Story time: my kokum’s favorite story

Story time: My kokum’s favorite story

Hello all,

Holy, has it been a busy week!! So sorry I did not have time to post much in the past little while. Crazy schedule these days 🙂 But I am back today with a new post, another part of the Red man’s story. A crazy part. But an example of some concepts and fears that were taught to some Native people by the church. And they were successful at times. Lots of fears were created from stories such as the one you will read about. It has been many decades (well like 3) since the Red man sat there listening to his grandmother telling this story but yet he remembers it as though it was yesterday. I spoke to him recently and he said something interesting. He said “that’s why I did or said all the things I did, because I was so sick and tired of hearing the same things over and over again from my grandmother. Either way I was going to get it so might as well do something to get it”. Okay here we go!

Growing up with my kokumbig and small moccasins

Growing up with my kokum was a frustrating trip. Nonsense, superstition and straight up verbal trash were a constant and normal. I would like to share with you a few of those frustrating lessons and how I responded to them, as the days were rare when my kokum did not go on a monotonous rant that would last for hours. Let’s start with her favorite one, one that after a good whipping or a sudden back hand across the face, I would hear over and over again. 

So my kokum began: “There was this young couple who never hit their kids. The kids would run, scream and holler around. In public, the little kids would hit their parents and embarrass them and still the parents would never hit them. Then one day, one of the kids died so they buried him. A few days after the funeral the parents went to visit the grave site and guess what they found?”

“What?” Even though I had heard this fucking stupid story a million times, I would always have to say something or risk a sudden flash of furious violent rage. “What, what, what, what, stupid, stupid, stupid, shut up, shut up, shut up!” That’s what I would think while I had to sit quietly and listen to the bullshit story.

story time

And then the story got weirder

“When they visited the grave they found the child’s arm was flopping outside the grave!” “Can you believe it?” No I couldn’t believe it because it was the stupidest story I had ever heard, and the craziest.

But I said “Really, wow!”

“So the parents ran into the church to get the priest. They told the priest about the arm flopping outside the grave and asked him for help. The priest walked out of the church silently, the parents following behind. Without a word the priest went to a willow tree and broke off a branch. He handed the parents the branch and told them to whip the arm. So they did what the priest told them to do and guess what?”


It killed me slowly each and every time I heard this story. By this time in the tale, I wanted to run and hide or run and do something, anything other than this, anything other than listen to this garbage assed stupid story.

And then the icing on the cake…

“The hand went back under the ground, it disappeared right back into the grave. The parents were shocked by what had just happened and asked the priest “what happened father?” Well the priest looked back at them and said “the kid’s arm was flopping out of the ground because you did not hit the child when he was alive. So it begged to be hit while he was dead. If you spare the child the rod, you do not love them. The child wanted to know that you loved him”. little boyBut it made my kokum feel better…

I know that this story made my kokum feel better about herself after she beat me up. This story was a parental precept that the church taught the Indian people to use when dealing with their young little ones. When I got older and could put my thoughts in good or good enough order anyways, I wrote to my kokum. I said to her “Do you remember the story you used to tell us all the time, the story about the child whose arm was sticking out of the ground? Well if my arm was sticking out of a grave or a hole in the ground, I would hope that you would grab my hand and pull me out instead of hitting my arm and burying me alive”. She never told me the story again, she never mentioned the letter.

As we have learned over time, the Red man has had a confusing and tumultuous relationship with his grandmother, who was mom to him. I agree that telling the story probably made his grandmother feel less guilty about beating the Red man up. He just told me “I have never seen my grandmother hit anyone like she hit me. But me, I would get it all the time”. What I noticed when he said that was that he said it with a smile in his voice. As though he was trying to hide the pain he really feels or somehow feel special as he was the “chosen one”. And I am saying this without any judgment. I just mean that our relationship with our caregivers are very complex, especially when the caregiver is abusive. And his kokum was very abusive. Yet he loved her so much. And as a kid, he heard the same crap over and over again. So he often acted out just to get away from it. Or maybe to feel as though he actually deserved all the abuse he received. But guess what, he never deserved it. But he did what he had to do to survive. You can learn more about his story here or here or heregrandparents

Anyone of you ever heard that story before? What are your thoughts? Comment below and I will answer 🙂

All my Relations




18 thoughts on “Story time: my kokum’s favorite story

  1. Rawl

    I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never heard this story before. My grandfather was half Cherokee and great grandfather full Cherokee and neither of them told this story.

    I’m sorry your kokum didn’t treat you appropriately but glad you were able to address it.

