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When Everybody Called Me Gah-bay-bi-nayss,
"Forever-Flying-Bird":
An Ethnographic Biography of
Paul Peter Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs
University of Minnesota Duluth

a note on tenses
a note on style

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Do Not Quote This Chapter Without Permission

31

An Indian Curing Ceremony

It was a beautiful day, and my village was pretty quiet. And I saw those cars pulling out early. The green grass was so high, and I thought to myself, "It's time for some ceremonial operation or doctoring or lectures." It was the time of the year for the lectures of the Grand Medicine too. "It's due for that," I thought. So I knew something was going on. I could see that in my vision.(1) "I think it(2) is going on . . . Grand Medicine!"

There wasn't a cloud in the sky.(3) This clear sky had come from something. My uncle, George Wakefield, had a lot of power. George is one of the most powerful men around here. He must have asked for the clear sky. That's the reason there wasn't a cloud in the sky. That was proof of his power. And that was proof it was time for Grand Medicine doctoring.

There were only two, three, cars that went from Ball Club, but I knew there was something going on. Some of these people went to the neighbors; they stopped by the neighbors. They told them that there was a gathering, and that the gathering was for doctoring a person. There were already enough to fill the space up in there, so not everyone who could go went.

But one site was empty. It's a place we call "campsite." It's a site where traditional Indians live. So I noticed, right now. I noticed that there's something going on up there someplace. So that's why I said, "We'll go up there." All of these things made me feel that way. So I said "Let's go." I said, "you're going to see something," or, "I'll show you something." So we got a-going up there to Inger.(4)

All the Indians in Ball Club believe it. They all believe in Grand Medicine. Most of them believe it, but they hate to talk about it because they don't know anything about it. Anyhow, it's there. They believe in their medicine way of life, naturally so. They believe in the God, the Great, who came before them. There were always Indians way back who believed in that, and there's still Indians who believe in that yet. He's the Guardian. The Manitou's the guardian, and they believe that. That's why they have sermons and dance. They meditate and dance so that the Great spiritual One will come and talk to them.

A lot of them tell me, "I believe it. I know it's there. But I don't know how to approach them.(5) I don't know much about approaching a view like this."

You have to have somebody with you that knows how to approach that Grand Medicine.(6)

I know it. I know what to do.

That tobacco is an invite. When you approach a Grand Medicine Doctor you have to approach wholehearted. Approach in the old Indian fashion. Take tobacco and this sort of thing(7) to the Medicine Man, and present it to him, and say what you wanted to say. The spiritual doctor is the leader of the Grande. They ask him all kinds of questions: "What could be done? What's the weather going to be?" They all have a session, they have a feast on that, and during that session the spiritual doctor talks to them.

You can't approach it just fooling around, wanting to see what's going on. Any division, any doctoring or anything, has to be approached seriously and with good will. If you do that, you get results, and you'll feel better too.

Once in awhile some of them go there just nosing 'round.

That's dangerous! . . .

Some of them don't live the way they should to meet the requirements of Grand Medicine. For Grand Medicine you have to live and be right.(8) But they're guilty; they don't do that. They don't live the way they ought, because they go out and leave their children home. They have a big celebration,(9) a big hangover. That's what the Grand Medicine don't like. What's the use to go to church when you go crawling back to sin?

In Ball Club, when there's a Grand Medicine session on, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten . . . about ten of them practice that.(10) Some of them are Catholic, but they go anyhow. They have ceremonies in Ball Club, well, near Ball Club. They will let one another know. They'll have their ceremony there. They'll have it at "campsite," or at another place nearby, but on original Indian land. Yea. They have quite a session about that.

Some of them practice Grand Medicine pretty strong, but some of them, the younger generation, leave it alone. It's idle. . . . It's idle. . . . They don't go after it like they used to do. The younger generation lays off of that for awhile.

You know what?

The priest comes there all the time. They don't want the priest to know about that. The priest doesn't like that. "That's superstitious," he said.

So is anything else superstitious.(11) It's just how you make it, how you do it.

