A Tribute to Grandmother Mountain Eagle Woman “Mommi” (1922 – 2000) by Nataska Hummingbird.
Honoring Grandmother Mountain Eagle Woman “Mommi” of Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee & African heritage. Grandmother Mountain Eagle Woman was the full walking embodiment of Divine Womanness. Her smile was like sunshine, lifting up the life of anyone blessed enough to pass by her. She was delicate and sturdy, funny and prophetic. She showed us by example that you don’t have to lose your sweet to become your strong.
“If you face each day with joy and openly welcome your lessons, however they show up, the bitter and the sweet, you will begin to grow into Eldership with grace and beauty.” ~Grandmother Mountain Eagle Woman
“Mommi” as she was affectionately called by everyone, showed us that life is a cycle of movement. Mountain Eagle Woman was born in 1922 to a Mississippi Choctaw sharecropping family. Life in America for our people at that time was horribly stressful and difficult. Between scraping a living from the earth and staying one step ahead of the KKK in the south. Grandmother Mountain Eagle Woman knew exhaustion, hunger, loss, and grief to be her constant companions as a young child. Growing up in a world that treated her like she was invisible, you would think that it had made her bitter, resentful, and hard. But it didn’t; it made her quiet, soft, and sweet. Mommi was as strong as she was soft and never bit her tongue, but never tried to hurt anyone either. She lost her mother at a very young age and grew to know the Earth and Nature as her only mother. Receiving a mink coat or hearing the nightingale sing gave her the same amount of pleasure. She was not afraid of hard work, racism or sexism.
Mommi said joy is everywhere, and it is your birthright to experience it each and everyday. She said, “In the silence is where you find yourself, and because there is no separation between Creator and you, yourself is all you need. We carry Great Spirit inside in our breath. And each day we honor Chihowa by taking time to slowly breathe, by smiling at one another. By getting up each day with the intention of being as creative with your hands as possible.” Mommi said creativity and sadness don’t live in the same house, just like faith and fear. She showed us by example to be as open, kind hearted and helpful to each other as we can. She said, “Get as much as possible out of daylight in the way of service to others, and you’ll never have time to be sad. Her motto was, “If you are carrying a basket full of sorrow, sadness, and regret, sit it down for a minute and engage yourself in writing, painting, sewing, beading, dancing, teaching, and selfless service to others. When you catch your breath, and go back to get your basket, it will be empty of woe-is-me, and full of sweet smelling flowers.”
With no high school diploma Mountain Eagle Woman became the Program Director for the Chicago Urban League. She self made herself and became the best female choir director in Chicago, PTA president, community advocate, calligrapher, graphic artist, bead artist, seamstress, writer, chef, wedding planner, fashion show coordinator, mother, wife, confident, and serious student of life. The things I remember most about Mommi were her prayers. She had a very personal relationship with Chihowa and she drew you into it thru her prayers. Whenever any of her children had a problem, she could always give you good solid advice and quiet wisdom to send you on your way.
When Mountain Eagle Woman went to Spirit in 2000, she took a piece of all of us with her. And, she left a piece of her with all of us. When Mommi left her body and went to live in Spirit world, I became very afraid to be in this world without her, because I knew it was her medicine prayers that had kept me safe my entire life. She was my shelter from the storm, the sugar in my tea, my joy in a time of sorrow. I kept asking her to come back and see me and help me get pass the sorrow of being without her. We were best friends. For 30 years in my adult life we had talked on the phone or saw each other every day. We wore the same clothes, ate the same food and went everywhere together. She became a true mother to all of my friends, and when she left I couldn’t breathe. One day I walked into her house and turned around to close the front door and there it was, the answers to my prayers. Her quiet wisdom on the door was a bumper sticker that said, “Everything in the Universe is Subject To Change and Everything is Right on Schedule.”
To all of children, this is her Wampum to us. Mountain Eagle Woman was a doer, and we honor her most in our doing. AHO
Written by Nataska Hummingbird.
Note: African Native American or Afro Native? People who call themselves “Black Indians” are people living in America of African-American descent, with significant heritage of Native American Indian ancestry, and with strong connections to Indian Country and its Native American Indian culture, social, and historical traditions. Black Indians are also called African Native American people, Black American Indians, Black Native Americans and Afro Native Americans.