    1. Emily Post author

      thanks Rawl for taking the time to read the story. It was just an awful thing to say to a child. But she did not know better at the time.

      1. Terry

        My grandmother always told me “spare the rod = spoil the child”. This was the late 50s and early 60s. No I didn’t follow through with my children.

  2. Michele D.

    What an amazing story, and you definately put your heart out there. My background does have alot of Cherokee in it. If my Great Grandmother was still alive, I would have to ask her about this story. It seems we are always awaiting our parents approval. Whether good or bad. I remember my brother being young and saying he got into trouble so he knew that our parents loved him. There wasnt much affection in the home I find your story very tantilizing. So strong.

    1. Emily Post author

      oh yes Michele, I think the Red man would agree. He once told me “when I get yelled at that’s when I know that the person loves me”. Definitively learned behavior

  3. Marc Parsons

    Your kokum’s favorite story sounds like a child’s worst nightmare Emilly!

    Your thoughts about leaving the child buried alive where exactly mine as I read about the parents first going to the church. Completely blows my mind how stories are put together to benefit the one giving them.

    Gota be honest though… I was brought up with my fair share of broken wooden spoons and hydings, but never to an extent of bruising or drawing blood… Just enough to let me know that I had crossed the line.

    For me, I believe it did me good, but like I said… It was never to a point of abuse or that I was scared of my parents. Just enough for me to understand.

    As far as telling a story as an excuse to do so… That’s just wrong and a pity, as like you said, It was not a part of the culture before the church got involved.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Marc
      I was also raised at a time where just the tone of vice of your parents told you you needed to shut it. We learn to respect authority. And that’s okay. But abuse, not so much. And there has been so much within the native culture. Passed down from generation to generation. All the way to 2 centuries ago. That’s what my website is about. I am certainly not blaming his kokum here. Just saying that there is a context around everything that stems from colonization

  4. Jenny

    Wow! Although I am not Native American I am interested and in aw of the history of such a beautiful people or lets say the real, uncovered and adulterated history. So sad that such a beautiful culture has been abused and almost lost. I’m sorry for the pain your kokum caused but as you said, she probably didn’t know how to handle things at the time. People react differently to the things that happen to them. I just wonder what made her think it was ok to treat you that way. Something had to have happened. People aren’t born to abuse others that way. It is taught. Sounds like you have managed and healed a bit through all this. At least I hope. Sending good vibes your way.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Jenny
      oh yes unfortunately the story of the Red man is not unique within the Native culture. Trauma is passed down from generation to generation. And that’s what we see with his kokum and his mother.

  5. Hari S Nair

    It was the very first time when I heard that story. I can sense how frustrating it would have been for you to repeatedly hear the story.. but, I really appreciate that you did put your feelings into words appropriately later because that was imperative. Cultures have such excuses to keep the beliefs alive which has been passed down from generation to generation.. Thanks for sharing Emily 🙂

    1. Emily Post author

      thanks for visiting Hari!
      It was really frustrating for the Red man indeed. He did rectify his relationship with his grandmother before her death. he has made peace with it. As much as he can.

  6. Julie

    Hi Emily,

    As always a very touching story. It is amazing the stories that we are told as children. Some even to keep us in place. I never heard that story before. I agree that I too would rather be pulled out of my grave and saved than being beaten. I think the act of saving me would be enough of a sign of their love!


  7. Vicky

    I am not sure how to react to the story. I was from a abusive home life. My mother was very abusive physically and verbally. I am glad that the Red Man was able to express his feelings even if it was in a letter. I never have to this day said anything to my mother about how she dealt with her anger. I hope the abusive ways ended with Red Man’s caregiver. I was very careful while raising my children never to discipline them when I was upset. I wanted the abuse to stop with my generation and not continue. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Emily Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment Vicky. I appreciate you sharing this part of your life. We do have the power to stop the cycle and sometimes we need to be masters of change and try different ways of dealing with our emotions.

  8. Christina

    Hi, I read this post a couple of months ago and the story stuck in my head. It’s amazing and a tad scary to think that a dead child which was never beat would have their arms sticking out of the ground to be beaten. However, there were other ways they could of disciplined their child while they were was alive. I like that you wrote that letter to your kokum, I would of done the same thing.

    It’s not right for anyone to be abused by anyone, not even their caregiver. I hope Red man is doing well.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Christina
      The Red man is doing better. It is an uphill battle but he is slowly, very slowly, healing. Not always easy. it was a quite story indeed. Unbelievable that parents would tell it to their children.


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