Early Life at Home, 1909-1922
Essie's remembrances of her early life in Idaho provide a personal picture of rural America in the early twentieth century. This individual picture reflects the timbre of experience shared by ranchers and farmers across the country during the "teens." Essie's life is a microcosm of the lives of Native Americans all over the United States, Indians dealing with the ambiguous status of being Indian, as well as with the trials of ranchers and farmers everywhere.
Essie's personal accounts of Anglo/Indian perceptions and interactions tell the story of the larger evolving picture of Native Americans integrating into mainstream America while attempting to retain their cultural identity in the face of a national (BIA) policy of assimilation.
The memories here show a family emphasis on education and career growth, as well as on the development of a value system with inherent integrity. Essie might not be every woman, but she could be any woman of her time, influenced by family relationships, survival of financial reversals, the values of rural life, the impact of World War I, and the experience of family tragedy.
I began the life history by recounting some remembrances of my great‐ great-grandmother. Now I want to share the story of my own life.
I was born in 1909, on November 9, and the earliest thing I can remember is being on top of a very tall dappled gray horse. It seems to me I still had on a diaper. I don't know whether this memory is something that I made up, images remembered from what I've been told, or simply the truth. Could I remember being that young? I would have been a year or two old and that would have been somewhere in Idaho, because my mother and father had to run away to get married.
My father, Finn Burnett Jr., was Scottish-Irish and my mother, Mildred