grandfather, Daniel, is on line 26; he was just three years old in 1870. But just below William is his wife Margaret. Take a look at where Margaret was born. Ha! There's our Ireland connection!

It gets even more interesting. Skip over the Caughlins and go down to line 32. There's another Cantwell -- William's brother, James. See his wife Jane? She was also born in Ireland, right? 

I know from other sources that Margaret and Jane's maiden name was Lynch. And here on lines 38 and 39 are their parents, Timothy and Hanora Lynch, both born in Ireland.

In the 1880 census, James and his family are still in Wisconsin, but my great-grandparents are living in Marcellus, Michigan. I have no idea why they moved. But I've got two of my three family legends confirmed: we're Irish, and two brothers married two sisters.

The third one, about our Native ancestry, is proving trickier. See, there's a record of Daniel having married a woman named Mary Fobare in Holland, Michigan, in 1887. Her people were supposedly French. But what about the Terwillegar connection? There's a family of Terwillegars who lived north of Holland, in Bear Lake, Michigan, and who emigrated from Canada. Through them, I traced the last name of Weir. And there's a birth record for a Mary Weir in Ontario that says the father is "John (of the Nation) Weir". Does "of the Nation" mean he was a member of a First Nation? I don't know, but it seems worth checking out. 

I have a request in to Indigenous Services Canada for a genealogy search. Even that may not be definitive; he may not have been part of a registered tribe. But we'll see.


If you've read this far, you must be a genealogy buff. I can't imagine all this would be that interesting to anyone besides me.

Still, it would be cool to find that my interest in Native American mythology -- the springboard for my Pipe Woman Chronicles novels -- comes from somewhere other than just idle curiosity.


These moments of bloggy historical investigation have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell, who really can trace her ancestry back to colonial America. Stay safe!

Sunday, June 4, 2023

It's spring in Santa Fe, or: how I spent my weekend.

You know summer's nearly here when El Rancho de las Golondrinas opens for the season. Alert hearth/myth readers know that the ranch is a living history museum at a historic site that was the final stop on the Camino Real before Spanish settlers got to Santa Fe -- and also that I started volunteering with the weaving program there last year.

The first thing I wanted to do this season was to make a tote bag that looked more or less historically correct. My costume doesn't have any pockets because it's historically correct. But as a modern person, I need a place to stash my phone, car keys, lip balm, tissues, and so on. I've been wearing a pair of shorts under my skirt, but it looks awkward at best when I hike up my skirt to fish something out of a pocket. So yesterday (with permission, of course), I spent the day on one of our looms to weave cloth for my bag.

We have four walking looms (plus a Navajo loom that's just for display). The term "walking loom" means you stand up to operate it, shifting your weight back and forth on the treadles to get the heddles to rise in the proper sequence for your project. The loom I used for my bag was donated to the ranch by the Barela family of ChimayĆ³ -- and if you know anything about weaving in northern New Mexico, you know that the weavers in ChimayĆ³ know what they're doing. Here's a link to one of the rug shops there, so you can see what I mean. 

Anyway, I picked a very simple design for my bag -- stripes up the sides and a wide field of turquoise (which I dyed myself at the dye shed last fall) for the middle. And I managed to get the weaving finished yesterday while chatting with guests. Here it is before we cut off the loom. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
For this festival this year, we had some folks from San Ildefonso Pueblo come to help out. They fed us with samples of food they made in an horno and entertained us with traditional dances. I hope they come back, because the food was excellent.
San Ildefonso Pueblo dancers,
from the door of the Barela loom room.
Lynne Cantwell 2023 

Posole and calabacitas with bread and
cookies, all made in an horno by the
San Ildefonso Tewa Women's Club. Mmm!
Lynne Cantwell 2023
(An horno is a beehive-shaped oven made of adobe. The ranch has two outside the cocina.)

The weather mostly cooperated, but this afternoon we had a thunderstorm. And see those little white pellets on the ground in front of the gate? Yup, that's hail. Luckily the storm cleared out within about a half hour.
Lynne Cantwell 2023
So that was my weekend. The tote bag isn't finished yet; it needs a strap. I'm going to try making one on an inkle loom. I'll let you know how that goes.

These moments of springlike blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!