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Discovering My Expat Identity When Back Home In America - By Expat Andrea McKenna

By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna


A big question my daughter gets asked by American kids in America is what other language do you speak? Chinese, I say, but my little girl never concurs. She is shy with the language and prefers English.

In America, she wants to seem to only speak English.

But delving deeper into the history of my land, we learn that English was not the first language here either.

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I grew up in Mystic, Connecticut, located in New England, USA, the northeast corner of the country. The town was settled around 1635. While it was the heart of colonial America, the land I grew up on was also Pequot Indian land. The people before us. Or known to the Tribe as The People.

My family's house was on the original Denison Homestead. From the Denison Homestead website:

"Captain Denison was one of the first settlers of Mystic in 1654. He was granted 200 acres for his service to the early militia.  He built his first house, a rough log house, on a rocky knoll overlooking the meadows. Forever cognizant of the possibility of Indian attacks, he surrounded this rude home with a stout stockade, enclosing a spring and a couple of acres of land, surrounded by ravines. The spot was undoubtedly selected, with the eye of a military leader, for the purpose of defense against Indians."

Interesting point about the Indians. As Americans, we never had much respect. My house was on this Denison land.

But prior to that occurred one of the deadliest attacks on Native Americans considered by some to be a genocide. In 1637, the leaders of the Massachuesetts and Connecticut colonies retailiated against the local Pequot tribe for an attack by slaughtering (word chosen on purpose) hundreds of Mystic Pequots that nearly decimated the tribe, including the elderly, women and children. The Mystic Masscre, they called it.

Damn. My home was on this land. And we were never educated about this in school. It was not talked about it. Never discussed. If at all mentioned, the truth was white-washed, which means the white people (Western Europeans) told their version of events in which they were in the right.

My mother told me of a recent visit by an Denison/Indian historian. He had brought dowsing rods, which can detect gravesites, water and oil.

One of the revelations was of an ancient indian trail marker that has emerged from the ground near my mother's driveway. It is a flat rock that I do not recall seeing as a child. The divining, or dowsing rods, drew to this rock which, as it happens are marked with a cross. But it's not a religious cross. Rather, it is the mark of a compass--north, south, east, west, and it is accurate, as we put the iphone compass down, a test by my Iraqi war veteran nephew. So this area was part of the Pequot Indian trail.

Secondly, and more darkly, was a grave marker that we never knew about. An Indian grave marked with a pile of rocks as part of an old stone wall that had a colored or patternend rock at its head. We never knew what this was growing up but we always played near it. I fell off a swing and dislocated my shoulder on this site and my nephew had split his head open there, too. Synchronicities, maybe. But odd that it was literally on these rocks.

On this very land - my mother's backyard - my daughter was running around, carefree and shoeless, avoiding deer poop and honey bees on clover.

Having spent time in Bali, the Island of the Gods with many connections with spirits, and having had some feeling about Native Americans while I was there on a yoga retreat, I feel compelled to make reparations for this.

Our home was on this sacred ground, possibly a burial site. We never knew and nobody cared. I intend this week to reach out the the Pequot nation at the local museum and see if we can do something to appease the ground or the spirits or whatever it represents. Americans never did do enough. It's time to try to change that.

So that's my goal for this trip - make ammends for where I grew up.

On a kids day, where my little girl got to play with her cousins, eat birthday cake and maybe shoot out a little Chinese to show off, I learned about where I was really from. Trips home to America from Singapore are always a learning experience.


About Andrea McKenna

image: E. Chiau

Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.


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