|For over seventy-five years I've been
interested in studying life. As best I can remember, that interest began
by listening to the campfire talks of the old grandfolks. When I was eight
or nine years old I began to get interested in my life and other people's
lifes, and I began to study things like how long I'm supposed to be on
earth. While I'm on earth I went through hardship. Yes, I did. But I went
around these "ships" and took care of myself as much as I could, because
I heard and paid attention to lectures.
Others my age went through a life too, but lectures are something
that a lot of my people don't say anything about. They don't talk about
it much, especially now-a-days, but never will that campfire talk be forgotten.
The old folks meditated us by the campfire. Meditators made
us think and wonder, and day after day we remember that fire and those
words. They brought light into darkness. We children were just like flowers
around the old man or old lady giving lectures, and the campfire gathering
was just like a great garden to us. And when the old woman or old man
was ready to hand out words to meditate us, that was something! I still feel good about that. I still remember that.
Time and again we sat by a campfire along the rivers and lakes. Lectures
were given next to the waters -- next to the lakes, next to the
rivers! They were given next to the great-water -- the Gichi-gami(2) -- and, they say, talks were given next to the ocean. That's where we Indians
sat for our campfire talks. Many times my mother, my sister Mary and I
sat along the old campfire grounds of my ancestors, where my father and
mother, and grandfolks, and all of my way-back relations used to stay.
They were on Leech Lake -- where my mother grew up -- Leech Lake, Mud
Lake, White Oak Lake -- where my mother and father first met, and where
I was born -- the Mississippi River, and the area around Lake Winnibigosh.
I could see my old folks when we were sitting in the open and talking
by the campfire at Mud Lake a few years ago, but I didn't say anything.(3)
I could see them giving lectures to the young people and poking
the campfires with sticks to emphasize a point! I could see their
ways of life. You should have seen the boats -- the canoes -- that used to
land on the shores of the Leech and Mississippi Rivers.(4)
The old folks made sugar in the spring,(5)
and after blueberry season(6) they came
to the rivers and lakes to pick wild rice.(7)
Campfire smoke floated up all along the shores as everybody processed
wild rice. The men went hunting in the fall.(8)
They were preparing -- preparing for the winter. Way up here in the north --
along the Mississippi bottom and Mississippi grounds -- we had to prepare.
We selected to live on and stay by the great river and its connected lakes,
so we always had to prepare. We had to prepare for what was coming before
us. And just like our seasonal activities prepared us for the winter ahead,
our lectures from the older class prepared us for the life that was coming.
As I sat there at Mud Lake, on that same ground we traveled in our
canoe days, I could see the old folks giving lectures about life
we were coming in to.
The old lady or old man who was going to give the lecture called
in all of the younger class who were big enough to understand the ways
of life. They called us all in by a campfire. Boy that was something when
we were called in for a lecture! The old man or the old woman would come
by the campfire after suppers were done. They would come along with a
cane. "There she is," or, "there he is," we'd say. We kids would be playing
out there by the camp, and when the old one hit that stick we'd all look:
"That's Grandma," or, "that's Grandpa," we'd call out to one another.
We called every old Indian person we knew well "grandma" or "grandpa"
in those days, whether or not they were related.
"Hurry up," one old woman lecturer said to us one time. We all looked,
and then we all went and sat around the ring by the campfire. If we were
old enough we had to go, whether we were still eating or not. When we
got there, the adults already had a fire going. Then this old woman gave
She didn't begin right away. We enjoyed a talk -- a visit -- with the
old people first. We talked to them. They were laughing and joking and
having a good time. But my people -- at times -- also whispered to me by the
One time I asked again, "Mother, why do you whisper when you're talking
here in the camp grounds like this?"
She told me what she always told me when I asked that question, "You
never know who's listening." That was just a reminder and proof to us
that we had to be careful.
While we were ricing, after ricing work was done, we might
get campfire talk twice. Otherwise it was about three or four times a
month. The lectures were for the younger generation, so they could listen
and follow the instructions that the old people gave, but almost everyone
except the littlest ones listened. The teenagers would listen; even the
old class could set in and listen.
The meditator wouldn't empower the little kids with a lecture because
they were still growing. They needed a home-talk instead. That's the way
the adults felt, because the littler kids were still growing and had lots
to learn. So the littler ones were just kept in the wiigwaam. And
sometimes, if one of the bigger kids didn't quietly listen to the lecture,
they were sent to be with the littler ones.
Billie Bedasky's wife Equay with their children, George, Selma (Misasowagside) and Rose (Gaybagbe), ca. 1911.
Photograph Collection, ca. 1911
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. AV2005.93.19 Negative no. 98893 Use Copy E97.33 p36
Probably the old man watched the littler ones very close, and he
would talk to them and maybe even feed them. He'd go around talking to
them. You talk to them, really. The young ones are hard to straighten
up with. You have to figure their energy, and then let them go when they
want to go. If they want to play, let them play. The men would give the small
boys bows and arrows, and tell them, "Go on, if you won't wanna talk.
Go as far as you can." But they watched them after they told them that.
The little ones most generally had a leader, and they'd go a mile or so
following him, then they'd come back. After that they were ready to sleep.
Ojibwe toy bow and arrows, Grand Portage, pre-1930.
1/2 inch (1)
1 inch (2)
14-1/2 X 3/4 inch (3)
Collected by: Frances Theresa Densmore
3D Objects , Not later than 1930
Minnesota Historical Society
Photograph by ltfhenry
xxx Original file (2,560 × 1,920 pixels, file size: 416 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
We older kids would be sitting around the ring by the campfire on
log benches with anybody who wanted to listen to an old man or
old lady give lectures about their life. It didn't matter who was
going to give the lecture, we all wanted to hear a lecture of the experience
of life. The older people, though, would always give the lecture, maybe
an old lady that lived a life. She would be maybe sixty-five, seventy,
or eighty. It didn't matter how old she was, just so she could talk. Like
I told you before, it wasn't easy to get up and talk in front of the group.(9)
But they'd sit there and point things out.
The old grandfolks were brave to tell us the way of the experience
they had in life. They were brave because they were giving their experience
to the younger generation. They were brave because they believed they
went through life and should know the better word because of the experience
they went through to make it better for the younger class. They were brave
because they understood life and how to tell the younger class to live.
When the old lady was ready to talk, one of the other old people would
say, "She's ready to leave a message to you."
The old lady sat there with a poker -- a stick she poked the fire with.
She poked up the fire -- a campfire -- then drew some roads in the ashes.
She drew a truth-of-life map -- a little design that looked like a deadened
tree with many short little branches. Then, by that campfire, the old
woman talked and gave a lecture of life to all. We looked at the fire,
and she spoke and got right down to the points where we'd have to listen:
"This is not for fun. If you listen to these words, I think
you'll always enjoy life. The people who went before us passed on these
words, and they lived a good and a long life. And people respected them."
"My children, you're coming into the world. You've been born
into this world. You were let down into this world. It's a big world
and there are lots of people in it. And the world is getting bigger
all the time. What I mean to say by 'getting bigger' is that there are
more people coming in all the time. Some you don't know, some you might."
"This is a trail I have drawed in the ashes, a trail of life.
And this is the new-born on the bottom. New-born babies are excused
from fault so there are no branches at the beginning of this trail.
When you get up to here, by these three branches, you have picked out
the way you want to live. When you get to be seven, eight, nine years
old you should know better and you are no longer are excused from fault.
When you get to this first 'Y' point you have no excuse not to believe
in God. You are ready to take both hands and believe in the Great
Spirit. You're ready to believe there is a God who walks before you,
who teaches you how to walk, who keeps the devil out, who keeps the
disease and the epidemic away."
