Mrs. Margaret Owl
Cherokee, North Carolina
Interviewer: Dr. Samuel Proctor
October 18, 1973
I: I am interviewing Margaret Owl, o-w-l, in the Cherokee Council
House. This is Thursday, October 18. Mrs. Owl and I are
sitting here in an office and we are going through . .
beginning an interview. Your name is Margaret Owl. Now, what
was your name?
0: Toineeta, Margaret Toineeta, t-o-i-n-e-e-t-a.
I: Now, is that an Indian name?
0: Yes. My father told me it was "little beaver".
I: It meant "little beaver."
0: Little beaver.
I: Were you born here?
0: Yes. I was born on the Big Cove section of the Reservation.
I: What was the date?
0: October 3.
I: What was your father's name?
O: George Toineeta.
I: And your mother's?
0: Pearl Wolfe.
I: Is that w-o-l-f?
0: E. w-o-l-f-e.
I: And is the Wolfe family a clan name?
I: You refer to the families here as clans?
0: Well, I do not know whether they are clans. They used to be
clans long ago, but now you do not . they just call them
I: Mrs. Owl, as far back as you can remember now, on your own
side of the family, when did your family settle, or when were
they a part of this Cherokee area?
0: Well, as long as I can remember.
I: Do you know if your ancestors moved into this area from some
other part of North Carolina, or Georgia, or Tennessee?
0: No, they--my father's people--always lived hereabouts, as far
as I can remember.
I: How about your mother's people?
0: Well,yes. They did too. My grandmother on my mother's side
was a white woman, and my grandfather was an Indian.
I: How much Indian are you?
I: Three-fourths. It is that white grandmother?
I: What about her? Who was she?
0: She was a Johnson from down . what is it? I cannot think
of it now. Haysville.
0: I guess it is Cherokee County, or Clay County maybe.
I: How did it happen that your grandfather married a white woman?
0: I do not know.
I: Nothing in the family history that tells [of] this?
0: I think [that] he met her down in Graham County. You know,
there are Indians down there.
I: How did your father make his living?
0: Farming; [and] he was a pretty good stonemason. We lived
about two miles above Ravensford. It was a lumber camp.
I: You lived two miles above where?
0: Ravensford. That was a little town up there, had a post
office, and two or three little stores. It was just what we
called county-owned. You know, it was not on the Reservation,
but it was right close to the Reservation. My father used to
go down there, and make rock walls and build fireplaces and
things for those people when he was not farming. Then he used
to cul logs and timber, things like that.
I: Now, you were born at Big Cove?
I: What is your earilest rememberance of Big Cove?
0: Well, I was born in Big Cove, but I was brought down to
Shirrel Cove when I was two months old, and that is my home.
I: That is where your first childhood memories are?
I: Can you remember your first memory?
0: Well, I just remember [that] we grew up there, and we all had
to share in the work. Like feeding the chickens, and bringing
in the cows, things like that.
I: What kind of a house did you live in?
0: We lived in a plank house. At one time, there had been a
sawmill there; and these people, that had the sawmill, they
built this house, because they had the lumber right there.
It was a three-room [house].
I: All on one level?
I: Where did your mother cook?
0: She had a wood stove, and we had the kitchen and the front
room. There were four rooms; kitchen, front room, and two
bedrooms. It was an "L" shaped house, and we always had a
cast-iron cookstove that burned wood, and a fireplace that
served as the heat.
I: Tell me about going to school.
0: We had a boarding school down here at Cherokee and we all had
to come and stay for nine months. We left home, and we did
not go back home on weekends. We went home for the Fair, and
Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes on weekends we could
go, but I lived, I guess it is maybe ten miles from My
father used to come after me sometimes on Friday evenings.
He had a white horse, and I would ride home on that horse.
Then we would have to be back by Sunday evening.
I: What do you mean by boarding school?
0: Well, we had dormitories and we stayed. And we had a girl's
dormitory, and a boy's dormitory, and we all came in and we
stayed. We had great big rooms where we slept, and we had a
room where we all ate our meals.
I: Now how old were you when you came here?
0: To the boarding school?
0: I believe I was eight; eight years old.
I: This was the first time you had gone to school?
0: Yes, and the first time I had ever been away from home.
I: Had you learned how to read or weite before you came to
0: Yes. My mother had been at Carlisle, that is in Pennsylvania.
She went there and through school, and then went [to] school
up in Big Cove. That was before I was born. She was an
assistant school teacher up there.
