Niagara Gazette

Columns

June 19, 2014

DELUCA: Couple's love of native roots leads to weekend fest at Goat Island

Niagara Gazette — Tim Morris died last week. Lung cancer took him, four years after he was given just a few months to live.

Those years gave him enough time to create a festival honoring Native American ways, the same festival running this weekend on Goat Island.

His grieving widow, Jill Morris, is hardly without tears as she talks of continuing with plans for the festival only days after she lost her husband, but she knows he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Before he died, the couple had been exploring their roots as Native Americans, though both were raised by white families. Tim’s search began because he had memories of a third grandmother, a woman, that would regularly take him to the reservation where he would play with the other children. With his father long gone, he finally found out from his stepmother, in her last breath, that his mother was Lakota.

The information changed her husband, a retired auto worker who she described as “rough around the edges” but 33 years sober. “Once he started learning about his culture he had a new sense of peace,” she said.  

The same seems true for Jill, who believes she was adopted and told me she feels a connection to the native culture from the depths of her soul. She is trying to find proof of her roots, but whether she actually is native by blood might not be of any consequence. She is at home in the native community, and has adopted the behavior of a traditional native woman, wearing skirts, not using makeup and letting her braided hair go gray. 

It was Tim and Jill’s mission to bring the culture to others like themselves, in the hope that it would bring them peace, too, and that is how the festival came to be.

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