Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bokavar, Tales from the story fires

June 1725

What runs in my blood
is deep love for this land with rolling meadows
& soothing river 

It is month of green corn, golden as sun
I remember my mother & grandmother's gnarled hands on soil
seeding and nurturing each corn stalk like precious
bread for tomorrow

I am a grown woman now (14 years old), with a husband
and a new baby
and the most beautiful patch of green corn

I walk back to my small cabin and carry my baby
out in the warm summer sun.

How beautiful he is
suckling my breast as we rest
under the sugar maple tree

I wish him to grow tall and handsome
as his father

I still recall the first time I saw him
Wheat yellow hair 
Eyes so blue as the sky
His skin so fair against my earthly color

His words, so strange to my ears
But his tongue, how swift to learn of my tribe's words
As he bartered fur & tobacco with my brother, Cunnawehala 

Israel, my husband, would be happy to see the baby now
He had gone after the baby's birth
to speak with Governor and that had been a full moon ago

I miss the chatter of neighbors and
spring bread dance with the arrival of baby
to thank the creator for the abundance of corn

A cluster of swans came into view
preening noisily by the meadow, their wings 
immaculate as dancing clouds

River of Swans, I muse
Their cacophony stirs memories of my own family

I long to speak to my grandmother and show her
the beautiful baby and inquire about proper name.

My son will be the first of many blessed children
I will stake our roots

Here, in this isolated meadow 
I am learning patience 
& price of love

June 2014

church bells chime
as i step up subway stairs
pedestrians amble like ants

under cherry tree, i inhale  
river tides, fearless as budding leaf 

Process Notes:   The title is from the book I was looking to buy but it is unavailable.  This is a short blurb:

She was a Shawnee girl who lived beyond white settlement. She fell in love with a Swedish trader named Israel Friend. Together they built a good life in the place known to the Shawnee as the "River of Swans."    Bokavar is the wife of my father's ancestor, Israel Friend (1690-1748).    

Posted for D'verse Poets Pub - Poetics - Family HiSTORY  - Growing up in the Philippines, I have a very unusual surname, Friend. I already knew my grand father is half-American.

In tracing my father's roots, I read that my ancestor came from Sweden,  Nicolas "Nils" Larsson.  He came to America in 1648, to trade tobacco and fur with native Indians.   The locals liked him and treated him as "blood brother" and called him "Frande" (meaning kinsman in Swedish).     Under English rule, his adoptive surname was anglicized to Friend. 

Israel Friend, the grandson of Nicolas "Nils" Larsson Friend, was also an Indian fur trader and interpreter, like his father Anders and grandfather Nils.   According to the Friend oral tradition, he married the daughter of an Indian Chief, Bokavar.   The Friends were Christian (Lutherans) and Bokavar, though a native American, also had an english name, Sarah.

The Israel F. Friend house was built in 1737 and is located near Bakerton,
West Virginia (USA) .The land was a gift to Israel from the Indian Chiefs of the Five
Nations with an addition of a regal grant from the Governor of Virginia.
Picture credit:   here


  1. WOW I can't believe you were able to trace your family history all the way back to the 1600s!! That is so amazing. It's so neat to know the history of our ancestors. Now you have me curious about mine :)

  2. Fantastic story.. what an amazing connection you bring forth of your ancestors. I love that you take the viewpoint of your ancestor.. and let her talk.. and the tanka to describe yourself in this history... this is a fantastic creation, in form content and scansion...

  3. Lovely story via poetry. Thanks for posting this. Fourteen seems so young now for anyone to be a mother, but hard times make children grow up faster. Also, with the life span shorter, it was necessary.

  4. Very interesting, Grace. Cool to learn a bit about your ancestry. I enjoyed the voice of the young mother, but how difficult it must have been to be married with child at age 14. It seems that both she and Israel knew the power of love and hard work & find it fascinating that the young mother is the daughter of the Indian chief.

  5. fascinating bit of your history and cool that you traced it back...it is intriguing too on being a woman with a family at 14...after flowering, they were...whew...hard to imagine but we have them now too...the price of love is a nice line to end on because there is...

  6. WOW!!!!!!!! What a fantastic history. The poem is exquisite, I truly adored every word, loved the hands of the mother and grandmother tilling the grain like "bread for tomorrow"......and the girl's musings, and learning of patience. Even more fascinating is your family history. You have the makings of an amazing memoir or historical work there - WOW! LOVED this post!

  7. oh wow - that is an awesome story - really love all the details you wove in - and what a cool surname as well...made me smile...really a cool history grace

  8. Amazing! I love go read this type of stories Grace and what amazing story you have.
    Im the grandchild of a man
    Who comes from England and married with a spanish woman who comes from Asturias EspaƱa and for the other side my others grandparents are a mix of spanish and indians from here.
    But I dont know all the story.
    Love this post;)

  9. Wow, you went far far back indeed at your feed. At 14 would sure be rough indeed. Not sure where mine come from but I know I have many in me making me a mutt lol

  10. glad to see you exploring your roots, Grace ~

  11. this is so amazing and interesting Grace...so love this description of a world
    full of hardship and love...great lines

  12. Yes, there is a wow on my lips, & a smile in my heart as your exquisite poetics catapult the centuries like a child hopscotching. It is so realistic, so well balanced, so heartfelt--it is truly an amazing piece; and the tanka on the tail of it is the perfect capper; what a great illustration of your prompt.

