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I am a first cousin once removed to Edward Curtis.

Edward Curtis spent most of his lifetime photographing Native Americans.

Edward Curtis spent most of his lifetime photographing Native Americans.

The famous Native American photographer was my Grandmother’s first cousin. Because my grandmother gifted some of his work to her children, I have two first plate photo copies of his work hung in my house.

This hangs on our walls,,and we still talk form time to time.

This hangs on our walls,,and this guy and I still talk from time to time.

Works by Edward Curtis hung on the walls of my parents home in Florida, too. I’d stand before them and stare at the faces in the photographs, and sometimes it almost seemed those caught by Curtis’ camera could speak. I’d study the lines on their faces and feel as though I knew how they felt-it was as if I knew their life.

Oddly, but maybe though a strong genetic urge to understand the Native Americans, the same one that drove Edward Curtis on to photograph America’s indigenous people, I spent my childhood days wishing I was an Indian. My brother and I romped around outside dressed as Indian’s with only a simple towel wrapped around our privates held in place by our belts. We terrorized our neighbor’s backyards playing, sensing, wishing we were part of those crafty, savvy  tribes we saw depicted on TV or in the Curtis pictures. Oh, to shoot a bow and to understand the eagle’s cry, this was my fondest hope. At the time, I never thought that any other child felt differently about our indigenous people. I thought everyone wore only towels when they could. Looking back, yeah, no, that wasn’t really happening.

That’s exactly what that cop said, too. “You kids gotta get dressed.”

My dreams were often about being an Indian scout. I’d climb high up in a tree,,, and look for signs of other people, or wild animals. I was always a super scout in those dreams….then I would sleep.

My fascination for the Native American, or indigenous people, was not singular to me- those tendencies ran rampant throughout my family.

My sister, Sharon Franquemont, is an adopted full fledged Lakota. She spent ten years studying and working with the tribe. Sharon went on to help organize a once a year gathering and beating of the drum in Washington D.C.-right on the lawn by the Washington Monument

An aerial view of one of the first gatherings.

An aerial view of one of the first  Native American vigils/gatherings in D.C.

Sharon went on with the vigil, A Prayer Vigil for the Earth*, for ten years and it was still on-going as of 2012. The gathering was a collective effort to alert our leaders about the World’s need for Peace. At first, it was a small gathering of five to seven tribes that came and set up Tepees in a circle by the Washington monument.

On the lawn, right by the Washington Monument.

On the lawn, right by the Washington Monument.

As I recall, Sharon used her own money and collected more to fly chiefs from various tribes to the site for the first few vigils. The drum would beat for three days and nights, and all the while speakers would take center stage on a 8X8 foot wooden platform and give the lecture they felt had to be shared.

By the end of Sharon’s ten years, tepees were set up by groups that came from Japan, Africa, Europe, heck all around the globe who were seeking world peace …My sister carried on Edward Curtis mission and then some. (I’m gonna leave out how Sharon also worked with the Shumei Institute in Japan and traveled the world over talking about world Peace.-that’s another whole story.) )

My brother,  Edward Franquemont, spent ten years living with indigenous people of the Andes.

He is shown here holding me back for my own good, I think.

Ed is shown here holding me back for my own good, I think. Sharon keeps above the fray—but check out the super spring coiled glider snow sled!

Ed was featured in a Nova special-Secret of the lost Empires-the Incas(Secrets Of Lost Empires:The Inca Empire Part 1/6 [Video]) –you can learn about the Incas and see my brother host the show, the first man talking once the narrator stops….it’s so interesting.

My brother , Ed, and his wife, Christine Franquemont, lived in the Andes and raised their two girls in those mountains. They learned to speak the various dialects of the Native People. They both were devoted to helping the cause for the Peruvian Native people and in  particular Ed studied their weaving, the meanings of the threads and design they used, while also translating to the outside world what the process of weaving meant to that society.

My brother, Ed, working a handspindle.

My brother, Ed, working a hand-spindle.

Christine became an authority on the subject of potatoes, the  Peruvian’s main dietary food. Both traveled across the Pond lecturing on their individual expertise-to England, South American and Japan. That was just the way they rolled.

Christine Franquemont in Peru. I can't figure why she's holding my brother's hat? Hats seldom leave bald heads.

Christine Franquemont in Peru. I can’t figure why she’s holding my brother’s hat? Hats seldom leave bald heads.

So there you have it: My sister went all in with the Lakota, and helped organize what became a world-wide gathering at the Washington D.C. Monument that showcased the Native American people and called for world peace; my brother studied the Peruvian Inca culture and brought it to the mainstream via a Nova special. His wife, Christine, studied the Peruvians and loved their culture and land.

Point—Edward Curtis lives on through my family, through my sibling’s efforts, and their interests. They each fought for indigenous people, for their right to exist and continue their beliefs and cultural interests, and for the less fortunate, and so much more. I have to add, my daughter, Kelly Franqueont, now working in impoverished school districts throughout South Africa is also carrying on this tradition of working to help indigenous people.

Kelly's determined to help people learn how to teach, and help children learn.

Kelly’s determined to help people learn how to teach, and help children learn.

Ed and Chris had just returned from Peru for a visit, while I stayed put dreaming of lake time.

Ed and Chris had just returned from Peru for a visit, while I stayed put dreaming of lake time. (Back yard in Micanopy Floirda-1981ish,)

One last thing-wouldn’t you know that Abby Franquemont-my brother’s oldest child-has dedicated years to expounding upon and learning the Peruvian methods of weaving.

She learned form her dad, Ed Franquemont, and from the Peruvians. She is on google.