"You're going out into a life, and there are woods, thorns,
and brush, that are going to grow on your path of life. You'll have
to make that path; you'll have to find your own path. You'll have to
figure out how you want to live on it. You might want to use that path
again. Somebody else might want to use that path, so be careful which
way you choose to go. When thorns come on that path you choose, you're
going to have a hard time to go through those thorns without a scratch;
you're going to have an awful time. If you go through those thorns without
a scratch you lived a perfect life. When you go through this life it's
just like going through a bunch of thorns. You're going to get scratched
here, you're going to get scratched there, if you aren't careful. You
have to stop, look, and listen, and be very careful where you go. You're
going to get scratched, but you have to pardon those thorns so that
you can find your way peacefully, or else you're going to trip or you're
going to fall. You know what I mean on that! It's a hard trail, but
if you're careful, you'll find your way to the end of this trail. You'll
find a good clearing, the good life. That's what you're looking for."
"When you're going along on the earth you'll be following
a straight path when you come to a fork where there's two paths, here,
at this 'Y' point, where a path branches off from the well-traveled
trail. You may mean well and may mean to take the main trail with the
fewest thorns, but there are sweet temptations which maybe will make
you think that you can get by with something. Maybe, you'll think, 'I
can get by on this smaller path. I'll grab this which I'm not entitled
to.' Maybe you're doing things to others that you shouldn't do. If you
are, that's a bad stitch or step on that path, and if there are a lot
of these bad stitches -- too many bad stitches -- that path is condemned.
But on a good path there aren't many bad stitches or thorns. There's
a certain number of them, sure, and it's hard to get by all the thorns.
But on a main path, a good path, there isn't another stitch there that's
not something you didn't mean to do well."
"Temptation hits here and there. Your temptation hits here.
It's bound to. If you follow those temptations you're going into thorns.
Your trail is going into thorns. In your young life you're going into
thorns. And if you go through this way, on the narrow path toward the
temptation, you'll see that those thorns are too thick there and you're
going to get all scratched to heck pretty soon. And if you still try
to continue on that trail you will sooner or later discover that you
cannot go through."
Those of us who were sitting there listening to the old woman knew
what she meant by all of that, but she would continue on to tell us about
incidents that happened in her life and what we had to do in our lives
to live a good life and avoid those thorns. When the old people were lecturing
like this you never asked questions, never answered, never said a word.(10)
When you take the lectures serious, you don't talk back. You want that lecture.
That's something good. With these lectures you're changing, and then you're
empowered when you're changed. See, if you don't take interest in lectures,
you don't have interest in anything. So we didn't dare to move or say
a word while they were talking. If we said anything, WHACK!!! If somebody'd
say a word he'd get a slap -- regardless of who he was. They meant it; that's
how important their words were. And if any of us did talk back, the other old
people would also have an answer ready.
One time this old woman was telling us about these thorns, and she
was talking about getting tangled up in the thick thorn brush when one
of the other young boys spoke up: "Oohh!!! Grandma, how about the axe?"
Axes were still a big thing to us kids in those days. "I'll take an axe
and I'll chop them thorns down and out of my way to make a road. I'll
find my way. If I can't get an axe, I'll take a knife. That's how I'll
get to my journey's end. I'll cut that brush down. Would that be all right?"
She pointed at that smart-aleck with her fire-poking stick right
away. Shaking that stick towards him she told him right there:
"Your smart answer is good to you. Okay. But if you're going
to sass like that and be a smart-off just because you have the other
children with you, just to make a laugh, just to make a joke of it,
you're not going to last very long. You're not going to go through that
full path of life."
"You talk back. You're the one that isn't going to carry your
life through with that axe. You just go ahead and try it. I'm sorry
for you though, if you try it. That's work; that's hard work. If you
like work like that when you're young, you're going to find better brush
to cut than thorns. You'll have a better brush to handle, brush that's
easier to cut, because you won't go far. The ones that talk back are
the ones that die off fast."
"You answered me the way you want to live, and I can see that
means for you a short life. You're the one that is not going to see
your life through."
When the lecture got pretty hot like that -- or when the old grandfolks
wanted to emphasize a point during their meditation of us -- they'd hit
that burning wood and hot coals and the fire would spark. When they hit
those coals, how they'd spark! They'd be drawing the young folks' attention,
and we'd look at them. Then they'd look at us and point at that fire with
their poker. We looked at that fire, with its different flames, different
colors. My old people sat and watched the campfire glow too. We watched
the fires of all forms, and we studied life by words . . . by words of the
How we respected the glowing fire! And my older class reached out
with their canes, poking the wood together.
To get light. When the
fire's low they poke the wood together and it throws better light. They
burned their canes(11) to make us understand!
On the old woman's cane there were burning coals. The burning cane was
sweeping those coals together to get more light to have you hear better.
The meditator had a better sounding in her voice with that light. Then
you didn't dare to answer back because she had the burnt cane. Pretty
soon the wood was poked together and the light was there. And if you wanted
more of that light you'd take another stick of wood and put it in the fire.
We kids just looked at the glowing fire. We began to wonder what
burns that light. We wondered why that fire flames up when you poke it.
We looked back of the fire -- to the background -- and saw beautiful light
glowing amongst the trees.
Never be without a flame in your life.
The meditator was still talking, telling about examples from her
life to back up the points she was making. We listened. And by hearing
the voice of her we began to wonder about that. We began to think, "How?
Why do we hear?"
We loved to hear her voice. Every word meant something for the younger
in life. We loved that. The campfire talk is a great thing. It makes you
wonder. It makes us feel good. When we heard the old grandfolks talk we
began to wonder, and we kept studying on such points that were pointed
out to us. Campfire talk was at the end of the day, but the next day we'd
think about what we heard that night before. The next day we'd recognize
that there was something to that talk, and it made us feel good.
How good we felt. That's a remedy. That's a remedy. The fire was
burning your sorrows. It was burning the low resistance out of you. The
old grandwoman was giving us a meditation through fire. It was purifying
our mind, sight, hearing -- and it felt good. How good that was! The glowing
fire flashed up towards us and we wanted more. Not a word -- not a word! --
did I have to say.
I was listening.
The old woman continued on with her campfire talk, explaining more
about the road of life and what we had to do to keep from getting tangled
up in the thorn brushes:
"I'll give you a trail to follow. And the ones that don't
say anything -- the ones that just listen and study this lecture that
I'm giving -- will make it to the end of the full path of life. And when
you're up on the end of that long trail of life you're going to look
back and think, 'Now we know what the old people were talking about!'
You'll realize that the open trail around the wicket led to a betterment
of life. And when you finished your life and get on towards the end
of the trail, it gets brighter and better and clearer all of the time.
And when you get up toward the very end you'll look back, and ask again,
'where's the others. Some of the others have failed.' Maybe just a few
of you are going to make it to the end of this trail. If you do, you'll
think you lived a life. If you make it to the very end of this trail
you did live a life."
"Then you'll commence to wonder about these that were coming
along back of you but are not with you. You would like to be in the
group of your old chums, your old friends. They failed because they
wanted to go too much on their own way, which wasn't right. You went
up on the trail which I think was right. You were lucky, you found a
"Why were you lucky?"
"Because you stopped and looked and listened
to this old personal experience of life the old people told you. That's
why we're leaving a word for the younger class. We went through that
life; that's why I'm here talking to you by this campfire."
