Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Woman Wednesday..Susan Johnson

Earlier this year, I made my first research trip up to the National Archives (NARA) in San Bruno, California.  Now, anyone who has visited the National Archives knows that the amount of information within a National Archives facility can be overwhelming to say the very least.  Since this was my first trip to the Archives, I set only two goals for the trip; 1) Understand how to research their archival holdings, and 2) Learn more about the Federal Records pertaining to the North Fork Mono and Chukchansi Yokut tribes of Madera County.

Per the NARA website, I e-mailed them one week prior with my research request but even so, (using my best Duck Dynasty voice), " I was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs".  However, soon after my arrival the Archives Technician had me settled in the research room and pouring through my first group of records.  Throughout the day, new records would be brought in and I soon felt like I knew what I was doing :-)

I reviewed numerous boxes of documents and personal correspondence relating to the Chukchansi and Mono Indians.  I recognized many of the family names except for one, Susan Johnson from North Fork.  The majority of the documents relating to North Fork included the name Susan Johnson and I kept asking myself "who is this Susan Johnson?".  At the end of the day, I came home with 2 file folders of  information that would take me a month to sort through and familiarize myself with.

Susan Johnson, as I would find out, was one fierce woman.  By fierce, I mean she was like a Mother Bear and the land she lived on was her Bear Cub.  Susan was a North Fork Mono woman who was born about 1876 and along with her husband Mike, raised their family in North Fork. Correspondence between Susan and the Sacramento Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs reveal that by 1955, while other families had moved on to land that had modern homes, public road access and adequate water supply, Susan chose to remain on the land she lived on for almost 40 years, land that she called home. I was so disapointed that I didn't have a picture of her or her family, she sounded like a woman I wish I could have known.

Susan Johnson and her Children, 1918

It wasn't until I was scanning a scrapbook of a North Fork Mono Elder that this small picture was carefully glued to the corner of a page. I remember tears rolling down my face because I could finally put a face to this fierce woman and mother of whom through historical documents, I had come to admire.  Since then, I learned that Susan wasn't only passionate about her land, but about her culture as well.  She is documented as a Consultant in Sydney Lamb's 1953 Western Numic Field Notes recordings that are located today in various libraries throughout California.  Now a voice with a picture..


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