I: So she was a well-educated woman for her time, then?
0: Yes, yes. And my father went through school at this boarding
school, and he went out west to Haskell. That was in
Lawrence, Kansas. He went there for a while, but he did not
graduate from there. He just spent a few years out there.
I: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
0: Well, I have one brother and one sister--a full brother and
sister. My father was married before, and he had a girl and
a boy by his first wife, but they were older than us, and did
not live with us. [They] lived with his mother and father.
I: Were your grandparents members of the household when you were
I: Did they live nearby?
0: No. My grandparents on my father's side, the toineetas, lived
right up here in what I guess you would call Cherokee. And
my Wolfe grandparents lived up here in the Big Cove section.
I: Did you have contact with your grandparents?
0: Yes, we did?
I: Did you learn much history from them?
I: They did not talk about old times.
I: Where did you get the food that you ate when you were growing
up on this farm that your father ran?
0: Well, we raised most of the things that we ate, and then we
got . our flour and sugar and things, we bought from this
I: It was a self-sufficient farm, then.
I: You had your own chickens?
0: Yes, and cows, we raised our own hogs.
I: So you grew up as a farm girl, then, knowing how to plow and
I: . and do all the farm chores?
I: How did your mother keep her food?
0: Well, we canned it in glass jars most of the time. Some, like
the pumpkins and apples, you would dry. Potatoes we stored.
I: Did you have a smokehouse?
0: Yes, we stored our meat there. My father would cure it with
I: Was there a springhouse to keep things like butter and milk?
0: Yes, we had a springhouse where we kept that. It was built
way out. It was a great big . we call it a branch--bigger
than most of the little streams [that] they had. And that
[was] where we had our springhouse built, out there.
I: Where is the farm now?
0: Well, it is all grown [over] now.
I: Noboby is . ?
O: Just my mother lives there, my mother and my younger sister,
but they do not .
I: But they are living in the same house that you lived in
when you were a child?
0: No, it is not the same one, because, in later years, we built
I: So you went to school here in Cherokee at the boarding
I: When did you finish?
0: I did not finish. I got married when I was in about the
I: Who was your husband?
0: Raymond Owl.
I: Now, tell me about the Owl family.
0: Well, they lived down in Cherokee, and his father was an
employee of the school. You would call [him] a government
employee, I guess. He worked on the farm. The school had
their. farm, and their dairy. Raymond's father worked there.
They owned land down where we live now, but they lived on the
I: How did you happen to meet Raymond?
0: We were in the same class together.
I: And did he stop school also in the eleventh grade?
0: Yes, yes.
I: And what did he do then?
0: Well, he went to work for what they called the CCC.
I: The Civilian Conservation Corps?
I: This was the 1930's then?
0: Yes. They had [this] on the Reservation. He worked for them,
and then he went into] the Army. When he came back from the
Army, he started working for the government, driving a school
I: What was your family's attitude toward two eleventh graders
0: Well, they just . they did not try to keep us in school
I: Was this unusual for Indian children to drop out of school,
and get married?
I: This, of course, was the Depression period too, was it not?
I: What was he planning to go into, or had he any intentions
of going further with his schooling?
I: What about the Depression years? Do you remember much about
0: No, not too much right now.
I: Did you have a particularly hard time?
0: Well, my parents did, I guess. I was in boarding school most
of the time then. But they did not have too bad a time
either. See, we raised our stuff, and we just went on. It
did not bother the Indians around here, as much as it did
others, the white people.
I: They were not living in the lap of luxury to begin with.
I: What was Cherokee like, [what was] this area like in the
0: Well, I do not remember just right off; I have to think back.
I: Yes, think back. Were there paved [roads] . .was there a
highway through here? [In the 1930's?]
0: No. This was what we called a dirt road.
I: You are pointing to the road . .
0: This highway here.
I: . The highway that goes in front of the Reservation?
0: Yes. It was a dirt road then; and we had just a
little . down here in this town was just a small post
office . .
I: The village.
0: Yes, the village. The railroad came through it, and went
across the river where this road over here goes. The railroad
went up into the parkway, around Ravensford and up in there;
they hauled their logs on the railroad. They had what they
called a depot down here.
I: Was there mail though?
I: The mail came in on the train?
0: Yes. And we had the school. This was not down here. This
was just a big ballfield. No, the cattle grazed here.
I: Where we are now was a cattle field?
I: A meadow?