"You'll come to another campfire in your old age, and that'll
be your campfire to tell the children -- the next generation -- where to
go on the path of life. That's how you use your path again. If you continue
lectures, the children might follow the same trail too. When the old
people go, you'll be able -- when you get old -- to tell the children of
your experience of life. You'll be able to teach the younger class by
your experience. There'll be another generation coming through and you'll
tell them, 'There's a campfire here. We'll sit and talk by this campfire.'
Maybe there'll be children of your own coming up, and if there are,
you'll be able to tell them about the road you traveled, about the
road all old Indians traveled, and about what you went through. What
you know you'll be able to pass on."
"And at these last campfires of yours you'll sit down and
rest and wonder about the ones that didn't make it. You'll be sitting
there with the other old timers. You'll all be thinking, 'The others
were lost. They couldn't get through. They destroyed themselves by taking
the wrong road. Yes, they destroyed themselves by taking the wrong road.
They didn't stop to believe in anything. They didn't want to listen
to anybody. They didn't want to cooperate.'"
"I know that because I've seen it, and I've lived it."
"If you take those short trails, you'll find they're no good.
But if you take a good trail you'll make it. You can't see ahead on
the trail, but if you're good, you're going to go right along that trail.
First thing you know, you'll go right through those thorns without getting
many scratches and you'll look back and ask, 'Where's that other guy?
Where's the guy who was going to cut those thorns with an axe?'"
"You're going to think of a lot of things, but you will find
that if you can give your experience to the younger class, that's the
best part of life. It's the best part of life knowing they're going
to use your campfire talks in the next generation."
We had good talkers in my days and I liked to listen to them. It
was just like hearing a story of their life. I always thought a lot of
campfire lectures from the old class -- the old Indians. They were telling
us the history of their life when they told us to follow that one trail.
That's how we learned to follow the history of their life. That's how
we got to know the truth of history.
I was one to be all ready for the lectures, and I and the other kids
would listen all right, but once in a while we'd be thinking of something
to tell one another about playing around in this great world. You know
how foolish we all are sometimes as kids and teenagers. Sometimes you
look at one of your pals and have to make some grin, so we didn't dare
to look at one another. But when you listen to lots of lectures, sometimes
they'd make you laugh. If we'd crack a smile the old people were looking
at us right now. "What's the matter? Huh?," they'd say. If there were
a lot of girls, teenagers, and a lot of us kids sitting around, and if
somebody'd giggle, the old folks would say, "You . . . go! Go. When you
get over that come back. Good-by."
We didn't dare to look at the other kids when they busted out laughing.
If that happened I didn't look at them, but I wanted that lecture to be
done. That didn't happen very often, but when it did, and if a parent
wasn't there at the time it happened, one of the other older folks, well,
they'd go and tell her mother, "That child of yours was full of giggles
and was having lots of fun during the lecture."
BANGO right now!
Her mother would tell her, "You're never going again 'till you're
able to be amongst the crowd."
If there wasn't any disturbment -- which, of course, there generally
wasn't -- the old woman giving the lecture would continue her lecture right
on, and start talking about the commandments. A lot of people think the
Indian didn't have commandments, but we did -- lots of them. When the
old woman got through explaining about the road of life and staying out of
the thorns, she'd start talking about the great commandments:
"Stay on the good trail of life. What trail is it that you're
on? Do you want this trail on the other side of the fire, or do you
want the good trail? This is life you're going to go through. Are you
going to go around the fire, or are you going to go right through it,
or what? That's a big fire! Here, there are different trails. You want
to go along with the good people? You want to go along with the bad?
Well? Live on that trail," and she'd point it out in the ashes. "Live on that good trail. Don't take the rough
path. Keep going straight."
"Watch those vines, and go around those thorns if you can.
Watch those thorns; they may be poison; maybe they'll scratch you, cut
you, injure you, infect you. If they scratch you too much you'll be
sick. Maybe you'll be injured. You won't last. But if you're careful
and watch your step as you go, you'll go through this life all right."
"Be careful. You're never living alone. There's always somebody
else living in this world. Remember he wants to live just as well. He
wants to live just like you want to live.(12)
How are you going to live? How is he going to live? He has his own mind;
you have your own mind. Take care of your own mind. If you want to live
rough and act rough, you'll get it. If you want to live a decent life,
live a decent life and you'll be happy. You'll feel well. When you live
rough, you'll get what you're asking for. If you want to live a decent
life, like a good person, live clean and you'll get a clean life. You'll
feel well. No evilness will get into you. You'll go around and nothing
will endanger you. It can't. It's easy to understand that. That's the
way they used to do it."
"Respect others. Respect people who you come to; they're living
too. If you're kind to others, they'll be kind to you. If you don't
like the next person or the way he's living -- if you want the next person
to live the way that he should live -- you ask your Spirit to take care
of that. He will. If you don't like it, he'll straighten it."
"Respect the old people. Always look forward to the old class,
and follow them. Never laugh at them if anything happens. Never laugh
at the old people. They'll probably stumble over things or trip, so
try and be ready to help them. By trying to be ready to help them up
on their feet you'll always feel good over that. Always be ready to
"Respect nature. Respect the world you live in and you'll
go further in this life. You have to study nature; you have to figure
out why things happen. If we had continuous sunshine, what would happen?
What would happen if we had cloudy days continue, if it was continuously
cloudy and cloudy? I don't think that'll happen. I don't think that
could happen. In places it might happen, but if it does, Nature will
take care of herself. Nature is a big thing, so respect it. All the
respect that you use will not harm you; it will do you good. Maybe the
others will look forward to you and see that you live a good life. Maybe
they'll have a word to say to you because they see you've gone along
all right by respecting things, and they'll want to follow you."
"Always listen. And join in discussions. When someone has
a word to say to you or when they have a meeting, join those discussions.
You'll learn more as you do. They want to hear you. It doesn't matter
what they do with what you say. They don't have to do what you say in
the discussion at the meeting -- they don't have to do what you say anywhere -- but you can point out where it's dangerous and where it
might disturb the betterment. If you point out something good to develop
the area, and if it sounds good and looks good, they'll exercise it,
and you'll have done something for the people. They'll figure it's something
good that you did for others. That's what you're here for, to help and
rebuild all the time for the betterment of our people."
"Be careful what you say to others. And if you are, they'll
be careful with you. We should love one another, and explain to one
another our historical part(13) and
the experience of our own life. Maybe by doing that they may avoid some
of the danger spots in life. And if somebody says anything to you that
you don't like, don't say anything back, because if you do, you might
get in trouble. If you talk back, if you talk too smart, that isn't
going to last long -- that is if you talk back in a bad way. Use your
people, use the people the way they'd want to be used or you're going
to run into a jam. And remember that if you talk behind their back,
you're talking about that spirit they have in them, and you're talking
about yourself. If you talk good about them, you talk good about their
spirit. It'll serve you good if you talk good about a person next to
you. You'll feel good too."
"Meet one and all. It makes no difference who you are. And
be sure you meet the world, as you're let down into the world to live.
It makes no difference who comes onto earth, we should love them. He's
the same person as you are. Don't feel that you're higher. You're equal.
If you're all for yourself, if you're too smart, if you think you're
high, if you think you're way up high, higher than this other person,
you're not going to make it; un uh. You have to remember there's somebody
else coming along too. Even if you are in a better position now than
this other person, that doesn't mean anything because he could pass
you anytime and put you lower. Just because you're in a better position
doesn't mean you're better than him. You could be worth a dollar when
he's worth two cents, but later on, when he's worth a dollar, you could
be worth maybe a penny. If one guy's lower in his life and one comes
along that is high, the high one doesn't say a word because he doesn't
feel he's higher; he doesn't feel that he's any better than the other
guy that's just making a living. It may be so that you have more power
than the other person, ya, but remember the Great Spirit is helping
you with that; you're not having that higher power entirely on your
own.(14) Remember too that you could get sick. So equalize."
