Sunday, March 29, 2015
The REAL Story of Gérard Anthony "Tsonakwa" Rancourt Jr. - Part 3
October 21, 1976
The Morning Record Newspaper – The Journal, Meriden, CT – Page 10
By Phyllis Donovan
Alcoholism Treatment Program making progress
…At the fall luncheon of the Meriden-Wallingford Hospital Auxiliary Monday at Waverly Inn in Cheshire, Carol Brown, coordinator of the new Alcoholism Treatment Program, explained that the program was set up with funds provided by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health Alcohol Council soon after the alcohol decriminalization act was passed in June 1976.
White + White
Does Not Equal = Abenaki Indian
December 17, 1977
Gérard Antoine (a.k.a. "Tsonakwa") Rancourt married for a second time, to Carol (bee: Brown) Renton in Catawba, Rock Hill, York County, South Carolina.
December 25, 1977
Gazette Women’s Newspaper
By Elsie Hamilton
Indian Wedding: A Celebration of Peace, Goodwill
The room was quiet except for the muted throb of a drum.
A young Indian in slow and majestic movements performed the ancient pipe dance, lifting the great pipe above his head as he executed a circle. His dance completed, he presented the pipe to his Indian friend in red-feathered headdress, who drew deeply on the pipe before handing it to his father.
The father passed the pipe to Chief Gilbert Blue [1.], who accepted the gift in the language of the Catawba nation: “Thank you, I hope your friends will be my friends upon the earth God has given us.”
This solemn moment for Gerard Anthony Rancourt, son of Tsimitzewa (Old Bear), an Abenaki Indian from Tadoussac, Charlevoix County, Quebec, Canada, was a “deep heartwarming dream.” For him in middle age it marked two beginnings: A return to an old lifestyle and his marriage to Carol Brown.
Earlier in the afternoon of Dec. 17, 1977 the wedding of Jerry Rancourt, Jr., and Carol Brown Renton took place in the tiny church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Catawba, Rock Hill. The ceremony joined Carol, counselor to families of alcoholics at the Gastonia-Lincoln Mental Health Program’s Alcohol-Drug Abuse Division, and Jerry Gérard Antoine (a.k.a. "Tsonakwa") Rancourt, artist-in-residence at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
For the non-Indian guests, the wedding was a strange, new experience. There were none of the trappings of the traditional wedding familiar to them: no music, no white wedding gown, no bridesmaids in flowing dresses, no flowers, and no exchange of rings.
The bride and bridegroom wore matching beaded headbands designed and made by Jerry. Both carried owl feather fans made also by the bridegroom.
The design of Carol’s dress was from the Zuni Indians; a silk under-dress trimmed with red and green ribbon, the overdress a black wool wrap draped over the right shoulder and caught with silver pins. The overdress, too, was trimmed with the traditional wedding colors of red and green. Carol’s Manta or veil was a printed silk of red, green, and black. Except for her knee-high moccasins, Carol made her complete wedding costume by hand.
Jerry Gérard Antoine (a.k.a. "Tsonakwa") Rancourt wore a printed shirt trimmed with ribbon, a hand-made gift from an Indian friend. His hand-made bear skin coat and a medicine blanket, a Northwest Coast design of killer whales, was Carol’s wedding gift to him. He also wore pants trimmed in ribbons of the traditional wedding colors of black, green and red and a head piece (called a dance roach) made of porcupine hair and feathers.
Wedding guests, meeting at the home of Catawba Chief Gilbert Blue, traveled in automobile caravan to the church. There they were welcomed by Chief Blue before Bishop Osborne Performed the Mormon ceremony.
The couple, joining right hands in a token of the covenant of their “free will and choice in the presence of witnesses and as in the presence of God” promised to love, honor, and cherish each other. Legally and lawfully bound after these brief vows, they kissed “as husband and wife.” Carol kissed the women and then the men in the wedding party. Jerry Gérard “Tsonakwa” Rancourt clasped the hands of the men in Indian fashion and kissed the women. And it was over.
The murmur of an Indian drum greeted guests as they returned to Chief Gilbert Blue’s home. Inside, they crowded into a tight cluster about Jerry for the pipe ceremony.
From an Indian bowl, where Jerry had kindled cedar wood (symbolizing flesh) and pecan shells (for aromatic), the bridegroom lit the pipe he had made for the Catawba Nation.
