Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

By Sesi King 

Life and Times of Venita Loran

 

Venita "Shaiawennatonti" Loran was born March 4, 1931. Her father was Monroe Williams and her mother was Mary Oakes. Venita's siblings are Gloria Crouse, Velma Jocko, Dwayne Williams, Gloria Halbritter, and Rudy Williams. Venita's sister Velma named Sunrise Acres, because the sun rose so vividly where she lived.

Venita's husband was Daniel Loran; the eldest of his family and now deceased since 1982. He was a Superintendent for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Water Works. Together they had three children: Danny, Nadene, and Kim.

Venita grew up in Onondaga with her parents. Her grandfather came from Six Nations and was Tuscarora, and her grandmother was Onondaga. Venita lived there for 17 years enjoying an adventurous life. "Some times were hard, but I managed to get through."

When Daniel came to visit her in her Nation, he finally invited her to come to Akwesasne to meet his parents. Eventually, they got married and began their family.

Venita remembers her young life to be "awful." When she was 3 months old, her mother left her children with their dad. He did the best he could to raise them by himself. Venita spoke of the hardships she and her siblings faced. They didn't know any other way, but she remembers that some ways were difficult to get through. Such as, in order to get to school they had to walk a great distance; imagine, for example, from Rooseveltown to Hogansburg, and in all kinds of weather.

"We never missed a day of school and the teacher would use us as examples to others," she said. "Our father took great care of us. When it snowed a lot, my father built this plow made out of boards and he rigged it up with a rope and stone so he could pull it to clear the snow, to make a cleared path for us. It was quite a ways to get to where the road was more clear," remembered Venita. She watches children nowadays that are unable to walk to their buses very far.

Needless to say, her father was very strong. She also thinks back to those days when she felt they were poor in the ways of having money, but they never lacked food. Her grandfather always had more than one garden, and he worked it without a plow. All his work had to be done by hand. One garden was all potatoes, another was all corn, and one was cucumbers and tomatoes.

"We also had apple trees, plum trees and grapes. My grandmother preserved, so we were never without food. My father even made dill pickles in a wooden barrel. We always ate good," Venita remembers.

"There was even a period of time during our lives that a stamp program was in place, similar to S&H green stamps. It was useful to each family member when something ran out such as flour, sugar etc. The stamps were used to buy things that were needed, such as shoes if we needed them. This took place during the period of the Depression. We were very poor but my father always knew what to do. For example if our shoes were worn out, my father worked on it to layer a new leather sole on it. I have never seen another father do all that."

As time went on and the children got older, Venita and her siblings began to take care of themselves in their home. Their father became romantically involved with a woman and he moved. There was only Dwayne, Rudy, Velma and her left in the house. "My sister Velma and I would go into the woods and cut up wood and we'd 'shoulder it' to bring it down to the house. My two brothers would use a two-man saw to saw the wood, chop and stack it. Everything was done by hand because my father didn't believe in electricity, because it might cause a fire. We had a wood stove only all the time. That was our job and we needed to prepare for the cold," explained Venita. "It was hard work for the girls, but it needed to be done."

Venita's dad always provided the groceries for his children, by paying for what they needed at the store. One big memory she shared was about the farm and the pigs.

"When the pig got butchered, my dad would cut the head off and he would chase us with it. Oh my goodness, that was awful! My dad thought it was so funny, but we didn't," said Venita. Another memory she has is about learning how to wash white corn with hardwood ashes. Sometimes her children wouldn't believe the stories about the "hard life" as a young girl growing up.

Venita doesn't feel that her life chores were difficult because she was always used to working and was never "idle." She feels good and healthy as well as being "zesty," according to her doctor. She even still shovels her own driveway, but she told me of a story when she was warned by the "police" (her grandson), not to be shoveling. He explained how shoveling snow was so dangerous at her age. She might have a heart attack if she kept it up.

"I won't," she said.

"How do you know?" asked her concerned grandson.

She answered by saying, "Because God watches me."

Some of her favorite times was when she was about 6 or 7 years old and was playing in the "dark" woods with her siblings. They would swing on the vines over the gullies. Venita remembers that on their property were many huge Maple trees that they also played on. They felt so lucky that they could each have a tree to call their own.

One of the many times they went out to play there, they had a picnic with a campfire. They didn't shut the fire out good enough before going home, and that evening a fire broke out and spread. The whole woods burnt down.

We talked about the snowmobiling rides that took them on so many trail-riding adventures. "My late husband Danny used to pull the cooker on a trailer behind him as we rode to the woods. The snowmobile club would find a nice clearing in the woods and everyone would enjoy a picnic as they cooked hotdogs and other refreshments," said Venita. The riders would enjoy trails in wide fields and sometimes along the frozen rivers and bush. Those were the "fun and cold" times together with many friends.

Venita also remembers travelling to many places from the West to the East coast as she went with her late husband Danny while he worked as an Ironworker. They took the children and Venita felt that it was hard on the children as they relocated wherever the job took her husband. California was very memorable because of the huge trees, some they could even drive through. Other places were Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Baltimore, Binghamton and more were also work sites. Venita had gotten her share of traveling back then but now if someone asks her to go, she will. They are all good memories and she feels she has had a good life growing with her children.

Her favourite pasttimes are planting flowers along her house. That may have changed for this year after an experience she had with a visitor. Usually, she would water her flowers routinely, each morning. Well, one day she came home from Massena and she saw a snake on her fence! Being afraid of snakes, she began to call a neighbour to come and get rid of the snake for her. So, the moistened dirt attracted frogs and they in turn attracted the snake. When her neighbour saw the snake he also saw the frog that was being swallowed. The problem was solved with a shovel anyway. Yikes! So we shall see if there are flowers planted this year. Venita also enjoys planting flowers at her church, we'll see if that memory of that "oniare" will fade. She may decide to use large containers or pots for her future planting.

Another enjoyment she has is quilting in her spare time. Sometimes, she combines designs from other blankets and makes them to her own liking and design. They are very beautiful and the use of soft pastels are shown throughout her creations. They are baby quilts made for the newborns as they come. Her blankets are all hand sewn and quilted on a hoop. Another happy past time is when she sings with a group of women at various locations such as the Elders Home.

Venita looks back on her life and family and expressed how proud she is of them. She sounds quite content with her daily activities and enjoys her 7 grandchildren and her 9 great grandchildren. She continues to make her quilts as each newborn comes. They are all one-of-a-kind quilts for each of them.

Thank you so much for allowing me to visit and to hear about your life growing up. It was an enjoyable time with you and I feel I gained a friend. I'm also sure our readers will enjoy reading about your "life and times." Niawen.

 

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