"My children, you are going out into the world. Learn to go
out into the world and mix with people, but learn who to mix with and
who to not mix with. That's a big problem. You'll be looking, and you'll
see a lot of friends. Learn your friends and know where they are. They're
all your friends, as far as that goes, and you'll need to know just
where to turn and what they're working on. And if they're working for
a betterment, you'll see it quick. There are people who are always working
for the right, who are working for the betterment of their people. You'll
wish too that you can work for betterment, and you'll try it. Pretty
soon the others will see you trying, and will come along and help you.
By their words and by their work they'll teach you. And you'll teach
them. It always works either way. It always works when you're ready
to help one another. Listen to their words and pay attention to their
action. Actions speak. That speaks louder than words. Action of the
others is a big thing."
"You'll see if your friends are true by their words and by
their action. And the old people will tell you what kinds of friends
are the best. You'll know if your friends are taking the true path,
and most will be. Watch where these others go. Maybe it's best to go
along with the people who are looking for a better life as they go.
Maybe it's the best to go along where the majority's going."
"And when you're going along cooperating together you become
friends and your spirits become friends. The spirits are friends too.
When you're living in good health and you are friends, your friend's
spirit and the spirit of you also are friends together. Your spirit
works on the spirit of that friend of yours, and his works on yours.
The friendship and the spiritship work together. And the more you think
about the friend, the more the spirit pulls with you and with him. So
by cooperating and going together with friends you each will have more
power, spiritual power."
"Believe in something and practice what you believe in. Your
power will strengthen. You can go by these lectures. You can go by the
spirit who is with you. You can go by something you carry to remember
the Spirit. But you have to go by something. If you believe in something,
if you believe something's with you, you'll find success. You can't
find success with your own power alone. You must have something to go
by. You have to stop and listen. And when you're listening ask yourself,
'Where is her point? Why am I here?' You might answer, 'I'm lucky.'
Yes, you're lucky, because you got help. You have something you believe
in. You have something that you're on earth for: you're here to serve
others, like a good person."
"Well who helps you? Who does that? The Spirit, and the air
you breathe, and trees, and the animals, and water. There are fish in
water, and they're all happy to see you. And when you see them, you're
happy too. If you want to eat them, eat 'em. If you want to use the
method of your Spirit to help you get those fish -- or to help you in
whatever you're doing -- you should have a reminder of that Spirit in
your pocket. Something you carry in your pocket should be a reminder
of that Spirit which helps you. Yes, something you carry should be a
reminder of the Spirit. I carry a weasel hide because I expect that hide to
help me do better by remembering the Spirit. My hide never failed."
"Your belief in your Spirit and in what you carry will get
a try-out. Sure, you'll get a try-out. If you're tested, and tempted
to follow the short trail toward the thorns, say 'No! I believe for
the good. I believe in that which I carry. I believe there is somebody
with me helping.' People will try you out to see how weak your mind
is. That's why you'll get try-outs. If you have a good strong mind your
belief will set there, and if your belief is strong enough to be there
in the end -- at the end of the try-outs -- then you have power. If you
get to the end of your try-outs with a strong mind, you have spiritual
power. But if you get a try-out and things don't work just the right
way with you, then there's something in your life that you've got to do better. You've
got to think that's your own fault. For some reason your mind didn't click well."
"Listen to the messages of these lectures, and think about
your Spirit and this world. All of that has to go through all of your
mind before you have power. Then, when every vein works in your brain,
you've got it; you've got spiritual power. And when you have this power
you can see well, you can hear well, you feel good, and you can help
others with your power. You can even breathe well. Everything will work
inside of you. You'll be pure and you'll feel you've got power."
"Listening to messages is the beginning of your sight and
hearing, and that's the beginning of your spiritual power. That's what
the messages do. You can get messages from anywhere.(15)
You can hear lectures, hear people, and see the actions of people. And
you can hear messages from nature, and the messages sent by the spiritual
doctors.(16) Pffffew! Messages keep
electricity in the heart and lungs. Messages! Messages are in the air,
electricity is in the air, and they commence to work on the lungs and
on the stomach. Messages make you feel good. They make you relax and
sleep. When you see and hear and understand those things, you rest well,
and you'll make it."
"I'm trying to point out the truth of life to you. The truth
of life is hard to find at times, but if you look for it, it will come
to you. By practicing what is right and what you believe in, knowing
the truth of life becomes easy later on. The ones that study and listen
to the experienced talk of life are the ones who are going to understand
the truth of life and have power. An old person giving advice went through
life and gives good advice. Exercise and think of that advice and maybe
you'll go further in your own life. Don't talk back. Even if you don't
believe in what I'm saying, or even if it doesn't sound very logical
to you, just don't say anything. Think about what the old people are
talking about -- and you'll see what the meaning is. Later on, if you
practice what we're saying in your mind, your mind will commence to
"Use your mind. It will clear up what we're saying. Now is
the time, when you are young, to use these lectures as you go. You'll
be bright if you do. Lectures exercise the mind, and if you think about
what's in these lectures, that'll help you make it through on your road
of life. Thinking on about these lectures helps you along. The ones
that talk back in a lecture aren't thinking at all, and if he isn't
thinking he isn't exercising his mind. He doesn't know what the old
folks are talking about, and he doesn't know that what they're saying
is for his own good. He doesn't know that because he's talking back.
That's why the one that talks back won't go far."
Some of those lectures lasted a long time, but that was all right
because we liked to listen to them. We didn't have any TVs or radios those
days so lectures made a good pastime for us. We Indians like to give one
another lectures. We give lectures to all kids, regardless of whose child
it is. We don't care whose boy it is or whose girl it is, we give them
a lecture. And when the children sit around the ring and listen, it's
just like giving them a history. It's just like reading the experience
of life to them. The person who's talking went through life, and she's
telling you where she stopped and looked and listened.
Boy they were sharp! And they knew how to hit those lectures with
examples. Some people think the Indian doesn't know anything, but after
the Indians live a life and lecture on it people know that the Indian
knows something. That lecture is like a book, a big book.
Sometimes the old Indian doesn't say anything. But he's thinking.
What's in that head? You don't know. Many people would like to read what's
in an old person's head -- but they can't, except through these lectures.
Without these lectures you can never read what the old people went through.
When we'd sit and listen to an old man talk we'd imagine to ourselves,
"Just think, his life is there in his head."
Grandpa, grandma, the grandfolks -- the older class -- lived a life
and had it in their head. They were done with life, and past their experience
on to us.
That's where I'm at now.
That's why a campfire talk is good. When you hear the old people
talk they won't give you anything bad. They give you something good, something
which they know should be good for you. They lived a life and can talk
about their experiences. That's something that the young people should
listen to. They're coming next and maybe they can learn something from
the older people that can help them with their own experience of life.
I figure I listened to good talk, good lectures, and good people.
I think that's why I'm here. I'm here because of cooperation. I believe
in cooperation. I believe in listening to the good old-age advisors and
cooperating with their advice. When in our lives we found those things
they were telling about, we were careful. I didn't get mad when hardship
was coming into my life, because they gave me good advice. We children
found when we were alone at times that we'd wonder why these old peoples
said the things they did. In that way, after we heard some talk, those
words meditated our systems. It was good, good medicine to us. We could
feel it in our minds. Those words started working in our minds.