About two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve . . . in Ball Club . . . are deep on that Midewiwin. One of the power Indians, Ray Robinson, he won't say anything. If you ask him questions about it, he'll just walk away from you. They don't like to put that out. "That's nothing to monkey with," they tell you.

Mike Fairbanks used to be a good Medicine Man before he died, and he was a Catholic too. He went back to be a good Medicine Man, and he was a Catholic too. He went back to Indian medicine before he died, but he wanted to be buried "anywhere my kids are being buried."

Yes!!

Mike, he didn't know where to go, he said. He went to see the Ponemah, Red Lake, Medicine Man one time.(12) He even took him up a box of iron ore that he wanted.

"What are you going to do with that?" Old Mike said, when they asked him for the iron ore.

They told him, "This man wants that. 'The Indian'(13) wants that for heart medicine. He'll dissolve that."

We had a guy take us up there. So Mike took a little box of that iron ore with him. That was for him, for the Ponemah medicine Indian. It didn't benefit him moneywise. That's supposed to be there.(14) That's Mesabe(15) hill you know.

From Ball Club they go to lots of places.(16) They go to Inger, they go to Red Lake at Ponemah, and they go to Mille Lacs.(17) There are other Medicine Men over there at Mille Lacs. They go to Canada. Canada is full of power Indians. Canadian Indians believe in that pretty strong.

I know that chief in Inger. He's supposed to be an uncle of mine. He's actually a third uncle, you might as well say, but we call it "uncle," zjii-shae$. He's a very nice man.

I asked my father one time, "Who's that?"

"gii-zji-shày-nàhn. That mean's George. You might have another one, jii-shay. Your uncle is jii-sha."

Years ago, years ago, I was at a Midewiwin ceremony in Ball Club. George Wakefield was pretty young then. Ed Wilson, Alan's Dad, used to be good at it too.

So when we took off from Ball Club in that certain year,(18) I knew there was something going on up there. "So we'll go and see," I said. "We'll go and look for George." I wasn't sure that George had doctoring that day, but we went up there to see what was going on.

The first place we stopped up there was a place a little further down the hill from George's house. We stopped at a little store. At the Inger store I asked for two cans of tobacco. I asked what kind of tobacco George Wakefield smoked, Prince Albert or Velvet.

Those people in the store were there because they didn't have to go to the meeting. Some of the people didn't go up to the ceremony because they already had enough people up at the house. Just the old people, more or less, go to the ceremonies nowadays. But later on we saw that there were a lot of young people in the ceremony up there in Inger! But they were children. The father and mother were with them. And they knew how to dance. They knew what to do. "Well, it's a small room," they probably thought. It wasn't, but they feared it was a small room.

That's what I was thinking.

So we drove down to this party's house, where he was living. It was a pretty good size house. Behind the house there was a fairly medium sized place, maybe twenty, -thirty feet square. That was the old dance hall. That's where they had powwows years ago. The place wasn't too run down, but it looked as if it hadn't been used for some time.

There were a lot of people, young people, in a car, that I saw fooling around by the house. The younger class doesn't go to those things. They have lots to learn about that.

But anyhow, there were plenty there at the ceremony. The others probably thought that there were already plenty there in the house.

We stopped the car nearby the house. There was drumming going on inside.

"Shhhh."

We could hear drumming, but no singing.

"Well, he's having a ceremony."

When I saw all these Indians around there, around the house, "Oh oh," I thought, "I'm bringing a white man in there." That's what I thought. "I don't think they'll let him in. How can they when they are about to work? If I let him in and he doesn't believe that, if he doesn't believe Indian or of any religion it's going to take effect on the doctoring. You have to believe before you have the power. You have to believe before the sickness will stay away. He's going to spoil it." That's what I thought.

When we arrived there, I got out. So, well, anyway, I told my white friend to stop. We stopped at the door. A younger fellow, about twenty-eight came out, and greeted in Indian. He was the doorman. There was a doorman there to see that the only ones that went in there were the people that go to the Grand Medicine parties, to the Grand Medicine sermons. See, when you go to those places you always want to find the doorman. Don't go in without him, because he's guarding you from danger as well as he's guarding the patient.

