We all like to think we know who are, but every once in a while something happens that changes the entire way you look at the world, and yourself.

As a kid growing up, I really didn’t know much about my family heritage. I’d heard stories about my family history, but as a child you don’t really put much thought into things like that.

My grandmother used to tell stories of how her grandmother was an Indian princess. I’d heard stories about my family having “native blood”. I’d heard stories about tragedy and loss, but they really didn’t mean much to me then.

As I got older, I started to become more curious about my past. I found myself researching things I wish I would’ve asked my mother and grandmother when I was younger. Unfortunately, they were no longer living, so the answers I sought were not readily available.

I had only limited information from the things I’d heard as a child. Even with the modern magic of the internet and ancestry services, I wasn’t finding the information I needed. I only found some vague, generic information about the small native tribe my family descended from, but not the names or connections of my family members.

The tribe my family descended from had a website, but there was not much useful information on it. I attempted to contact the listed names I found, but I never heard anything back after multiple e-mail messages and phone calls. Perhaps they were dead, maybe they never saw my messages or maybe they just didn’t care.

Whatever the reason, I had all but given up on my research after hitting so many walls.   I didn’t research anything for a number of years, mainly because I thought it was pointless.

I accepted I was destined to know nothing of my past.

In November 2018, I began searching online again. I don’t know why this moment was different, but something told me to search again, specifically seeking more information about the tribe our tribe.

Immediately, I found a new website I hadn’t seen before. I saw new names, new pictures and new information that appeared to be somewhat useful. I was blown away by what I was reading.

Again, I reached out with a message to the person who was listed as the chief. Some time went by and I felt this was going to be a lost cause, just like the previous attempts.

But this time was different…

I was sitting home alone on Thanksgiving (2018), feeling a bit down. I was divorced, my kids were far away and most of my family had long been deceased. Holidays are generally not a great time for me.

Then my phone rang.

I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered it anyway, which I usually don’t do.

The words I heard will forever change my life…

“Hey, it’s your cousin”

The call was from the tribal chief, and yes, he was in fact my cousin.

We had a lengthy conversation which filled in the blanks of my past. This was life altering because at the time, I didn’t have much family left. I knew a few my close cousins were scattered around, but I never put any thought into the fact I had many, many family members out there somewhere.

This phone conversation was like no other I’ve ever had in my life. Hearing the words “it’s your cousin” went though me in a way I can’t explain. I felt a sense of inner peace.

After so many years of feeling isolated, I knew I wasn’t alone…

After we talked, I was filled with a sense of curiosity I’ve never felt before. I was given the key to unlock hundreds of years of my past. It was like opening a treasure chest or a time capsule. Everything came together.

The stories my grandmother told were all true, but I don’t think even she knew how amazing our past was. It wasn’t just a matter of being our family history; my family was the history of America.

I found my great grandfathers over multiple generations were all tribal chiefs. Most of the women in my lineage over many generations were daughters of other chiefs. As tribal “royalty”, they married chiefs to continue the pedigree. This was all in my direct lineage. I was amazed.

From Plymouth Rock (the first Thanksgiving), to early wars, to the entire establishment of the northeast United States (and sadly, also mass genocide), my family was there.

The amount of information I obtained was staggering.

As I grew up and I as researched previously, all of the information I needed was right in front of me, but I didn’t know what I was looking for. Everything of my family’s past was very well documented in history books, and surprisingly, I even learned about it all in school. I just never could have imagined it was about my family.

It was a revelation.

I was now able to draw a family tree. I was able to understand so much more of who I was, and what I was. While there are still some unanswered questions, I was able to put many pieces of my life puzzle together; enough to understand what the picture is.

I was changed because, I didn’t just feel alone in the world, I knew I wasn’t alone.

So in a way, it was a treasure chest that I opened. I was now able to pass something on to my kids they might not have had otherwise. I can leave them the gift of knowing they are part of something much larger than themselves. I can give them the gift of knowing the strength and power of ancient warriors and great tribal leaders are in their genes.

Most importantly, they have the gift of knowing they, like their family before them, can impact history, and that someday, hundred of years from now, one of their own great grandchildren may be telling stories about what they did in their lives.