We started to think when we heard the old people talk, and we began
to look back at the record of that person that was talking. That's what
I would do if I was listening. That's the way I listen to people. If they
talk, I judge them. And if they're older than I am, as they were in the
campfire talks, I listened to them most carefully.
I found that they were most generally giving me something to think
about. It's in them. They have the experience. They had to learn the hard
way -- by studying the expression of things. And what I mean by "the hard
way" is that they stopped and took their time to look and listen wherever
That's a big word, "time." You have to take your time in life. The
time is getting fast in life now. Everybody feels that they've got to
be at a certain place just at a certain time. Well, sometimes there are
times when there is something before you that you can't step over, or
you can't jump over.
And there are times when you can't make a hasty decision. You know
what I mean. If you're following a road and it commences to be crooked
-- if that road gets pretty windy and thorny -- you have to slow down.
Take your time; you'll get there quicker because you'll get there without
taking another road that may be longer and crookeder and thornier. If
you go too fast you'll lose that main trail that you're supposed to be
That's the way life is too. Life is put out for you to live through,
and how you take care of yourself will determine the way you'll feel in
your whole body. That means you need to take time to rest too. That's
what that old woman told us in her lecturing on the commandments:
"Take your time. Don't get too rushy, because if you do somebody
else might get to be in a hurry too. It's the same as when I'm walking
down the street when we go in to town. Sometimes somebody bumps into
me, or maybe I bump into him with my shoulders. People are getting to
be in a hurry, they're anxious. What do they hurry about? We're living
fast enough now. So this is my advice: take your time. People of the
country should enjoy life with their health. You should keep healthy
at all times. By taking your time, maybe you'll always get home. Be
aware of what's behind you and what's ahead of you at all times. You
have eyes to look, ears to hear. Use them, if you can use them."
"Stop. Look. Listen. On the better trail you'll go through
those thorns; it's open. But . . . you have to find that trail. Otherwise,
if you take the wrong trail, the thorns will scratch you all to hell."
"Never talk back, or disobey your father and mother. Listen
to your father and mother as you go along in this world. They are not
going to give you advices that will do you wrong. All advices they give
are right because they had the experience of life. They lived through
that -- all that they're advising on."
"You're just like a young growth coming into the world. The
way you start off a young garden or the young crop, that's the way it'll
grow. You have to start anything young off good. What are you going
to lean on to as you start growing? You can lean on the old people,
by their words. Lectures are starts -- head starts. Maybe you will pick
up a couple words and receive something by listening to the experiences
of the lives which the old people have already lived. Maybe the older
class could point a finger at your trail of life and tell you what is
the best. You have to have old people as advisors. A lecture from the
old people to the young people is like shaking up the plant to make
it grow. To make it grow you water that plant. You take good care of
it. When it's cold, you cover it up. When it's hot, you put shade on
it. And you keep moisture in the roots. That's for plants, and it's
just like the lecturing is for the people. Practice to be good, and
by practicing, you'll be good; later on you'll make perfect. But if
you're going to start off disobeying your father and mother, and if
you don't believe in anything, maybe that's going to wreck you somewhere.
Somewhere you're going to step in a hole and you won't get out of it.
You're going to trip and fall somewhere. If you don't listen you're
not going to grow straight; maybe you're not going to grow at all."
"Make somebody of yourself. Work with others. Others will
see you're a good worker, and they'll see you have a good life. They'll
think, 'That's the kind of life that must make him healthy.' That way
of life puts joy in living, and you feel like living. If you live a
good life, and have been living a good life, well, then you want more
good life and you're happy to live and you'll live to get to be old."
"Work with others. But don't forget the requirements of your
body. You have to eat and you have to limit yourself. Your head is a
telegram station; it gives you a message what you should do. If your
body's tired and needs a rest, you lay down and rest. This is a great
world that's given to us. There are times when darkness comes. That's
the time to rest. When the darkness of the day comes, sit down, lay
down, and rest. Lay down and rest your body. You have to have that rest."
"Sleep well. Then when you get up the next day you'll feel
all right. You have to relax and talk. If you don't stop for anybody,
to visit with anybody, you're going to have trouble. You better stop
and not work right through the night. If you work right through, you're
going to have a downfall. When you overdo it after hours because you're
afraid to miss something, you're exerting your life. There ought to
be some idlement in your life. Maybe it's good for you to go and rest
your carcass. Then, when you get up the next day, you'll feel good.
You're ready for work. You'll enjoy that day in the sunlight. You'll
think of this earth every day. When you feel like working, your head
tells you right there."
"Don't overdo. There's no excuse to overdo your own
self. You can do just so much, you can go just so far, and that's life.
There can be just so much of this, so much of that before there's too
much. There's a limit to everything. You have to balance things in your
life. You know there's a limit, so before you get to that limit you
have to balance things out. Consider that and prepare ahead."
"Clear-ify problems before you act. A crisis may be here, and
the problems are there, but before you act on these problems you have
to clarify them with what you see, what you hear, and what you have
learned. All that adds up together. It's a better life when you go out
ahead of time and prepare for the hard points that you'll maybe meet
someday. If you listen to these lectures, you'll see things. You'll
be able. You'll feel it -- and it's from here. It's from your head. That's
a big thing. You'll think of the back, you'll think ahead, you'll think
about people, you'll think about their happenings. Mixing these different
thoughts in the brain is good in the mind. You have to labor that mind
of yours a little bit. That helps your mind, and when it comes to meditating
you'll see things because everything is in your head."
"And when you look at your problems and think about them everything
just clears up. That mind's a big thing. That Spirit of yours is giving
you that power to exercise your body and mind and good will. When you
exercise for good will, you feel good. When you do good for others you'll
"It's how you use your body that's important. You can overdo
your requirement, or you can not have enough to meet your requirement.
The Great Spirit will help you watch that, and if you work with Him
you'll live. You'll know if there's a drawback. He warns you where you're
short. He warns you where you're ailed. When you're ailed, you have to
have that attended to. That's a message He sends to your brain. You'll
think, 'I feel it; I don't feel good. Should I go to a doctor?' The
answer is there in your brain if you think a while. If you think, and
think about what you were told from the older generation, you'll know
what to do."
"That's the way you should live. You can't go along and expect
somebody else to help you all together. You have to help yourself too.
That's what this world's made of. You have your own mind and eyes
and ears, and whatever you earn for yourself, that's yours."
"And whatever others earn, that's theirs. So don't steal. Don't
steal. If you steal you're not making anything of yourself. You're making
a hard path of your life if you're going to stop and do all kinds of
things that you shouldn't do. Live a clean life. You cannot go through
those thorns alone, without believing in anything or without working
with others. But if you don't steal, if you don't make trouble, if you
try to go along for the best of your life, you'll go through those thorns
like nothing. Those thorns won't stick to you because the brush isn't
too thick where you're going. But if you have faults, or if you find
faults, you're making a hard path for your life."
"Some people work in winter and walk on very thin ice."
does that mean?"
"That means they have done enough wrong. When you have
enough bad points to your life, enough bad stitches, it's the same as
if you were walking on very thin ice. It's a big thing to know how to
use your life, and if you use it good, you feel good. You have a privilege
to use it the way you want to use it. If you want to be bad, go ahead.