When I met him, he didn't like my white friend! When I met him, he didn't like him very well. This guy, the doorman, was going to stop me. He said, "What do you want?"

I said, In Indian, "I want to see my uncle. I want to see George."

Then I explained in English that I wanted to see my uncle George. I told him that I was his nephew, and that I wanted to come on business.

"Oh. He's busy now," he told me, in Indian.

We continued talking, in Indian.

"That's all right. Will you go and tell him I want to see him?" I said, "This is my boy, my friend, our friend. George knows him. Tell George we want to come in."

"I'll go and see him."

I think he did.(19)

I wouldn't go against George, because if I did I would disturb the doctoring by my surprise visit.

And then the doorman came out. "Ya, you can go in and see him."

So that's when I went in. My white friend waited outside. He went back and sat in the car.

When I went in, I shook hands with my uncle. Always shake hands with Indians when you meet them, especially these older guys. If you don't, they think you're putting yourself ahead of them. They think you are looking down on them.

Inside, there was a sick man, his wife, and a young girl -- maybe a year, year-and-a-half, two-years old.

And pred'near all of the patient's folks were there. See, that makes a difference there.(20) I think there were a couple of his relatives there that I know. After I got there I knew some of these people that I saw. Some people from Ball Club were there. There were some in there from Ball Club. One was up from towards Squaw Lake.(21)

I also knew some of them that went there before weren't there this time.

But I didn't pay much attention, really I didn't. This patient was laying on the floor. He had a little ailment. He had something wrong that was bothering him. All I was interested in was that patient, that doctor, and how that woman was talking.

There was a woman, George's wife, who was drawing the map of life in some sand they put on the floor.(22) She was saying, "from earth you come, back to earth you're going to go. These trees, and these birds, all work for us. They're purifying the earth. The thunder is purifying the air we breathe. The health that we look for each day in life comes before us." And while she's talking, she's drawing the map. And George, he's singing.

And when he got through singing I walked up to him. "Uncle," I said, "I came just at the right time, Uncle. I have a man with me, a white man. He wants to see how this is done. He's a very nice fellow. He believes in the Great. He lives right and nobody can say anything against him. He's no fool. He's studying the Indian way of life which we're going to leave some day. Some day people may be able to continue that. They may continue that way of life regardless who they are, as long as they believe in natural resources and in the natural life of the area. They may continue that way of life as long as they believe in the natural water and the earth we live on. This man has been with me a long time and he wants to talk to you too."

"Tell him to come in."

Boy I was surprised, ya, when he said, "Tell him to come in!" Well he knew me, you know. So that's what I went and told him. He knew me, otherwise they would have questioned that. The others could have turned us flat down, but he was the leader and they respected his decision.

In the past he didn't want to expose his belief. And he didn't trust the people with education. He didn't want to say anything in public to the white class. He doesn't want to come in there to your place and tell you different. And he doesn't want you to come in and tell him different. The churches do that, but we never had any church. But we gathered as a believers in the Great Spirit. We sat around and heard the chief talk about the history of the spirit of each one as an individual. So that's why I was so surprised when he said, "Tell him to come in."

I went to get my friend. He came in. At the door my friend asked the doorman if it was all right to come in. The doorman ignored his question.

We walked in.

That's how my white friend saw how they do it.

A fur hoop was hanging in the entry way. We walked by it. Looked at it. Didn't say a word.

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We entered into a single big room.(23) There was sort of a partition, a half-wall straight on ahead, and to the left a little, as you walked in the door. It was a small wall, about four feet wide, about in the middle of the room. It stuck out into the room, from the wall on the left.

Three or four long paddles hung straight ahead on the small wall. They were, maybe, about . . . four inches wide and a couple feet long. One was pointed on one end, with a cut-out taken out of the other end. The paddles were a long flat board with an arrow and lines on it. The lines were a blue and yellow, and red, and different colors. The top one was painted red and blue, and maybe some other color, yellow. The paint had been put on a long time ago. It was faded.