She learned from her dad, Ed Franquemont, and from the Peruvians, and then from 40 years of practice. She is on google. See Abby here, and learn more about her efforts.

Edward Curtis is dancing somewhere because of Abby’s, Christine’s, Ed’s, Sharon’s and Kelly Franquemont’s accomplishments.

Me, I celebrate them all, too, but I’m a bit different from my siblings- that’s also another story……/Secrets_of_Lost_Empires_The…/

Gerald Franquemont
Talk with you later, ...

Talk with you later, … Franque23

*This comment is found by clicking the comment button at the top of the post, but I thought Sharon’s adds so important that I’d * them and include her words here. Sharon’s comment: “Gerry, so heart warming that you were working on this just before the Edward S. Curtis video came across Facebook.  Of course, the Prayer Vigil for the Earth, which was held every year for 20 not 10 years, was far from a 1 person event.  Betsy Stang recommended most of the Native people (extraordinary Wisdom Keepers…I still marvel at who graced our time) and David Berry arranged for our guests to visit State Department, White House, Congress, etc. They were far more politically savvy and active than I was or am. About the 3rd year into our 20 of a 100% voluntary event on the Mall, wonderful volunteers stepped up in DC..Sue, Ben, Bill R.,Ellie R.,  Bill S., Rabiah, Chris Linas and many more helped us organize and erect the Peace Village every year. We remained together for 17 years. The list goes on and on because wonderful beings brought themselves and often their community to join us. After the 4th year, we were ready to retire, but Harry F. Byrd advised us to go on and invite other faiths to join us.  That is how we became an interfaith event.  Although I did contribute financially every year, so did others whose names at their request will be anonymous. Before 9/11, things were very wonderful with the National park Service helping us with permits and understanding. After 9/11, the event became far more difficult. I definitely felt and feel tapped by Edward S. Curtis and always will. Of course, Grandma Franque and all the Franquemonts are in there, too.”



Chris Franquemont: a person of light.

It’s hard to believe that Chris is gone. She was a special person, not just in my life, but in the lives of all those who knew her.  It’s impossible to know how long I’d have gone on in life not totally understanding how much she really meant to me had she not died just this week. But there it was, first the news of her passing and then an instant awareness in my soul that all of that was wrong, it couldn’t be. Of course, none of her death is acceptable.

I’ve come to realize now, Chris was a binding part of a strong thread in my life that connected me with the intelligentsia of my extended family, and to my brother, her husband, Ed Franquemont, now gone nine years, as well as to their children, Abby and Molly. To sit down and discuss anything with Chris was much like buying a trip ticket to thoughts that might go anywhere and then only stop somewhere unknown, or perhaps, the thoughts exchanged might go on forever , always spinning inside my head for years and years.  Certainly, no moss ever grew beneath her sentences, each quickly leading to another thought offering a widening avenue of exchange enriched by challenging ideas. And about those ideas? Chris never gave up on her beliefs; “I won’t back down” could have been her theme song.  She fought for the ideals she knew were right, and not just when it came to the Peruvians she’d come to love, or their lore, way of life and their needs, but in everything she did. Women and Men world-wide can be proud of Chris Franquemont, a conservationists, environmentalist, humanitarian, anthorpologist and so much more.

I’ve been surprised these past three days by all the vivid pictures my mind holds of her image, her smile, way of talking, laughing eyes and blazing speed of thought. Why? You see, if you’d met me just ten years ago you may not know there was a Chris Franquemont in my life, we’d done so little talking during all those years. Ten years passed by, each of us so busy and on our own paths. But,  it isn’t just her absence in my daily life for the past ten years that brings me much of the heart ache I feel today, some of it comes by way of a time long ago, one almost forty years past.

You see, at twenty I was young, knew everything there was to know, but for everything I didn’t, and I carried with me the confidence of a bear in the woods. Of course, I was also a complete idiot, so unskilled at life, still mostly wearing clothes my parents had bought while driving their cars as needed. Perhaps, all I really had was my music, guitars I strummed while singing with a voice that worked. Thing is, when I showed up so long ago to spend Thanksgiving at Chris and my brother Ed’s place, a farm-house in  Bolton, Mass., neither one ever let on that I couldn’t think my way out of a paper bag. Here were two people, a Radcliffe gal and Harvard man, who understood the growing process, people so kind as to consider the importance of every living thing and the expanding universe.

Ed and Chris: two great thinkers, and two of the kindest people on the planet.

Ed and Chris: two great thinkers, and two of the kindest people on the planet.

“I’m almost you’re age. Did you know that?” Chris spoke so clearly during one of our first conversations.

“Really?” See? That was stupid of me to ask-would she be lying? “Wow-Ed’s older!”

“Well, only four years older. That’s not much time.” Chris never stopped helping me gain better perspectives. She had that knack.

Of course, four years from now it will seem like forever since we last spoke. Actually, four days feels that way. In truth, losing Chris marks the end of so much and begins a pain I know will never go away. Memories will help bridge the gap between what I wish and what is, and construct a new highway of feelings I know many others will share with me as they remember Chris. In the end,all I can say and feel is thanks. Thanks to Chris for helping me so much when I most needed her support and for being the person she was. The World needed Chris, and she gave us her best shot.

Everyone who knew Chris knows she loved Peru. In a death that seems so wrong, that she passed in a land she loved feels so right.

So, this is a formal goodbye to Chris Franquemont in person, but never in my heart. I’ll keep up, move on and make my way. But like everyone else who was lucky enough to know Chris, I’ll gladly take a part of her with me as I go. That I’ll hold.

Goodbye, and Peace, Chris.

Gerald Franquemont



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