You'll find out sooner or later that it's a rough world. And you'll
find out too that it's a good world if you use it good. This is a wonderful
world! How you live depends on just how you use this world. If you want
to be good and believe in the good way, use it that way. If you believe
in the bad way, a rough way, there are bad little stitches here and
there and they're a hardship for both sides -- for you and for everybody
else. Pretty soon you'll have no respect if you put too many bad stitches
"If anybody tells you that you're walking on thin ice you'll
know you already have done enough wrong. If you ignore their warnings
of thin ice pretty soon you'll have no respect. Ignoring warnings shows
that you're grabbing here and there. That's wrong, and the total of
all these little wrongs you do might add up to be big. If, as you live,
you do small things wrong, and if you practice that all the time, there's
going to be a total for that. The total of all of these little wrongs
you have done may come to you all at once and hit you hard. If you don't
stop, something pretty hard, and big -- that you can't get out of at all --
is going to hit you when this total adds up. See, sooner or later everything
totals. There's a limit to anything, and everything totals. There's
a limit -- a big limit -- to everything. And that limit will come. Everything
limits and everything totals. And that final total is a big word. Yes,
the final total is a big word."
"But if we're prepared, we can meet dangerous spots at any
time. If we know the ice is weak, we go around so we won't break through.
That's the same as life. We're in danger at times. Sometimes it will
blow over, sometimes it stays. These lectures will point out the thin
ice, the dangerous spots. That's what they're for, so use them. If you
use these points and if you want to go all out for the good, you'll
have something coming. People will say, 'He's well paid. He's healthy.
His family's healthy.' You'll be well paid. You'll feel good. And your
folks in the background will be proud of your life, and they'll get
the same. If you have good stitches, you, your people, your children,
your background -- those in back of you -- will be proud. You don't have to grab here and there
for that either."
"This life is here to work your body, and by working, you
get repaid. 'I give you wild life,' the Great Spirit says. 'I give you
people the natural resources to live on. By the sweat of your brows
and by the sweat of the soil you will have vegetation to live on. The
growth of a garden, wild rice, vegetation, natural wild life, and all
that will give you a natural life's ways and means. You'll receive a
repay for your good life. You'll have time to put away enough for the
winter.' This is what we have to watch for. It's rainy days sometimes
and we can't get out to get our food. While there's good weather given
to us we should prepare our food, the same as we should prepare in other
areas of life."
"There doesn't have to be a problem. You'll always have enough
food by working. You'll have enough of the food that'll work in your
brain. You'll have enough of the food that'll work in your muscles.
You'll have enough to speed that body up with energy, at the times when
you need the energy. But you have to work for the natural food that
you receive. You have to cure it and put it away the same as we have
been doing since years ago. Just like now, in the olden days we dried most of our food
by curing it in the sunlight or by the fires. When we cured blueberries
by the sunlight they dried up like raisins. We'd reserve enough wild
rice to use as a natural food and we'd trade the rest. We even traded
rice amongst the newcomers, and they were happy to trade. We showed
the newcomers -- the white people -- how we took care of wild rice, and
they improved. We made a trade of a lot of things that we worked. And
besides using the natural foods, we put in a garden to grow. Put vegetation
in the soil for your health."
"If you believe in something and practice it, your Creator
will take care of you and you'll always have something coming to you.
Somehow you'll see something to eat and make a meal out of. If you live
a decent life there's no way that you're going to starve. No. There's
always somebody looking, giving you enough to eat on, if you live a
"So that's how we try to live. If we can help others, we will.
If we're in trouble, with ailments or anything, if there's anything
that can be done, we'll help one another."
"Doesn't that sound clear?"
"If it's not clear, I don't know
how to put it!"
The old woman that was speaking hit that road that was drawn in the
ashes to get our attention, then sat quietly, poking around at that fire
gathering up the coals again so it would start flaming. Nobody said a
word. We were all thinking about her words. And we wondered why -- at least
I wondered why -- the old woman said, "You're going into a thorn patch.
You're going on this trail of life. You're going onto a trail of life
where you're going to come into thorns; you're going to come into trouble."
I began to think that the way you get treated in life is your own
fault. If you want to live a good life and be treated well, you have to
have a clean mind. If you start thinking that you're lowdown, if you start
thinking about that, then you're downing yourself and that's your own
fault. If you get that sorrow and hard feeling and enemy feeling out of
your system, then you're well. I'm no experienced lectionary or lecturer,
but that's the way I began thinking and that's the way I still believe.
I'm just telling you how I live and how I felt. I figured if you live
one of those clean and happy lives, and have a smile for it because you
meet people, the people would figure you were all right. If you do that,
you're in good health and you try to be fair.
The problem was that half way, of course, you'd get drawn into a
little trouble; once in a while you do. Anybody gets like that. I lived
a life and ate well, just like the old people at the campfire lectures
said I would, but there were times that I didn't eat at all. It all depends
on how things are. I'm no angel. I have had rough spots too. I'm not what
I call perfect. I had a hard life. Naturally my life was hard, the way
things were going.
I was wondering all the time about what I heard at those campfire
talks, and as I got into those rough spots in my life I'd think, "Here
it is; here's them thorns." When I got into trouble I stopped and I looked,
just like the old folks advised me to do. "I got into trouble on the bad
road," I'd think. So I looked to the other side. I tried the other road.
I stopped when I made a mistake. "I shouldn't of done what I did," I thought
to myself, "un unh. I can't live that way. That isn't going to get me
far. I'm in trouble."
All my life I've been studying the words of my folks and of others.
Why did they say those things to me? So that I could try to understand
and clarify the life that was coming before me. They told us to try to
clarify what is wrong and what is right. They wanted us to understand
for a betterment of the children coming behind us.
I used my mother's and the old folks' words as I went through life.
I think those words were a life saver to us. I wish I had more of that
campfire direction of life which was given by the old peoples' experience.
I often said I wish my folks and my mother would have given me more and
more of that nice talking about the world which they lived in. This is
a great world that's given to us, and those words out of each and everyone's
mouth are a great thing in this world -- if you know how to use them.
You know that word is going to go a long way if you use it right. That's
true not just for American Indians but for anybody that uses lectures.
It was easy for us, even the kids, to understand those words in Indian,
but it's hard to bring the truth forward so the white man can understand
it. From my time on we speak lectures out so people can understand in
Indian and English. By talking in English we can add to the understanding --
in a way -- but the meanings and truth of those words are not exactly the
same as when we used those words in Indian. When you practice lecturing
in Indian you have to know what to say and where to be careful. Indian
people are very timid of some words in their language. And we used those
words a lot when we talked about or recognized that somehow we had gotten
off of the main road of life and began getting into the thicker thorn
brush. When we began to see unusual drawbacks in our life, or when our
health wasn't there, we recognized that we were getting paid rough for
something in our life. I'd think to myself, "I said something wrong; that's
what I'm getting paid rough for." Those words with your mouth, those words
with the peoples' mouths will prove out someday. Some of that hurts; some
of that makes you feel good. Some mouths can hurt you awfully easy. Some
words can hit hard.
Sometimes when I hear a mouth I get pretty angry. Others do to. When
I get angry I just look in one place and try to put my conscious(17)
together. When I get my head working, I see things from both sides. When
your mind is working both ways it helps you. I see things and figure out
what's the drawback. That proves that I use my head -- just like they said
in campfire lecture -- and maybe that helps me. I look, listen, stop. I
feel good when I find that I made a mistake somewhere, because then I
know that's what I'm getting paid rough for. And when I recognize a mistake,
when I recognize thorns in my path, I try to follow the remedy that old
meditating woman would recommend to us in her campfire lecture:
"If you live a perfect life you'll get through the thorn brush
without a scratch. But there are always temptations and failings, and
everyone's most generally going to get into the thorns once in a while.
I might as well say everybody has faults. I have faults myself. It would
be a wonderful world if we didn't have faults. You would be a wonderful
person if you didn't have faults. But each and every one has faults.