That's their maps. It's a signification of their way. It's their maps. Those things signify their rules and maps. They need them. They have Indian meanings. They can write on birch bark too.(24) They can write, draw, animals and write different parts, and they can read that. That's the Indian way of writing. They have to be in the high ranks(25) though to read that stuff. They have to understand that stuff. That's a map. See, that's a ruling that signifies how they go about things. They have certain parts they read. Certain different colors, different animals, different angles of the mark mean something, and they read that. Oohh yea!

And hanging on the back wall, across the room from the door, was a drum head.

We stood by the door. Then later on we moved over when the patient was introduced. doctored. We were careful not to get too close to him, so we wouldn't make any disturbment.(26) We were careful not to disturb the doings itself, while we were there. And we were careful not to disturb the healing power of the ceremony.

The ceremony started before we got there. We arrived there just about 1 p.m., and when we got there that old man was talking. I figure the ceremony was going on about a half-hour to twenty minutes before we got there. The Medicine Man has to give lectures first. They last ten or fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, and then his wife, his assistant, has to talk. So she takes over to talk. That's why I think it was going on for about a half hour before we arrived. And it lasted a little over an hour, while we were there.

Right behind the small wall an old man, my uncle, George Wakefield, sat singing and beating a drum. George was well-respected. He was polite. He was interesting to talk to. And when you talked with him you almost didn't notice his long, wide ears, and his long, thin face. His ears were very wide. And he had a long bony nose -- not nearly as big as Old John Smith's, but you couldn't help thinking about Old John(27) when you're talking with George.

George sat on the floor, on a blanket, just like Old John. His wife, sat next to him, on her own blanket. A small girl sat next to George's wife, on the old lady's blanket, to her left.

The blankets were laid out next to one another on the floor. Two were on the drummer's side, along the northern wall, on the other side of the half-wall. Those were folded up.

A third blanket, a quilted one, was spread out along the back wall, one the east side. The problem-man sat on his knees on the back side of the quilted blanket, in front of the small pile of sand -- between the sand and the wall. While the old man sang, the patient sat there with his arms folded. He showed no pain or emotion. He just sat there, without any unusual expression to his face. The pile of sand and other stuff -- some little balls -- sat on a small cloth in the middle of the quilted blanket.

A third woman was singing and helping out with the ceremony. She sat on the front of the quilted blanket. They spread out a blanket and the patient was on one end of it, and she was sitting on the other. The sand cloth was between them.

A woman and two men sat on a bed along the wall across from George and the old woman. They were on the other side of the patient, to his left. One man, about forty-five or fifty, sat in the far corner, on the bed, with the woman. The other man, an old man with a cane, sat on the near side. Some other women sat on this side of the old man with the cane. They sat on small benches, regular benches. The benches were, maybe, three feet long or so. There was one, two, three, four women -- not including the woman sitting on the bed at the far end of the room.

Another old woman, maybe ninety, maybe eighty, maybe eighty-five, sat around at the near-end corner, in the kitchen end of the room.

We sat between the door and the small wall, behind a woman, maybe about forty, with a small girl. She was the woman of the guy who was being doctored, and was sitting there watching every move. In front of her she had two pouches, folded up. They were deer hide, probably home-tanned deer hide. There were one, two, three, four, five blankets, and a new galvanized water pail sitting by the woman. In front of the drummer, in front of George, there was a similar bundle: five blankets, and a water bucket. One blanket was quilted.

All the while we looked around George was pounding a wooden drum, a water drum. The drum head he pounded on looked like a wooden hoop wrapped in cloth. The drum had a hole in the side. They put water in there. During the ceremony he turned the drum over, wetting the head. Then, after rubbing the head, he would pound the drum again.

He starts pounding the drum, singing with the Spirit, singing with the power that he's asking for, to help his patient. The patient, wasn't too sick. But he felt, probably, that he had a strain on him.