0: And over there where the Cherokee is was the dairy farm. The
first dairy barn, though, was over here.
I: Now, you are pointing in what direction?
0: Over on the hill where the . above the elementary school
I: Yes. You are talking about what Cherokee was like back in the
earlier days, when you came here as a student.
0: Well, up here on the hill, where the hospital is now, was one
of the dormitories. This big building over here--the Health
Building--that was the large girls' dormitory. There were
some buildings around that housed the employees, and the
employees had a clubhouse here on the end, doen where the
hospital is now. Those were just buildings, and the hospital
was up above all these other buildings. The dining room was
up here where the band room is. What they call the barn [is]
this little school building now. They had the dining room and
the kitchen here.
I: Mrs. Owl, as you remember, back when you were in junior and
senior high school here at the boarding school, what did the
kids do for fun [on] the weekends that you did not go home?
0: Well, we usually just got out and played. Played ball,
volleyball, or something. And then on Sunday aftrenoon we had
to take what they called "rest hour". That was from one
o'clock until four. We had to go our rooms or go to bed
unless it was a pretty day, and then some of the employees
would take us for walks. And we would go out for walks on
Sunday. Sometimes they would have a movie on Wednsday night.
We would go to Sunday school on Sunday morning.
I: What was school itself like? What time did you start classes?
0: We started about 8:15 and we got out at 4:15. When we were
in high school, then the government got buses and turned it
into a day school. So they run buses to all those different
communities. I forgot how many years it was before they just
closed the boarding school. They kept the boarding school
open several years after they started running the buses, from
where they lived. So they did not have roads like they have
I: When your husband went off to the army during World War II,
did you already have a family?
0: Yes. We had a boy and a girl, and one was born right after
I: So you were not able to work then?
I: You lived off the allotment that he sent you?
0: Yes, yes.
I: Where were your children born?
0: They were born up in Shirrel Cove. We built a house not far
from my parents' house.
I: Were any of your children born in a hospital?
0: Oh, they were all born in a hospital, but . .
I: But you were living at Shirrel Cove then?
I: Are midwives still used for birthing around here?
I: Were there any back in the earlier days that you knew of or
0: Yes. There used to be. But after, when they built the
hospital, we had what we called a field nurse. She would go
out and visit on the Reservation, and she would talk all the
people into coming into the hospital. That was the first
thing they taught most of the people to do, was to come to the
I: To have children?
0: Yes, to have children.
I: ask you about your white grandmother, Mrs. Owl. As a
white woman coming into an Indian community, did she have any
0: Yes, she did. She was always referred to . my mother
always said that she was referred to as "white woman". But
she made friends, you know, the Indians are friendly.
I: Now, whites resent Indians. Do Indians resent whires who come
into the community?
0: Some do, and some do not.
I: What church do you belong to?
0: The Methodist church.
I: Has your family always been Methodist?
I: Where do you go to church?
O: Over at Circle Mission. It is on Highway 19.
I: Is it an Indian church?
0: Yes, well, we have a white pastor, but Indians take part in
it, and we have an Indian choir. They sing in both languages.
I: Do you understand Cherokee? Do you speak Cherokee?
0: No. No, I do not.
I: Why not?
0: Well, when I was growing up, the government at the school,
they did not want people to speak in the Cherokee language.
And they would punish anybody that spoke it on the campus.
I: What do you mean by punish?
0: Well, they would usually make you stand in the corner or get
out and work, or sometimes . now, before I came to school,
they told me that they would wash their mouths out with soap
if they caught them speaking in the Cherokee language.
I: Why was this?
0: They just . I don't know. Getting rid of the Indian, I
guess. The way I've understood it.
I: Now, how about in your home?
0: My father spoke it, but we did not. He was the only one. My
mother did not.
I: Why did your mother not [speak in the Cherokee language]?
0: Well, she just did not learn it. See, her mother was a white
woman, and she just did not teach it to them. And my
grandfather, her father, was killed when she was thirteen
I: How was he killed?
0: A white man shot him over a land .
0: Up in Big Cove.
I: What were the circumstances there, did the white man go to
0: No, he left. He went up to Virginia somewhere.
I: So, you did not grow up then, learning the Cherokee language?
I: Do you understand any of it?
0: Not much.
I: How about your husband and his family? Did they speak
0: Both his mother and father did, but he . he can understand
it more than I can, but they did not teach him on account
of . well, they said if they sent him to school and he
knew how [to speak it], he would be punished for it. So, they
just did not teach their children.