That's what the Great Spirit thought was a danger for us. He was scared
that we were going to have faults. When you have faults the only way
you will meditate yourself out of those faults is to recognize them
through His power and the power of these words I'm giving out . . . and admit
"Admit your faults; don't give up just because you've made
a slip. Try again. Admit that you aren't perfect, and that you'll try
to do better. That feels good if you try to do it. Admit to yourself.
We can not blame you; we can not blame each and every individual for
their faults. You don't have to tell anybody, but you have to admit
your faults to yourself. Make up your mind that you'll never let it
happen again, never. Say to yourself, 'I'll go for the good. I think
I did make a mistake.' You think that to yourself. You don't have to
tell anyone else.(18) Just tell your Spirit that you did that. Do that and
you'll see things. Use your head. Your eyes will point out where you're
"When you're in the wrong and hurting the other, go to him
and tell him, 'Maybe I didn't do right. Maybe I made a mistake. Will
you forget that?' If you're in the wrong with some man tell it to that
man; tell him, 'I'm in the wrong.' And tell him why you are in the wrong.
That's the way to live. Admit yourself when you're in the wrong and
you'll feel better. You'll feel good about it, and that will make whatever
is your drawback clearer to you. That feels good!! Give it; give it
out. Give out your life, the way you live. And how you live depends
on just how you make your life."
"And if you want to go wrong again, and keep a-doing that,
pretty soon you can't look at a person. If you can't look at a person
square in the eye, he'll think that's because of something that's bothering
you, something that you're attached to pretty strong. Maybe that's right;
maybe it's not; but if you're doing wrong you can't go in a crowd. You'll
be way back somewhere, because you're guilty."
"And if they have a big gathering, you're afraid to go over
there and join them. You won't live a happy life because you're living
in guilt. You're guilty. But if you admit your faults, try to have them
forgiven, forgive others, and feel that you're going to try to do better,
you'll go along with any crowd. If you don't do anything wrong, you're
brave in public."
"If you live a main-road life, you're not afraid to talk to
any man square in the face. He'll be studying you at the same time you're
talking. And when he looks at you and you're talking and looking at
him in the eye, then he knows you mean well."
"Stop, take time to listen whenever there's something ringing
in your ear, and look. My words will go with you like the sound of one
of those bells. When a bell rings, you ask, 'What did it ring for?'
You stop and listen to it. Well, that's just the same as with talk.
And when you're right -- when you're right -- you'll see it. Your rightness
will come back to you, and you'll feel it. Then you don't have to admit
"So exercise your own way for the good. This is the way my
old folks years ago left this message to me, and I think it does me
good. Now these words are given to you. Now you have them. If you use
those words you will have a life. Be grateful for them. They're wonderful;
"Now you can try your own way of life. You have your own mind.
Stop to consider right and left. Which way do you want to go?"
to go for the right."
"What do you have that mind for? Do you have a mind?
If you lose a mind, you're done. You may drift along without thinking
for a while, but sooner or later you'll realize that the more you think,
the brighter it'll be for you. That's because of your mind. That's why
it's given to you. That's true. You have your own eyes. Beware of what
to look at as you go through this life. Remember that if you lose your
sight you've lost the world, the seen-ery of the world. You have your
own ears. You lose a hearing and you can not hear any more."
"I can not be there to always tell you what to do, and nobody
else can live for you. Remember that! Use your own judgement based on
the way you feel, for the best! You're looking for the best in your
life. And when you're looking for the best in your life you'll feel
good day-to-day. Use all of your faculties and that will clear the whole
body right down to your stomach. Your head, your brain, your stomach,
and your mind will be clear. You'll go to bed in the evening knowing
that the day is done. The next day you'll look for a better day. And
by using the better day you'll make it on the path of life with few
snags, and without losing your trail. But you have to have something
to go by -- so go by these words and by your belief in the Spirit. You
have to ask the Spirit to give you strength. You have to consider all
of these things that I have told you. Remember, you can't get to the
end of this trail by yourself."
"Be careful when you get on the trail. The end of that trail
is the evening of your life. Nothing stops you when you're called to
follow that trail along the final stretch, the homeward-trail to the
next life. That's a big thing when you're finally called by the Great
Spirit -- and you never know when it's going to be. You can't say 'no';
you're going when called. Nothing stops you when you're called. The
Great Gentlemen says, 'come on,' and you're gone. So always be prepared
"If you live a good life -- or try to live a good life -- you'll
be healthy. If you believe in the Great Spirit, sickness won't hit you
hard. If it does hit you and your bunch -- if it does hit you -- it will
hit you easy -- mild -- and you'll come through it. When you live right,
you feel right. You're well. Your 'well-th' will come. You'll be healthy.
Health is worth more in life than anything else. You get to appreciate
health. To be normal is a great thing in this world. It's a happy world;
it's a happy life, when you're normally."
"There's everything in this world for you while you're here,
but in time we run out. It's the same way with timber. They give out,
they fall down, in time. Everything goes, and things keep changing just
like that. When you get old, you get tired out of age, and you know
that you're done. Then you're going on a journey -- a real journey -- after
you're done living here on this earth. I'm looking forward to another
land, but we don't know much about that. In our Indian way of life,
we old Indians believe we've lived when the younger generation's coming.
My body will go back to earth. It's natural. Vegetation grows up like
that, and that's the same thing with us. The vegetation builds up tier
by tier every year. So the body's the same. There's no way out of it.
It's just the same as the vegetation, the leaves and everything. They
lay down, tier by tier, every year. And people do the same. Our time
here on this earth is limited, that's all. So make the best of it. Live
a good life, then pass that good life on to the younger ones following
"You're going to go too, someday, and as you get to the end
of this trail of life -- if you do -- you'll be ready to give out campfire
talk. That will be great for you to leave them younger ones coming behind
you your experience of life. That was the same with our old folks. When
you leave a word with your young ones, that word's going to be big to
somebody sometime. Maybe they can use a word or two from what you say.
If they can it will be something that makes you feel good. It will make
you glad that somebody else could probably pick up something that they
would like to have."
"As you grow along with your family you may have children
that are home. At times you'll enjoy them, and you'll always be ready
to do anything for the children. Guide the little ones with your words
as you hold them by the hand, maybe with both hands. Talk to them and
hold them with both hands, or hold one hand while the mother's holding them
by the other hand. That's your life. You're going to lead them too --
the same as your folks are leading you right now. How are you going
to do it? What do you have those children for? What are you living here
for? Don't they look cute looking up at you, depending on you? You're
depending on me, on my words, my children, and they'll depend on your
words. So tell them of your experience of life."
"I had the same when I was young. I sat and listened to the
old folks, my old people, when I was young. I had the same as you are
having, and they'll want the same as you too. Everybody wants to live,
and live right. As I told you many times, health is worth more in life
than anything else, so take care of the young people's health because
they're leaning upon you, looking at you."
"If a young child dies, the father and mother are to blame.
That's a big cry when you lose a child, and the folks suffer. The father
and the mother suffer because they are the blame for not following their
religion, the Spirit of God. And if something hits the children hard
it's because their mother and father aren't following the main path
of life; they're not cooperating; they're not believing. You can blame
the children when they're seven, eight, nine, but not when they're young.
When they're young they know enough to understand the mother and father,
but the mother and father must take the responsibility for them."
"Be careful, too, about how you talk before children. If they
see you doing right and making a move before them that's right, they'll
always respect the older class. They'll respect their father and mother,
and later on they'll want to do the same as their folks. The children
will look to you when you are adults to find out which way they should
go. Keep in mind that by whatever you do in life maybe you're giving
them a gift!"