He came out of it all right.(28)

George pounded drum and sang. He chanted chants. He sang a couple curing songs, ceremonial songs. He was singing, chanting, usually, but sometimes he was just beating the drum. The drum beater was a long stick, bent on the end. The old man sang. Sometimes the women answered him.

I did want to show you how they do it.

The women along the wall, away from the patient, across the room from George, also helped out. And after George sang one paragraph of the history-cal of Grande,(29) they'd all say, "ahhhhhh ahh."

Did you ever hear them say that? Did you hear them?

They'd all answer. That's just like saying, "Amen."

"Amen!" -- "Ohh-uu-o!"

See?

That's to show their respect to his lecture, for to the Great.

And then he sang: "wii-yaah, wiiiii, wii-nooo-oo," like that. That's a language of theirs too, just like Latin in churches.(30) He sings the regular songs that belong in the medicine way. wah-he-hee, that's a language, wah-he-hee. Way-ho-hoo. That's another word. They know what it is. They have slings(31) there that they could use, but you have to be a Medicine Man to use that motion and power. They teach you that in Grand Medicine.(32) They educate you that from the Great. They use the things given them from the Great Spirit. They understand that. Well, a lot of them don't understand it, but they sing it anyway. But those that are Midewiwin staffs, they understand that language.

That's another thing -- you have to understand when you became empowered. You have to learn to understand those languages. They use the language of Grand Medicine when they're singing: "nay-kaa-na-g^-n^g-gay-na. waaay, waay, huu huu." That's a language too. I sing that once in awhile. Boy they all say, "You got it?"

"Well, I've been with them too much, but it's for a good purpose."(33)

I want it for my life, and I use it for my life and for others. I believe in helping everybody, as well as they help me. I walk down the street without worrying. I never did any harm to anybody -- that I know of -- including Indians and Finns and Norwegians and all. In my town, Deer River, they're all bound to stop and talk a few words, white folks included. I talk to them, just as well as I talk to my Indians.(34)

Well, just as I was telling you, the only staff that know what he's talking about in those songs are the ones that understand the Grand Medicine language. But in the lectures he's talking regular Indian, about the Great and about creation, and all those that talk Indian understand that. He's saying that we should be thankful that at this time of the year we're able to see this again.(35) And by seeing this, the Manitou proved to us that He loves us. That's what that means.

And then, with the doctoring, he was saying that He shall give us all the power of doctoring to be in good health.

Listen! He wasn't meditating like they did in Grand Medicine initiating.(36) Grand Medicine initiating is another thing of meditating. It's another kind of meditation.

But he really meditates through Grand Medicine at the doctoring.(37) The great Medicine Man was doctoring that guy for his ailment, taking out what ails him by the spiritual power of his. See, they take the germ out of you when they do a reaction like that.(38) They take out the germ: àa-kw^-zi-wín is a germ, that includes everything. All forms. àa-kw^-zi-sín includes disease and germ and everything.

The problem-man is mii-àao. He's the one who had the problem. He just had a little strain, a little muscle strain. Maybe it was rheumatic or something. I really don't know for a fact, because I don't ask that powerman. I don't ask him too many questions -- in that case. To find that out you have to be there beforehand, when they come in for a doctoring. Then you can hear them. Otherwise don't ask. We were a bit late, a little bit late. So we couldn't ask.

Beforehand, the problem-man would talk in there. He would ask him for doctoring. He also asked across, to the people sitting across the room, for help. He told him the condition, how he felt and everything. He wanted to find out if he could get help through the great power of the Medicine Man.

But it looked to me like the man who was being doctored had an old internal injury. It was aggravated, I thought, by working too hard and working up a sweat and then cooling off too sudden. This is what they call gii-d^k-i-ssay. When you get two or three colds on top of that it gets worse and penetrates down through your body and blood to your bones. You feel lazy, tired.

The remedy for that is to sweat it off in the steam or sweat bath, the mah-du-du-wIn.(39) You have to drink plenty of water. The old man at the ceremony told him to go home and take two or three sweat baths and take care of himself, and drink a lot of liquid, especially pure water. Water keeps the fever away. He was supposed to drink lots of water until he had movement in the kidneys.

