Ethel Green Hair

Working with the Carlisle School records, we certainly discover that if some of the students were forced to be renamed, certainly not all of them were.  A case in point is Ethel Green Hair.  She was a Winnebago Indian from Nebraska. 

I’m positive that the surname Green Hair was not assigned by the school.  But of course, this certainly causes me to wonder, where and how she obtained that surname.  Someone had to have had green hair, or so it would seem.

Native people, like all others, assuredly had a sense of humor.  I think back to my own family and the time I accidentally turned my hair green.  My brother was merciless.

I was about 13, a very impressionable age for a young female child.  I was going to visit my married brother for a week in the summer.  That was about the time that a product called “Sun In” was quite the rage.  It was meant to give your hair “summertime streaks of blonde” like you had been swimming all week.  My natural hair color is very dark, so blonde streaks were never going to happen naturally.  So I sprayed and sprayed and only managed to come up with something akin to a little dirty blonde on top of my dark brown hair.  Not at all what was pictured on the bottle of the product.

When  I went home at the end of the week, my mother was VERY unhappy with my new look.  I wasn’t any happier, but I wasn’t about to admit it.  However, the worst was yet to come.  At home, I swam at the public swimming pool every afternoon.  Lots of chlorine in that pool.  You could smell it a block away and it burned your eyes.  It was nice to get back to the pool as I had missed both swimming and my friends while I was gone.  I swam all afternoon on Monday and when I returned home about the same time my mother got home from work, she took one look at me and said “NOW what have you done to your hair.”  I looked at her indignantly and said in my very best 13-year-old indignant voice “Nothingggggg!”  In return, she gave me “the look.” 

I went into the bathroom and peered into the mirror, and to my utter horror, in the places where I had used the “Sun In” product on my hair the week before, the chlorine in the pool had turned my hair a lovely shade of slime green.  The lighter the streak, the greener the color.

I was utterly horrified and was absolutely positive that my life would end.  My mother though found it amusing and told me that I deserved just what I got for using the forbidden “Sun In” product in the first place.  But my brother, he never let that die.  He forever, called me, “Green Hair” whenever he thought about it and wanted to get a rise out of me.  It worked every time until I got old enough and wise enough to laugh along with him.

So maybe, just maybe, Ethel Green Hair had some kind of similar story…or maybe she was the recipient of the Green Hair name as a result of something one of her ancestor’s did.  Maybe Green Hair was some type of honor that we’re not aware of. 

But in my family,   I’m thinking my son and daughter would NOT like to be known as Green Hair. regardless of how the name was acquired.  But my brother, well, he would just love it as long as it was my name and not his!

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About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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