By: Oranna B. Felter, (Her Sister)
Elizabeth Marleen Bumgarner was born on August 14, 1952. I still remember the day Marleen was born. She was born during the annual Sundance. The day Marleen was born is still fresh in my memory because my Father and Mother ran the Concession Stand at the Sundance grounds near Whiterocks, Utah, where they sold Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Candy, Pop and the usual foods. Dad always had a large pot of stew or beans cooking along with Fry Bread and plenty of fresh hot Coffee to wash it all down.
I can remember my dad getting up in the middle of the night and it was raining. To this day in my mind, I can still hear the rain drop’s on the canvas tent that we were sleeping in. I remember Dad waking us up and telling us that Grandpa and Grandma Curry would be there with us for the rest of the night, because he had to take Mom to the hospital to get the new baby we’d all been waiting for. It seemed like it took forever before Dad came back and told us we had a new little sister. I could hardly wait to see this little baby girl that we had been waiting so long for. When I first seen her I fell in love with her. She had the cutest round face, wavy black hair and dark brown eyes just like our Mother’s. She also had my Mom’s name “Elizabeth.”
Mom and Dad had the store in Fort Duchesne plus mom was on the Affiliated Ute Board, so she was busy working two jobs. It was up to Dad, Craig and I to watch over Marleen when Mom had to work. But if something came up my mom’s sister Oreane (Curry) Garcia was the number one Babysitter and Marleen loved her.
Our Uncle Dick Curry was working in Fort Duchesne back then and often would make it a point to stop by the store and play with Marleen on his way home from work.
Marleen was the average “baby boss” and ruled the Bumgarner house. She had my older brother Reggie wrapped around her little finger. He just loved her. For someone that always acted so tuff his heart would melt when he would hold Marleen on his lap and kiss her on the cheek and forehead. When he was home on leave from the Marine’s and it was time for him to go back... I can still see him in his Marine Uniform kneeling down and picking Marleen up and kissing her. Reg always had nicknames for everyone and he called Marleen “Marly...”
Her favorite playmate was Sue Denver, who lived next door to us. She and Sue were almost inseparable. Wherever Marly was, sue was there also and they were usually making Mud Pies or playing Dolls.
When Marleen started to school. She was smart and could pick up on her alphabet and numbers really good... I guess she took after dad who was fantastic with numbers and reading. But then it seemed Marleen started to be sick all the time. Mom spent a lot of time taking her back and forth to the doctor. Dr. Paul Stringham had his office Roosevelt back in the 50’s and that’s who usually treated Marleen, as it seemed they were phasing out the old brick hospital on top of the hill in Fort Duchesne. She would get a cold and had a hard time getting over it. Then it was sore throats. It just seemed like every time she turned around she was sick. Then her kidney became infected and this really drained her. She couldn’t go to school anymore because she was just to sick most of the time. The Doctors done tests on her and found out she had a kidney disease called “Nephritis.” She would eventually die from kidney failure caused by this disease!
Marleen was so sick... She spent three quarters of her time either in the hospital or at the doctor’s office. Her body would retain fluids causing her to swell up like a balloon. I felt so bad because kids would make fun of her and she would cry and cry. Mom and dad got her a cute little black and white spotted dog and Marleen named her “Trixie” or “Trixann.” When Marleen got worse and was confined to a wheel chair. Trixie would ride in her lap.
Mom was trying to work at the Store and on the Board during this time period when termination was in full swing on the Reservation. Our mother and father were having martial problems. Dad left and went back to Oklahoma. Mom, Marleen, Craig and I moved to Roosevelt. I got married and moved to Whiterocks and Marleen started getting worse. Termination hit the mixed-blood Uinta’s like a bomb and our family was not excluded from the destruction it caused. The mixed blood Uinta’s was on their own. Most were left with no physical means to support themselves because everything was taken from them. All of our People who were sick or had problems were up the creek. The government wouldn’t let them use the Indian Health Services... They had no medical attention at all except what they could pay for. Most of the people had to start selling off what little assets they had just to be able to survive, if they had anything at all!
On the afternoon of May 19th 1962, Mom called me from the hospital in Vernal, Utah to inform me that Marleen had taken a turn for the worse. My husband and I drove the 35 plus miles to the hospital in Vernal as quick as we could. When we arrived, my mother was sitting by my little sister’s bed. Her kidneys had quit working... Marleen would scream in pain. As I looked down and seen the suffering Marleen was going through, I though back to the time before she was sick. When she was beautiful, with her wavy black hair and dark brown eye that would just sparkle when you talked to her... Now lying in the bed at the hospital, was this that cute little Native American girl who I loved. She now had hardly any hair. The sparkle in her eyes was gone and replaced with pain... And looking at my mother who loved this little girl so much... My heart broke in a Million pieces.
I walked out of the room and seen my brother Reggie and his eyes were red from crying... My Grandpa and Grandma Curry was sitting in the waiting room with their heads hung low and my little brother Craig was outside by himself. It was an awful feeling. I was pregnant with my first child. And was pretty sick myself, so mom told me to go back home and she would call me if anything changed... I went to the bed where my sister was lying and kissed her on the forehead and told her how very much I loved her and mom. She was trying to be so brave; Marleen looked up at me and said, “I’m so sick.” I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her everything would be okay. That the terrible pain she was suffering would go away! I watched as my Mother held my little sister in her arms as she was drowning in her own fluids. It was so painful! I wanted to run out of the room and pretend like this awful situation wasn’t happening. I wanted to tell my Mother what a good Mom she was and how brave she was.
I left the room never thinking that would be the last time I would see my little sister Marleen alive. She died on May 20, 1962 at three o’clock in the morning of acute kidney failure. Mom had the traditional Indian wake at our house in Roosevelt. To this day I can still remember my Grandpa and Grandma Curry, along with many other people, staying up all night, watching over Marleen casket. And right by her side, at the head of the casket was her little dog “Trixie,” she never left. Trixie died of old age at my Uncle Dick Curry’s house.
Maybe things would have turned out different if we hadn’t been terminated and Marleen could have received the medical care she should have been given... I would have loved to watch her grow from a child to a teenager, a young Woman, then a Woman with Children of her own.
If termination hadn’t happened would things have been different?