"We live by these waters and they too are like this path of
life I have drawn. You can go with the stream or you can go up the stream.
Going up the stream is more difficult, but you're always willing to
go up the stream. You think, 'What's next?' How are you going to get
up there? You're going to work for it. You're going to paddle that craft
up the stream -- that boat, canoe, or whatever it is. You'll want to
see more. You'll feel good. Pretty soon there's something up there that
you're guided upon. There's something to direct you on that, the long
stream, the Mississippi. The further up you go, the better the water
gets. The further up the river you go, the more you see, the more you
hear, the more you study, the more you feel peaceful and quiet. Many
of our people that have gone before us have left that for the next canoe
coming behind them.
Like these waters were left to us, I leave these
words to you."
When the old woman said that we began to think of the waters. It
felt good to hear that, and to hear the frogs, and to hear the waters.
Just what she predicted when I was a boy I'm thinking now as an old man
-- and I'm sure that I'm not thinking that alone! People of my age and
older have thought that. When you get of age, like I have been getting,
you're thinking all the time of your background and of the future of the
next generation. And just like the old folks did when I was a boy, I'm
hoping that the younger generation will follow the same channel as we
Sometimes now, though, I'm beginning to think that it won't go that
far because people are getting an education in schools now. But, they
may practice it. I'm hoping that they'll eventually fall in the same channel.
That's the way I feel all the time now. There are some picking up the
history of the old ways now. They're getting interested for the young
folks that are coming into the world. The good words mean lots to me,
and lots to others. I heard other people talk, as well as you hear me,
and I pass the words on to you the same as if it was in a book.
I want you to understand that I'm talking from a-way back. My people,
you might as well say, directed me to this which I am trying to practice.
I'm trying to practice a living that they pointed out to me. From here
on, we don't know what will happen.
Perhaps the old woman giving the lecture felt the same as I do now.
When I look at her in my mind -- when I look at the other persons giving
the lectures -- it still seems now that the campfire talk was just a big
book. And as I think about my life and my words in this old age of mine,
the final words of the old lady's campfire talk are now my words too:
"This is life, great life. The country's great. You live
for it. Why do you live your life in this great country? Why do you
live, for the future? For a good life for the future? Do you want to
live a bad life for the future? Remember, there are two sides
to go on in this life. You can take any road you want. That's your privilege.
Be careful when you get to a fork in the road of life. When you come
to a 'Y' in the road you're following, which is the right road? Which
is the wrong and the right?"
"Maybe these lectures will give you signals about where to
stop and wonder about that. Maybe these lectures will help you to go
forward for the best in life. By these words -- as you study each
word from the older class with their experience of life -- you're learning.
By these lectures you brighten your mind, and -- if you study nature at
the same time you're thinking of these words I'm giving out -- you'll
all be ready for a betterment."
study them you'll see that you will benefit from these words. You'll see -- you'll commence to see -- what they mean. And
you'll feel safer. You feel safer as you're studying these words,
and you'll be making headway as you practice what we say. And when you
practice what you study, you'll feel stronger. You'll feel stronger because
you already have been remedied by the older class to go ahead."
"Maybe there's just a word or two in here that you can use.
If you feel there's a worthwhile word take it. If not, leave it. Take
it or leave it. It's given to you."
"Most of you will find that these lectures give you a good
start-off; they give you a head start on life. They tell you about life
before you have to go out on your own. When you get to that 'Y' in life
you're already told how to go along to take the right road. You'll commence
to feel, 'It's a best for me to take the right road.'"
"So, this is life, and it's great. . . ."
". . . Miigwech! Miigwech Manidoo!!!"
When we heard that old woman's long pause and "Miigwech Manidoo!!" --
her "thanks to the Great Spirit" -- we were released. Then -- after the lecture --
we started talking. We talked only a little while because by then, after
listening so long to those great words, we young ones were pretty tired.
As we left, each word that we remembered made us start thinking and wondering
why she mentioned that word in life. I often wondered why this, or why
she'd tell us to go forward on that path of life. I wondered why she told
us that every time every day when the night comes you get a rest, and
that the next day may be a better one. I wondered that because when you're
young, you're feeling good when you get up in the morning -- if you have
no ailment and you're healthy. You get up and you have a plan for your
pastime and for your future. But we kept wondering and studying on such
points that she pointed out to us, and we began to see as we lived why she mentioned those words.
It makes me lonely -- sometimes -- to remember the olden days of my people.
An old person was respected then. They respected the old people those
days. As kids we respected the old people because they always had something
good to tell us. In campfire talk or sitting at home -- wherever they were --
they always pointed out their good views. With the old people as advisors
we felt safe. We were guided and guarded by them. We were directed how
to live by the older class. With their lectures and their guarding we
felt safe -- especially if we got the lectures telling us how to go through
life from our own folks.
You trust your own folks. They will never tell you anything wrong.
They'll always tell you something good, so we watched and followed our
own folks wherever they went. And by watching . . . and listening . . . and wondering . . . and thinking . . . we learned about life.
This is true Indian campfire talk.
This is the truth of life.
1. Cf., Ch. 19, "Wenabozho
and the Creation of the Current World," Ch. 20, "Tales
of Wenabozho," and Ch. 21, "The Windigo
Cannibal and Other Life Trials and Adventures of Gwashun, the Boy
Who Did Not Obey His Father and Mother: Our Favorite Story."
2. Lake Superior.
3. When Paul Buffalo visited this area a few years
ago, and sat by a campfire, he actually saw the old folks giving lectures
-- even though they had been dead almost fifty years by that time.
4. See Ch. 3, "Canoe Days."
5. Ch. 6, "Spring Move to the
Sugar Bush," and Ch. 7, "Skigamizigewin,
Maple Sugar Time."
6. Ch. 10, "Blueberry Time."
7. See Ch. 13, "Manoominike-Giizis, 'Wild Ricing Moon.'"
8. Ch. 18, "Late-Autumn Winter
9. Cf. 5, "Chiefs and Councils."
10. Cf., Ch. 40, "John Smith
11. Walking sticks.
12. I.e., just as you want to live.
13. That is, our personal background and history.
14. Cf., Ch. 27, "Power."
15. See Ch. 33, "Messengers
and Unusual Events," and Ch. 35, "Fireballs, and
The Shadow Man."
16. See Ch. 29, "Midewiwin,"
Ch. 30, "An Indian Curing Ceremony," Ch. 31, "'Spiritual
Doctoring, Tipi-Shaking, and Bone-Swollowing Specialists," and Ch.
32, "Medicine Men / Medicine Women."
18. This statement, "You don't have to tell anyone else," is a reference to a "sore point" with Paul Buffalo (and many other traditional peoples who practice aspects of "Indian Religion"), namely the requirement of the Roman Catholic Church to confess one's sins to a priest -- another human being. In other places in Paul's narrative -- and often in real life when talking about the problems he has with the Roman Catholic Church -- Paul brings up the fact that one does not need to -- and should not have to -- confess one's sins to another person. All that is required, according to Paul's belief, is to admit one's faults to oneself and to one's Spirit -- that is, to confess directly to the divine. But having said that, it is very important that one straightforwardly admits one's faults and shortcomings to one's self and to one's Spirit. Paul had on many occasions over the years discussed this point with the various priests assigned to the Ball Club Catholic Mission . . . and, in a nutshell, neither the priests nor Paul changed their respective perspectives on the issue, including the question of who, in the end, could "forgive sins." It is interesting to note that this point has also been argued by church theologians since the third century a.d., with many church "fathers" supporting what is essentially Paul's position.