RaCean Shute was 28-years-old when she first laid eyes on her birth father, that she can remember anyway. It’s not that her father, retired Coast Guardsman Michael Taylor, didn’t want to be part of her life — he said he was searching for his daughter for 26 years before a close friend finally found Shute on Facebook — they were all sure it was his long-lost daughter, Taylor said, because Shute looks just like his sister.
“This has been a long search for me and my life is complete now,” Taylor said.
Shute didn’t have any hard feelings, or any at all feelings, she said, about her birth father all those years. She had been raised as the daughter of her mother’s husband and had no recollection of Taylor.
Taylor was in Alaska as a Coast Guardsman on the USCG Cutter Russ 28 years ago. His duty was as “not the babysitters but, I guess, to protect them (crab fishermen) because the water was really rough.”
During his time in Alaska he found himself in Juneau, where at the bowling alley he became enamored with Shute’s mother. The pair were romantically entangled, but it turned out to be a forbidden romance. Shute’s mother was separated from her husband at the time, but not divorced and, Shute said, at that time, Taylor’s race was an issue within their community.
When Taylor’s family reached out to Shute after so many years of searching, Shute said she asked her mother, “Is this really true? Is this family really mine?”
Her mother was happy for her to reconnect with the paternal side of her family and told Shute about the hard time she and Taylor had been given those many years ago, how she was looked upon for dating outside of her race and how he was treated. That’s why, about six months after Shute’s birth, Taylor returned to Tyler, Texas.
Over the years, Shute, with her mother, lived in Juneau and Hoonah growing up, and now makes her home in Angoon.
Whether it was moving around that made it difficult, or if it was a misspelling of Shute’s last name that kept Taylor from finding his daughter, when it finally happened, Shute found herself showered with affection from a whole side of her family she never knew.
“I was pretty overwhelmed,” Shute said. “I was pretty blown away, knowing that this family spent so long looking for me.”
“It’s just been, all my aunties and my uncles and everybody in Texas, they’s just ecstatic,” Taylor said.
Making up for lost time, Taylor arranged to spend nearly a full month in Angoon with his daughter, her fiance and her three children, Taylor’s grandchildren.
Taylor seemed especially excited that he had asked his fiancee back in Texas to spend about $500 on school clothes for his grandchildren, saying, “I’m gonna send ‘em to school in style.”
At the time of the phone interview, Taylor was waiting on delivery of the packages.
“Every time she looks around, my family’s sending money in the mailbox for her, even though she may not need it,” Taylor said, “They just want to support her.”
“Everybody’s proud of me in Texas because I stood up like a man to take care of my daughter,” Taylor said.
When Taylor and Shute were first in touch, Shute said she started to get daily phone calls and letters from her father and her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She said she talks to one of her newly discovered family members every day.
“It’s been awesome these past two years,” Shute said of the time she’s been in touch with Taylor. “I’ve only known my mom’s side of the family.”
Her maternal grandparents have died, as did her fiance’s father, so Shute was happy to discover she had “a whole other family just in another state,” and that her children still would have a grandfather in their lives.
“It’s not like I’ve forgotten about them,” Shute said of her deceased relatives, but her children are “excited now that he’s here, they don’t ever want him to go.”
And Taylor doesn’t want to go for too long either, though he’s got a life back in Texas, he’s hoping that his retirement from the US Coast Guard will allow him to spend more time with his only daughter.
“I’m not rich but I’m not financially broke,” Taylor said, expressing an interest in buying a little place near his daughter and grandkids.
Despite the tension Taylor felt 28 years ago, he said he’s felt very welcome in Angoon.
“Everybody in town, they welcomed me with open arms,” Taylor said. “I’m not a Native, but they welcomed me into the Raven clan.”
During his time there, Taylor has gotten a chance to interact with his daughter and her community and experience Alaska as part of that community. Taylor said Shute took him fishing, “And she kicked my butt on the fishing.”
Shute and Taylor, as well as their extended family members, have all said they are ecstatic about the reunion.
“I prayed to the lord that he help me, and he helped me,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t rest in peace until I saw my daughter before I leave this earth. She’s my only child, the only baby I got ... and I’m a grandaddy now.”