I: Is there an effort now to teach children Cherokee?
0: Yes, they have teachers. They have a teacher here now that
is teaching the elementary children to speak.
I: Tell me about your own children Mrs. Owl. I know George. Is
he your oldest son?
0: No, I have a daughter, Nancy, she is the oldest. And then
Raymond Jr., then George, then June. Then about six years
later, there was Kathy, and Barbara and Betty.
I: So you have a total of what, seven?
I: I thought I counted seven that you were listing.
0: Five girls and two boys.
I: Where is Nancy?
0: She is working for a family down in Atlanta. She takes care
of the children.
I: She is married?
0: No. She finished. She graduated from the twelfth grade here.
And then Raymond Jr., he works with this community thing. He
drives this, well, we call it the trash truck. I guess that
would be the sanitation truck or something. He drives that,
for the community here on the Reservation. And George works
here. And June, she is in Washington, D.C. She works for the
I: And how about your younger children?
0: Betty is in school here, and Barbara, she is retarded. I
guess she is considered a slow learner; she has a speech
defect. And they have a sheltered workshop here, it started
just lately, and she is in that.
I: Does she live at home, and go here to school during the day?
O: Yes, yes. And Betty, she is in the eighth grade. She is
thirteen. And Kathy, she has entered Haskell Junior College
I: Mrs. Owl, I wanted to ask you about the attitude of the
Cherokees toward older people. Is there any special
consideration given to senior citizens?
0: We have a Senior Citizens Club made for the senior citizens
made by the They are trying to build a home for
them. They have been trying to get together and build a home.
I: Who takes care of the senior members of the family when they
are too old to farm or take care of themselves?
0: Well, they usually live with some of their children.
I: Do you have a problem where there is nobody to take care of
the older people in the family. Supposing there are [no]
children, no family?
0: Well, somebody usually moves in with them. Takes care of
I: Old people, then, are not allowed to drift for themselves?
0: No, someone always . .
I: There is a community responsibility, then, for older people?
0: Yes, yes.
I: That means that people would bring food in, or whatever?
0: Yes. I have an uncle that lives up in Big Cove, in the . .
what do you call it here? Building the house. It is some
kind of, well, we have these things, the welfare; things like
that that take care of them. His house burned, so they all
got together, and they would take money from, like the Save
the Children, they have here and from different organizations,
and they built him a house. It is just a small house, but he
lives right next door to his son. And when he is sick, or not
feeling good, he just moves in with his son.
I: Now supposing he did not have a son; would you feel a
responsibility to him?
0: Well, I do as it is now. I take him things. I go visit him.
He gets his food from what they call the commodities they give
him. It is this food that comes in. I cannot remember the
name. It is the welfare thing, anyhow. They have different
people working for them, and they go out and see these old
people that need things, and they see that they have them.
I: So there is concern, then, for old people?
I: Do old people have any special place in the family?. For
instance, if grandparents were living in the household, would
they be the decision-makers in the family?
0: Well, most of the time they seem to be.
I: In other words, the younger people, the parents, and the
grandchildren would look to older people for direction and
I: What would be the cause of that? Why would you do that?
0: Oh, I guess it was the way we were always raised, to respect
our parents. Or at least I was, now. My father always
respected his father .
I: Do they hold any special place? Is it the grandmother or the
grandfather who does the disciplining of the grandchildren,
and making family decisions and so on?
0: Well, as much as I have noticed, it is both of them.
I: What about the role of women in the Indian family. Think
about your mother and father.
0: Well, I guess . it seemed like they both agreed on things,
but my mother made most of the decisions. Maybe because she
was . she had a better education than my father.
I: What about the women's liberation movement? Has that had any
special influence on Indian families?
0: I do not think so.
I: Have women played any role in Indian politics here in
Cherokee? Do they vote?
I: They always voted.
0: Yes. And we have women [as] council members. Bertha Saunook,
I suppose you have met her?
0: She is our council member from Cherokee
I: Do they get out and campaign just like the men?
0: More so than the men.
I: Has this always been true Mrs. Owl? Have women always played
a role in Cherokee politics?
0: Not until just lately, I do not think. Well, they have, you
know. Well, they have, too. Now, like this Lula Glowins.
She was an Owl, she married a Glowins.
I: Who is this now?
0: Lulu Owl Glowins. She is a field nurse. She is a registered
nurse. She lives here and we have always looked up to her.
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