  13. Dear Grace
    The poem is exceptionally beautiful, vibrant and slow!
    I was with you all the way!

    Jette Majken

  14. Very nice Grace, I see you are a fine storyteller also. A very descriptive piece and loved how you envisioned and let us see "The River of swans"

  15. I am TRULY BLOWN AWAY by this. To say this is incredible, is an understatement. Doing the piece from your ancestor's point of view was brilliant. And the scene where she's carrying her baby brought a tear to my eye (I'm feeling quite emotional today, for some reason.)

  16. Really a wonderful read - beautiful and enriching.

  17. This is a very fascinating story, Grace. How wonderful that you can trace your ancestors back so far in time. I like that you adopted the point of view of your ancestor as a young girl.

  18. Grace a touching and wonderful read. >KB

  19. What a fantastic and amazing history - with links back to Sweden. I learned about a little slice of your family and enjoyed your poem immensely.

  20. What a fantastic and amazing history - with links back to Sweden. I learned about a little slice of your family and enjoyed your poem immensely - the POV was inspired.

  21. I love hearing these stories based on your genealogical search. I am on my new resurgent search and each revisit brings me to things I've missed that fill in my story. A wonderful journey, Grace.

  22. Beautiful poem Grace, and a fascinating story of family. Thank you for sharing this I love hearing people's family history stories.

  23. You have a rich and endearing true story to tell; I do hope you will follow up with a memoir or book, like the one you could not find. So wonderful for your son to know his roots, too, and presenting him first and going back in time was so effective! How intriguing, too, that that marriage decided your present life to such a point and altered so many others..a great saga, Grace.

  24. Amazing that you were able to trace this wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Grace..this was an amazing journey..

  26. This is a challenge I will have to archive as it is one of my favorites. I adore your family history and the way you told it. You know, I plan on visiting DC this year - I see Bakerton is not far out of the way at all. Instead of taking 81 - 66, I would just take what looks like an interesting back roads route. I'll have to google and see what historic places are of interest. If I do swing by, I will of course look for this building and take a few photos for you.

  27. This is a fascinating look back at your roots Grace! How cool that you were able to go back that far. And, I love the way you have written it in the first person. Beautiful.

  28. This is amazing work...poetic-wise and ancestor search wise...truly what an awesome feat!! Thank you Grace for sharing your amazing story...and your beautiful poetry, it reads as silk, lustrous and satisfyingly indulgent.

  29. Completely fascinating and beautifully told. K.

  30. amazing... Grace you have done a great job in searching your roots..thank you for sharing it here..smiles.:)

  31. What a wonderful history to share a love of a women and her life in such olden days

  32. I love the push and pull between the beautiful setting and the pain of the woman's isolation; her pride in her new place and her loneliness. So well done. Thank you also for the fascinating historical notes.

  33. Grace, this highlights the wheel of life-the highs and lows! WE all encompass the path of love and pain~ I really enjoyed all that you shared-I will read it again! I love the idea of a River of Swans-gorgeous~ I wanted more!

  34. A fabulous historical and personal poem here! Thanks for sharing, Grace.

  35. I like how you channel this possibility, I like seeing the images and riding on another level in poetry besides the facts. I am going to try that.

  36. Wow! What a nice piece of family history. How wonderful is it that you were able to trace your ancestry that far back. :-)

    I like the juxtaposition of the past and present in your poem, Grace. :-)

  37. I like the richness of this... and the wheat and it's promise.

  38. What an uplift in the portion of a life being well lived and a cram down being among the ants.

  39. Oh, wonderful! Like the story and the poem!
    Have sunny days

  40. Wow! I'm blown away by your poem, it is so beautiful! I think you've captured that moment back in that time so wonderfully! I also love the jump to June of this year - how much our world and our lives have changed.
    It's mind-blowingly amazing that you were able to trace your family's history so far back! Thank you for sharing the story with us! :)

  41. From the research I am doing I am also related to Israel Friends who is a distant grandfather. From the research I am doing, Sarah Bokavar Hokolesqua, his wife, is related to Pocahontas (who is Sarah's great grand aunt through her father). Have you found this information?

    Aaron Clark

  42. Deana Friend AllenMarch 19, 2016 at 4:43 PM

    Well just stopping by to say hello family. I am the 7th great grand daughter of Isreal Friend. Descended from his son Charles.
    I have heard the stories of Sarah and I believe Amazon every once in a great while has the book for sale ( although i tend to miss it by a day or so each time. ) Who is your father

    1. Thanks for dropping by Deana and I am pleased to know that we share the same history ~ This is indeed extraordinary ~


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