"Then you'll regulate the excess, and you'll feel better. You'll come to normal."

That's taking care of the water of the body, beginning with the stomach.

"You have to regulate your eating. When you're working hard you'll have to eat a little heavier. Drink and eat according to what you feel for, what you're body's calling for. But remember, there's a limit to everything."

That was doctoring!

I know what I'm talking about.

There are two groups in there. There are two groups. There's a group of medicine people standing there on the one side, and on the other side are a patient's relationship, his relatives. And both sides ask that the great Medicine Man become more empowered.(40)

That man that's pounding the drum is n^-nàan-d^-wi-i-wàayh I-nI-níi, that's a Medicine Man. We call the kind of doctor n^-nàhn-da-wíi-wày. See, he's able to make anything work as a doctor, as he speaks to the Creator of his spirits. They can not be seen, but he speaks to them the words of the history of your body and soul. That's what it means, your body and soul. You can not see your spirit, but afterwards it takes affect. You see what the answer is.

Two or three were the main medicine people.(41) Maybe, six or seven, five, four, were also medicine helpers(42) They're sitting over there, by the small wall, and on the other side of the room, by the bed waiting for the announcement. Altogether it looked to me like there were about eight of them doing the main part of the ceremony. It was a small ceremony. Altogether there were about thirty people there -- thirty-five or forty, thirty-five anyhow. More or less a half were in the house.(43)

They all favored(44) the Medicine Man to make a success of this man that's ailing. Altogether they're called "the local Grand Medicine men with power." They will believe with the Medicine Doctor. They are full in belief. And with their power they will hold up(45) the Medicine Doctor, to help the patient. They all favor him to get well. They're looking on, favoring. They're in mi-day-wI-wI'n. They're mI-dày-way, mI-dày-way-w^'^g -- Medicine Men!, Grand Medicine men.

Pred'near all of the people in that room were the relatives of the patient. That's a big relation. It doesn't have to be relatives of the patient. They can be relatives of the grandfather of the patient. All of them in there were just like members of the same society. If you live in that area, and if you go in with that society, you're bound(46) to go to hear the points.

When you go there you're helping this party who's the patient. You're boosting him. You're helping him when you go there. We're helping him with our whole hearts. The way we felt, the way I felt, I know it helped him. We were sincere about it. We took it seriously.

His relation ask for help too. They're wa-duu-d^-da-wàay-I-maa-gI-n^'n. The relatives are assistants of mi-dày-way-w^^g. níi-aó nín-gi-waa-do$-kaa-wa-gày-zi-maa-zjI'g o-nó$-ay-da-ka-mI-g^k míi-i-màa chí-ay-i-gó$k, they're holding him. This other man who was speaking was a witness. They all were the witnesses, ah-sho-gah-bo-i-tan manitou gi-gi-do-wIn. They verify. These were already meditated. They're all ready to stand behind their leader of meditation. They're hanging on to him to get well, to get the germ out. They're verifying the words for him to get well. He was hoping that probably-his-relation will get well.

The relatives are assistants of mi-dày-way-w^^g. níi-aó nín-gi-waa-do$-kaa-wa-gày-zi-maa-zjI'g o-nó$-ay-da-ka-mI-g^k míi-i-màa chí-ay-i-gó$k, they're holding him. They're supporting him. They're hanging on to him to get well, to get the germ out. And the other guy, the woman helper, she's just like the minister. She's just like a minister of a church.

And then there's the doctor. He has no power if he has no backing. You have to have backing to put all the power to work. All the Catholics do the same thing. The same thing is with the Church and with the medicine. They all formed together with their power by this Medicine Man, and that worked on him.

He got well too.

They have shin-go-bahn-dag around. That's balsam leaves. Balsam leaves are supposed to purify, and they can. They take in the boughs to purify the air. It has to be clear. Everything has to be clear. The smell of the cedar boughs, gii-zIk-ah-dag, and the balsam boughs, the smell of it, like kinnicknick,(47) purifies.

