Columbia, SC herbologist and tea business owner, Angela Queen, shares her insights on books and authors that have shaped her as a Native American woman.
Not only an expert at herbology, as a member of the Native American community, Angela is also a fierce advocate of educating others and herself about the marginalized. Recently, she created custom tea blends for an event for patrons at the Cooper Branch, which received rave reviews. She shares with us her favorite books and authors that have influenced her life and business.
As a mother of two and a Native American woman belonging to the Lumbee tribe of Eastern North Carolina, I bring my culture into my everyday life through my work with regional herbalism, education, and tea making.
As the owner of Grassroots Herbal Teas, I use herbs in a creative way making loose leaf herbal teas that nourish the body and the soul, specifically the nervous system to decrease stress response and assist with deeper sleep.
Grassroots started through my love of gardening which I have fond memories of doing with my Grandmother as a child. My hope is to pass these traditions and knowledge to my children and community.
As a Native American woman, what books/authors have been impactful in your life?
Growing up in Savannah, Georgia, I was separated from my tribe. A tribe is defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.” Basically, I did not share a common culture with the peers around me. This left me feeling lost without a true sense of identity. With a mother who was Caucasian and a father who also grew up away from his people, I had very little “passed down” to me.
"Growing up in Savannah, Georgia, I was separated from my tribe...This left me feeling lost without a true sense of identity."
The real gift for me as a Lumbee woman was when I found the books by Malinda Maynor Lowery and Adolf L. Dial.
As a tribe that was never forced onto a reservation, the Lumbee history is set apart and is a story of determination and resilience. Many do not realize that the 9th largest non-federally recognized tribe in the United States is situated in the Eastern part of North Carolina and are unaware of the rich history that is also entangled with southern history. Lowery showcases this in her two books The Lumbee Indian in the Jim Crow South and The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle.
Strong but Not Forgotten
Vastly unknown by most Americans is the identity crisis many Native Americans face as a result of lack of education and information about their cultures. This stems from a long history of the education system and American laws prohibiting tribes to gather, speak their language, gain access to basic resources, perform, and pass down their tribal traditions and knowledge, and the effect this had upon generation after generation and continues today.¹
Many tribes, such as the Lumbee tribe, are not even legally recognized by Congress as of yet, which has had its own repercussions.
According to the Official Lumbee website:
"The ancestors of the Lumbee came together in the shelter of this land hundreds of years ago - survivors of tribal nations from the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan language families, including the Hatteras, the Tuscarora, and the Cheraw. The ancestors of the Lumbee were recognized as Indian in 1885 by the State of North Carolina. In 1956, Congress recognized the Lumbee as an Indian tribe while denying the People any federal benefits that are associated with such recognition – an action that the Lumbee continue to fight today." ²
When I left home for the first time and moved all the way to Germany at 20 years old, it was a time of self-discovery. On a trip to Amsterdam I discovered The American Book Center. This two story bookstore had a huge Native American history section. This is where I purchased titles such asIn TheSpirit of Crazy Horse, Like a Hurricane, Where White Men Fear to Tread and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. These books gave me a glimpse of the persecution and racism experienced by Natives especially in the western part of America. They taught me of the activism by the American Indian Movement that was happening the very year I was born (1979) and they gave me leaders from Native groups to look up to.
I also really enjoyed Native American nonfiction writers and poets like Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich. Alexie’s work is so provocative and honest; often his retelling of his life growing up on the reservation was heart wrenching and eye opening. Through his work I learned how the history of colonialism left waves of indescribable damage through generations for Indian people on reservations. Erdrich’s poetry is some of my favorite. I love how she brings in First Peoples’ history, her personal heritage as a mixed race woman and the natural world to help the reader have greater reference, understanding, and awe of the elements around them.
" I love that she was writing from the perspective of a woman who also spent most of her life in an environment dominated by white culture."
The most recent Native American book I’ve enjoyed is Native, Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin B. Curtice. I love that she was writing from the perspective of a woman who also spent most of her life in an environment dominated by white culture. She shares how she has had to mourn the loss of her culture as well as find new ways to bring her culture into her everyday life with her own children so they can grow up knowing they come from the Potawatomi people. Curtice put to words some of the emotions I have felt nearly my whole life and shares the truth that is sometimes uncomfortable to hear. Through poetry and imagery she encouraged me to embrace my very own origin story.
Footnotes and References
"Tribe". OED Online. September 2020. Oxford University Press
The owner of Grassroots Herbal Teas, you can connect with Angela locally at the Well Café and Loveland Coffee in Columbia, SC. She is also available through Instagram and her exclusive Facebook group “A Grassroots Movement” where she goes more in depth about the herbs she cultivates at home, in the wild and through other networks.
Check out Angela's full list of recommended reading for all ages below.