Sharing the Past with Minnie McWilliams
By Shelly Middleton, Two Rivers Tribune (2003)
Hoopa Tribal member Minnie McWilliams, 87, has been a lifetime resident of the Hoopa Valley and despite hardship said her life was very good.
Minnie was born on Jan. 1, 1916 to the late Ned and Louisa Jackson. She had six sibling, three brothers, and three sisters.
Despite being raised in Hoopa, Minnie still claims her Redwood Creek Tribe, from her mother’s side.
Minnie attended the Indian boarding school in Hoopa until she was eleven years old. She then moved to Riverside, CA where she attended the Sherman Institute for high school.
That’s where Minnie became interested in cosmetology. She said she and her friends would always do each other’s hair in the beauty parlor at Sherman. Upon graduating high school, she took her board state exam in Los Angeles.
After working as a cosmetologist for several years, Minnie decided to come home to help take care of her father.
“My father was blind,” explained Minnie. “We (brothers and sisters) used to take him to the doctor in Eureka to try and help him get his sight back.”
Soon after Minnie decided to go back to work. She went from making people look beautiful, as a cosmetologist, to welding at a shipyard in Eureka.
Minnie said welding wasn’t just a man’s job, and she took great pride in her work.
“I would show off my work to some of the men there,” said Minnie.
During employment as a welder Minnie became pregnant and was forced to quit, something she did not want to do.
Minnie moved back to Hoopa to take care of her daughter. She said she was staying at a home almost all of the way to the top of Bald Hill. When her daughter was only three months old, she grew very ill.
Minnie took her to the hospital, but said it was too late. Her daughter passed on.
She had a total of eight children in her lifetime, but now has only one left. Her son Arthur Jones, who was raised in Hoopa as well.
“I always wanted kids,” said Minnie. “And now I have a lot of grand kids. It makes me happy visiting with them.”
The kind-hearted woman has nine grand children and seven great-grand children, with two more on the way.
Minnie, who was named after her aunt, was proud to say that one of her great-grand daughter’s is named after her.
Family was and is the most sacred thing in Mini’s life. She spoke of her mother Louisa when she was still living.
“My mother was beautiful. She had long curly hair and she always looked beautiful,” Minnie described.
Despite her father’s blindness, Minnie recalled her father’s kind heart. She said he used to walk out to the shed when she was little and cut kindling and wood and bring it into the house to keep the family warm.
Minnie also spoke of her grandmother, the late Mary Ann Jackson, a woman she described as “a little woman with a lot of love”. Also, friend and classmate Ruby Jarnaghan, and the late Boots Masten.
Kindness, is a perfect way to describe Minnie.
“If I see somebody that needs help, I’ll help them,” said Minnie.
She has even sent money to help feed children in need from other countries.