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Balsam Fir

Balsam Fir.

"Burn this!!," they'd say about cedar boughs. We all have cedar boughs and we burn them to purify the air. That's the Indian smell.(48) We use cedar boughs. Wh^h$!. Oh, that smells fresh! And all around the room they put green fresh-cut cedar branches. They sprinkled them all around the room. The cedar branches made a circle around the room, by the feet of the people were who were sitting along the wall in a circle. This was for "purification."

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Cedar

Cedar.

George was the gentleman sitting on the left, on the floor, and some women were sitting on the right side of the room. Then there was the woman with the sand. We call that ma-ni-do nii-kah-nah. That means God has been called by the road to show this party how to find his way. ník-i-na is road.

This man that was laying and setting in the front by the sand was a problem-man, mi-ah-ao-wah-du-kao-wah-ay-In-dan. This woman sitting next to the sand was telling him what to do. She's the director(49) of the Medicine Man. The Medicine Man tells her what to do. It's in the book.(50)

She directs the language the Medicine Man pronounces for the meditation. She interprets the meditation that is given by the Medicine Man and she knows what is right. She's a catechism, you might as well say, a reading of the history of the medicine. She's the one that helps the Medicine Man. They're additional, and maybe they're an assistant. But it is a great deal of interest to watch them too. It takes two to work on doctoring.

We call that woman a-ni-shi-naa-bày oo-zI-bíi-gay. It means she's a director of the path that this Medicine Man is setting out. oh-zI-bíi-gay means writing down. She directs the language, and tells him, the problem-man, what he's supposed to do.

They have sand they use in that practice. They have a big pan of sand, a low box of sand. This sand represents the patient's road of life. At Inger it was sitting on a small piece of cloth, like a dish towel. And this cloth was sitting on the patchwork quilt. A woman was talking next to it. This woman was bending over it. She was saying something over the sand, whispering, drawing pictures in the little sand there.(51)

She had a number of small sticks, and what looked like small stones. They sang another song then, and while George was singing that song she went over to the sand again.

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Mide (Medicine Man) rattle and sticks.

Mide (Medicine Man) rattle and sticks.
Creator: Monroe P. Killy (1910-)
Photograph Collection, 1950
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.26 p4 Negative No. 35594

During the ceremony she turned and asked something to the woman next to us. To the one with the small child. The woman said "no." They talked some more, and then the sand woman took over the ceremony.

They have branches of road drawn in the sand which they mark with a stick, a little stick -- even a match stick will do. Even a Popsicle stick. Those little sticks they mark the road with are bay-shI-bíi-g^'-nàa-tIg. That's the marking sticks. Any wood will do.

The sand looked like a little grave yard, with a number of small criss-cross lines -- maybe twenty, fifteen, criss-crossed here and there. They mark that road, they mark this road, and they mark the other roads. This woman here at Inger just did it in a short time, in the shortest way of it.

The road's the direction what you have travelled on in the past. You know how far you went to the good. You know how far you went to the bad. You know what mortal sin is. You should throw that what you committed aside. That's gway-ah-kó mi-k^-n^'h, it means the road that takes you there. That takes you to a good channel.

The woman tells the problem-man, "When you start off here in life, you like this road."

It's up to you to figure out what road you think is the best. There's roads that aren't very good in your life. But how are we going to know the roads of your life?

He learns from lectures.

He learns from his experience.

"When you get to a 'Y' in the road, there may be a fruit there in one direction that you like. It's a temptation, a sweet-looking fruit. But you're not looking for that fruit. You're looking for a better world, a better life, you're looking for health. You're trying to get to the end of this first straight road drawn in the sand. There'll be another road that joins that first road. There'll be a 'Y' in that road. If you make a mistake, you won't get to the end. It's up to you. The Great will get you there if you believe in Him. The Great will get you there if you believe. But if you don't believe, there's evil on both sides that will work on you. You'll see evil and the good, and you'll ask yourself which is which? Should I go right or left?"