After the pipe was presented to Chief Gilbert Blue, Jerry offered this pair: “Great Spirit, hear me. Your relative I am. You are so great and so old the mountains are but wrinkles on your face. I humbly ask you that blessings in this life continue to the next. I ask you for brotherhood, unity and friendship for all people.”
The bridegroom invited wedding guests to the reception table spread with “natural” foods: Indian stew, sandwiches of whole grain bread filled with turkey and with a mix o cheese, pineapple and raisins, pastries stuffed with fruits and a carrot wedding cake. The beverages were contemporary American: various carbonated drinks.
The bride was tired. “My sister, Shirley, and I were up until 4:30 a.m. this morning, preparing all of the food for the reception,” she said.
The bridegroom was famished, “I have been fasting two days, and I am not used to it,” he said. “Fasting clears your brain, but it makes you light-headed.”
After feasting on the bride’s food, the guests gathered again in the living room to hear Jerry “confirm” his vows to Carol with a reading from Kahill Gilbran [2.].
With Carol still at his side, the bridegroom explained to his friends that he has come to realize that material goods do not bring success. “So I give away my material life to achieve spiritual worth,” he said. “It is a symbol of sharing without the hope of receiving.”
It was time for the pot latch and Jerry took down the screen which had hidden his “worldly possessions.” The screen, on which he had painted Indian mythological creatures – sea monsters, killer whales, a turtle and the sun – he folded and presented to his father Joseph Gérard Antoine "Tsemitzewa" Rancourt for his mother Eleanor E. (nee: Southland) Rancourt.
One by one Jerry, being assisted by his young son Gérard "Chickie" Anthony Rancourt III [3.], gave away his possessions: totem poles, pipes, stone bowls, Katchina dolls, and stone serving trays, paintings and prayer feathers. The Indian crafts, wood and stone, were carved by Jerry in the traditional manner without the aid of power tools. The paintings were done with paints Jerry mixed from herbs.
Gifts were presented to both Indian and white friends, including Gastonians Alan Stout, Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Jenkins, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Voorhees, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Metcalfe, Dr. and Mrs. Zack Russ and Eastace Conway [4.].
Among the guests, also, were the Lockleurs, an Indian family from Charlotte, North Carolina; Dr. Rachel Bonney and members of the Phoenix Society from UNC-C; Harjo, a national-known Indian dancer from Oklahoma; Doris Blue, the oldest Catawba potter and aunt of Chief Gilbert Blue; and Ben Duke, a Choctaw from the Southeastern Indian Culture Association at Nashville, Tennessee.
The Rancourt family came from Connecticut. The Brown family, including Carol’s four children, made the trip to the wedding from New Hampshire and Florida.
Jerry paid special tribute to his best man, Alan Stout, saying that the Schiele Museum director and his staff had given him a real family away from home, and to Dr. Rachel Bonney, thanking her for her help at UNC-C. Dr. Bonney was the bride’s corn maiden (honor attendant) when Margie Chavez, a Pueblo Indian from Acoma, New Mexico, was unable to attend the wedding.
“You have taken in Carol and me, strangers, and made us welcome,” said Jerry. “I am so willing to give away what I was so I can become what I am.”
To close the pot latch ceremony, Jerry told the story of the snake which shed his skin so that a threatening coyote would believe him dead. “The snake sheds his skin to grow and to rid himself of old scars,” he said. “Under the old skin is a fresh, shiny skin, and today I feel like that snake. May God bless all of you – we are such wealthy people.”
Chief Gilbert Blue echoed the bridegroom’s words: “I have traveled in many countries, and I have never been ashamed of being an Indian. We should be what we are. I pray that the Great Spirit will guide us and that a rainbow of hope will be over us all. It has been a privilege to have you in my home today.”
The wedding of Jerry Rancourt and Carol Brown became also a celebration of peace and goodwill as the bridegroom presented a peace pipe to the Catawba Nation. Shown in staff artist Ralph Deaton’s drawing of the pipe presentation are (l-r) Tsimitzewa (Old Bear), the bridegroom’s father; Chief Gilbert Blue of the Catawba Ntaion; Alan Stout of Gastonia, NC, best man; and bridegroom Jerry Gérard Antoine “Tsonakwa” Rancourt
Their Indian wedding was a new beginning for Gerard Anthony Rancourt, son of an Abenaki Indian from Canada and artist-in-resident at UNC-C, and Carol Brown, counselor to families of alcoholics at the Alcohol-Drug Abuse Division of the Gaston-Lincoln Mental Health Program.
Several days before their wedding, Carol and Jerry sat in her Gastonia office to think about the reasons they chose to include Native American elements in their wedding festivities.
