Once a month, Higbee family members gather at a Citizen Potawatomi Nation-owned restaurant to discuss their heritage, Potawatomi culture and build camaraderie.

“We call the group ‘the cousins’ because we’re all cousins,” said the head of the Higbee family, John Dragoo.

After the October 2019 Higbee cousins meeting, they gathered at the Cultural Heritage Center where Dragoo unveiled a quilt handed down through the family for decades that features an in-depth Higbee family tree.

Decades after its creation, the Higbee quilt offers a unique look into the family’s past.

“We have a history of togetherness with the Tribe through common culture and history, and I don’t mind reliving it and restoring it and taking care of it,” Dragoo said.

Although the Higbees once met around the Noble, Oklahoma, area for family reunions, it has become harder over the years to organize annual gatherings. After receiving the title as head of the Higbees, Dragoo began looking for ways to get everyone together on a regular basis. Since several Higbees reside in the Tribe’s Father Joe Murphey housing, meeting near CPN headquarters makes it easier for elders to participate.

“It’s something that we’ve enjoyed a great deal. And for me, it just put me on a course of learning, or trying to learn, more about our family history,” he added.

Patching history

CPN member Gladys Moeller’s lifetime of research helped the Higbees develop their family tree, which Elwanda Higbee Moyer used to create the quilt more than 40 years ago.

“They worked on it several years at family reunions when we were holding them down at Purcell Lake,” Dragoo explained. “There’s a community building down there that we had a lot of family reunions. Elwanda would come down, and they would work on it with new people as they came in and tried to fill in and update what they had. That was back in the mid-‘70s.”

To raise funds for get-togethers, the Higbees auctioned the quilt and other hand-crafted items every year. Organizing the annual family reunion became too difficult, and the quilt’s whereabouts were unknown until recently. Today, they are able to use it as a reference once again.

“Seeing a physical piece of my family history was absolutely breathtaking,” said Ragan Marsee, Higbee descendant and CPN language aid. “I was able to point out my father and many other relatives on the quilt. That was so powerful to me.”

The quilt also serves as a reflection of the Higbee’s dedication to maintaining relationships with one another.

“As for my family and I, we have always been very close. I actually live on a farm with a large majority of my family, all of them Higbees as well,” Marsee explained. “We all bring different talents and blessings to each other, and every day I am reminded of how proud I am to be a Higbee.”

Festival 2020

The Higbees will display the quilt during Family Reunion Festival 2020. As an honored family, they will also have a meeting during Festival to build connections and fellowship.

“We plan to show the quilt as well as some of the other things that we’ve been working on. The family bought me a new walking stick, and we’ve got several family members that are working on shawls and different things,” Dragoo said. “We want to see what people have done.”

Organizers plan to post specifics on the Higbee meeting during Festival to their family Facebook group at cpn.news/higbee. For more information on Family Reunion Festival 2020, visit cpn.news/festival.