I was born to a full-blooded enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians father and a half White Earthling (still not sure if that’s what they call each other) and half Red Laker mother (where she was enrolled). My mom wanted to name me after one of her brothers, my dad wanted to name me after running back called Lydell Mitchell and his own father John Red Eagle. Thus I became Lydell Jon. When my mom’s father Lawrence “Shorty” Roberts found out my name was Lydell, he immediately started calling me Jon Roberts and made sure everyone else did the same. So here I am, 36 years and 8 months later telling everyone my real name is Lydell but everybody calls me Jon. It’s caused confusion for as long as I can remember and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am one of 6 children between my father and mother. My 2 sisters are from a previous relationship my mother had with another White Earthling (there’s that word again). I have one other brother from Red Lake and a brother and a sister (I have yet to meet) on my dad’s side. Yes, my mother is a Beaulieu (she’s married), my dad is a Red Eagle and I am a Roberts and I am NOT adopted. Only in Red Lake!
My first memory of life on planet Earth is having cousins that were staying with me and my mom at our apartment in the Projects on the southside of Minneapolis and they were trying to find a ride. I’m guessing I must’ve been about 3 years old, which would put that in the summer of 1979. Elvis was dead, John Lennon would soon be joining him and I heard a lot of Fleetwood Mac and the Bee Gees on my mom’s record player. A lot. (It occurred to me in my early 20s that I had listened to so much John Travolta-related music growing up, I somehow new most of the words to every song on the Grease album. I digress.)
The “Projects Years” were a blur to me as you can imagine. But I do remember walking around that place unattended some times because it was a different time. The residents of that place looked out for each other and had respect because everybody was going through the same struggle. One of the great “what ifs” of my life have always been “What if I grew up in Minneapolis?” My life as a City Boy didn’t last very long.