MOTHER'S FAMILY -- IN THE WEST  [HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR]

 

My mother, Josephine, was born at Everett, Washington in 1906. Her father, Thomas Hunter Heath [1875-1973], mostly Scottish, had been a mining engineer in North Idaho -- and was then involved with the related ore smelters at Everett and Tacoma.  He was born in Ontario and, as an extremely small child, was brought into Dakota Territory where his father, Henry, who had come into the Territory in 1870, had already -- through force and ruthlessness -- carved out a land base of six prime sections where he raised horses.  (Hunter, N.D. is named for the family and many ancestors are buried at the very rural Rose Valley Cemetery.)   "T.H" graduated in engineering from North Dakota State Agricultural College [now NDSU] and later did specialized graduate work at UC - Berkeley.

Mother's mother, Marie [1870-1962],  who was probably the first full time female college professor (Domestic Science) in North Dakota, came out of old Missouri and Kansas territorial stock. She was the first woman to get a Master's degree in Kansas.  Mother's  maternal grandfather, Michael Senn, a Swiss immigrant, was an Abolitionist, one of the earliest settlers in Kansas Territory, a Union Army soldier, vigorously denounced atrocities against Indian people, was a founder of the Knights of Labor and a major leader of the Kansas Populist Party, and a Socialist.  Mother's mother was a fighter for womens' sufferage and many other good causes.

There were other interesting relatives in that group.   A cousin of my Mother's, Chris Hoffman, was known as the "millionaire Socialist of Kansas."  He died of a heart attack while addressing an I.W.W. rally.  Gene Debs spoke at his funeral.

My mother attended the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1927 with a B.S. in Journalism and Home Economics.  In 1930, she married my father, lived at Enterprise, Kansas [Dickinson Co., near Abilene] -- and then moved to Flagstaff, Arizona where Dad was an art professor and long-time departmental chair at Arizona State College   (later Northern Arizona University.)  In 1951, she received her MEd degree from Arizona State College.  Her Master's thesis, the result of extensive primary research on the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, played a significant role in sensitizing Northern Arizona educational institutions with respect to Native American educational and other concerns.  She taught in the Flagstaff public school system for almost 20 years, pioneering many innovative and effective multi-cultural educational approaches.  Both she and my father were consistently active in social justice pursuits.  She died September 8,  2000 at Phoenix.  She was preceded in death by Dad (1978.)

In early 1989, I was honored with the  annual North Dakota Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for both historical and  contemporary social justice activities.  The award was presented by then Governor George Sinner.  In my acceptance speech -- heavily focused on current social justice challenges -- I also made reference to my North Dakota roots (and those of my wife, Eldri, who comes out of old Norwegian/Saami/Finnish homesteading origins -- and who was born in Northern Minnesota.)

My consistent social justice activities in North Dakota, as elsewhere, always engendered a swirl of poisonous canards -- and this was certainly true in and around the University of North Dakota at which I was a full Professor and Chair of Indian Studies [and a member of the Graduate Faculty -- and a leader in the Honors Program.] The King Award touched off an intensive campaign of sub rosa vilification and one of the most peculiar darts was frequently tossed (always undercover) by a person who was a peripheral academic and would-be writer: i.e., that I was fabricating my Dakota roots!

This, as with the other poisonous thrusts, was easily shot down once it could be smoked into the open.  Anyway, here is my Pioneer Certificate -- duly issued in due course by the Fargo-based Red River Valley Genealogical Society:

 

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