Momfeather Erickson is a loving wife, mother and grandmother, dedicated to her familyand community, no different in that respect from many other women in western Kentucky. But there the similarities end. For her alter-ego, "Momfeather," is very different indeed. Poet, publisher, activist and teacher of "the old ways," Erickson, one-half Cherokee, has devoted the last few years of her life to educating those around her on the tribe's role in Kentucky history.
"Don't ever believe that it was Daniel Boone who blazed the trail through the Cumberland Gap," cautions Erickson, 66, whose gentle grandmotherly appearance belies her fiery crusade for Native American rights and recognition.
"That trail was made by the buffalo and walked on by the Indians long before Boone came through the Gap," she insists.
As director of the Mantle Rock Native Education and Cultural Center in Marion, Momfeather (Feather) - a name she was given by her paternal grandmother - is relentless in her quest to bring to Native Americans and especially the Cherokee the respect she feels they are entitled to.
"To this day, no Native American tribes are recognized in Kentucky, even with so many Cherokee groups living all across the state, and for this, I feel great sadness," she says. (they have made it to legislation)
As a result, she spreads the word - and her pride in her heritage - any way she can, as the author of seven books, from Momfeather Cooks Native American to Native American Children's Stories Warmly Told to Woman of the Wind, a book of poetry saluting her female ancestors, and as advisor, contributor and publisher of Turtle Tales, a bi-weekly Native American newspaper for students.
Then, of course, there is her work as educator, storyteller and community activist, serving as a board member of United Native America, formed in 2001 to strengthen Native communities and preserve native culture; as a spiritual elder of Mother Earth, a hemispheric council entrusted with keeping native prophecies and traditions alive, and for four years, as chief elder of the Southern Band of Cherokees. She is Ambassador for the American Indian Mothers and a Commissioner for the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission.
for the rest