“I have lived in both worlds,” Jerry said. “Lately I have found the more leisurely pace of the old way of life more comfortable.”
“Indians have close family and nature relationships,” said Carol. “They help one another and honor the elders in the family as well as understanding the need to maintain a balanced ecology.”
Carol and Jerry, who met at a alcohol counseling workshop in Meriden, Connecticut, have become involved in participating in Indian ceremonies and in working with Indians, and others interested in Indian traditions.
Both were active with the American Indians for Development while they were in Connecticut. Jerry’s son Gérard "Chickie" Anthony Rancourt III and daughter (Sherrie Elizabeth Rancourt born July 09, 1967 also to Brenda Joyce Hayes – Rancourt) are Sequoya members at Schiele Museum.
“My father came from a family of 14 children, and though they were poorly educated, there was great family unity and openness,” said Jerry. “My father was willing to accept new ways without leaving the old ways, and he became a very successful man.
“When I was young, I was embarrassed by my father. I was ashamed to bring friends home because my father spoke little English and our home was filled with Indian things. Today when you go to his house nothing outside is different – but you walk into a world more separate in time than in distance.”
As one, Carol and Jerry believe there is space for all men living together in the world. “I truly believe in the ceremony held after our wedding,” said Carol, “Meeting with Jerry is a reenactment of my spiritual self. We have more common then different interests.”
The couple wanted their wedding to be on the reservation at Rock Hill because the Catawba Indians are seeking their lost land and unity of their people. “Our reception was planned as a celebration of their success,” Jerry said. “We thought it an appropriate time because the Christmas season is a time for spiritual reflection.”
At the first Christmas came the message of peace and goodwill. That message was proclaimed again at the Indian wedding of Carol Brown and Jerry Rancourt.
[1.] Chief Gilbert Blue won recognition for Catawba tribe.
Chief Gilbert Blue of the Catawba Nation was born on Dec. 5, 1933, on the Catawba Indian Reservation to Guy Larson Blue (Dec. 03, 1911 – Feb. 07, 1984) and Eva George Starnes (June 07, 1910 – September 05, 1982). The family members are buried in the LDS Cemetery in Catawba, York County, South Carolina.
The grandson of former chief Samuel Taylor Blue (who married Hester Louisa Jane Canty), Gilbert Blue was elected chief of the Catawba Tribe of South Carolina in 1973. Under Chief Blue's leadership, the Catawba successfully pursued their lawsuit against the state of South Carolina for land claims under the Nations Ford Treaty of 1840 and their quest for the reinstatement of status as a federally recognized Indian tribe.
The Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993, which provided for resolution of both demands, was passed by Congress in 1993, and the final agreement was signed by South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell on November 29, 1994.
Chief Blue has been active in Native American issues and organizations. He was elected to the board of directors of the Native American Rights Fund in 1996 and served as chairman of its board in 2000 and 2001. He has served on the state board of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He was an original board member of the Rock Hill "No Room for Racism" Committee and has been involved in numerous other civil rights issues.
Editor's note: Chief Blue stepped down after 34 years as chief in 2007.
[2.] Khalil Gibran (full Arabic name Gibran Khalil Gibran, sometimes spelled Kahlil;[a] Arabic: جبران خليل جبران / ALA-LC: Jubrān Khalīl Jubrān or Jibrān Khalīl Jibrān) (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931) was a Lebanese artist, poet, and writer. He was born into a Maronite Catholic, from Bsharri, Northern Lebanon. Following her brother, Kahill, Jr.’s mother Kamilla came to NY in mid-1895, bringing her children with her, settling in Boston’s South End. Khalil, due to a misspelling of his name, became Kahill Gibran.
[3.] Gérard "Chickie" Anthony Rancourt III was born to Gérard Antoine “Tsonakwa” Rancourt’s 1st wife Brenda Joyce (nee: Hayes). Gérard III a.k.a. “Chicky” Rancourt’s parents separated in August 1972, and the divorce had been completed on March 11, 1977 in New Haven County, CT. She remarried to James Clarence Patterson on December 02, 1977, also in York County, South Carolina.
[4.] Eustace Conway (born Eustace Robinson Conway IV in 1961 in South Carolina) is an American naturalist. At age 17 Conway left home so that he could live in a teepee in the woods. He is the owner of 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) “Turtle Island Preserve” near Boone, North Carolina. Conway has three siblings: Walton, Judson, and Martha Conway.