Every time the woman in that ceremony stops, the mediator(52) pounds the drum and sings by words.(53) It is interesting to understand all that.

She was saying, "Lead the road of life. That's the road of your life, for your spirit, lead it." She marked that road straight. "This is the road, straight." And she marked another road on that sand with a stick. "This road won't go very far. If you take this road your life may not go far. But to complete the life of your's you must follow the straight road. You are on this other road(54) as you are ill. You suffer. You suffer by going through a thorn trail, or through thorns without trails. And those thorns pull your clothes off. They tear them off. And when you get up there those thorns are poison. You'll want to see a doctor, the Great Doctor, the World Doctor.(55) When you're through that, you're good now."

"You are doctoring now and we're putting you on the right road, the one that goes right straight, until it turns again toward happiness. That's what you have to help yourself on."

That straight road is for anybody who wants to live that way. That's the lecture. It would be the same kind of road for anybody else. That's their method.

They just don't come out and say the patient done wrong. No! . . . They just think that for themselves. NO, they don't say that they done wrong out loud. If there's something lacking in a person, he knows that there's something lacking. When the old man says, "There's something lacking," well, you know yourself what it is. You know the nature of your life. You know what you're doing that's dragging your mind back to a re-lax. And maybe you can't forget what you have done in the past. Maybe you committed a mortal sin, and maybe you don't forget it. You can't forget it if it's very, very serious. But the only way you'll get forgiven is to ask forgiveness from the Master of this earth, the Master God who let you here. Tell the manitou that you have done wrong. There's only one that has the power to forgive you, and that's the manitou. By asking Him you can be forgiven -- but you have to continue to do right in a wholehearted way. You have to continue to do right. It's a hard thing to get forgiven once you do wrong. It's a hard thing.

Someone may say you could throw away your duties, but you can't. When you throw away your duties, you're doing wrong. You're wrong to assume that you can just forget them and get them back whenever you want. You have to do penance for your wrong ways. You have to have penance. You have to do some kind of a penance, like suffer for that, or fast for that, to work that sin out. It's the same thing in any religions.

The sand woman didn't tell him anything specific or special about what he did wrong. They can't do that, you know. They don't do that, but they got a hint right there. "This road here you have to follow." I heard her say that. You can't drill at the Indians in lectures too strong, because they won't come. They'll be afraid of you, afraid of the doctors. The problem-man know's what she's talking about. He knows what the hint is. He'll have a clear, a very clear, idea of what she's talking about. Oh yea. She tells him, "You are sick now. You may have taken the wrong road at the wrong time of the season, or you may have been following the wrong way of life."

The wrong road is w^n-aa-dón-nii-ka-na; that's a wrong road, ya.

"See these roads? Come back onto this straight one. There's another one. There may be a good friend there, well-dressed. It may be a good-looking friend of yours well dressed. But be aware. Maybe he's not your friend. This is your road right there. There's where your friend is, way up here. And if you can get back to that main road, you have lived a life."

They say it's another world at the end of the road. The way we understand it, it sounds like a planet, the light of the sky, the light of the heaven, the light of the blue-sea. It's the light of the blue sea and the sky, stars, moon. What's behind that? What's behind the sun?(56) They know right here. I think they should know by their practice. If you practice you'll learn more. By practice and research you'll see things about man like they were discussing in their sermons. What is man? What is the vegetation? What is the earth made of? Who made it? Why? What is the soil? What is the water? What is the timber? Does it grow by itself, or is there somebody taking care of that?

What's it like at the end? Well, we feel that you have done your duties here. We may have another staff(57) to meet when we get there. You heard about that. You don't always go right into the next world. In religion, especially in the Book,(58) don't go straight to heaven. You have to be purified by these men who went before now to the Great Spirit. And when you're purified, you have lots of work to do. It isn't easy, you have to work for what you learn. You have to work. If you did something wrong intentionally, maybe, you'll be there being purified for quite a number of years before you ever get through. It's up to the judge.

On the way to the next world you'll walk to the bridge. The bridge is evil, and the evil is a wild creature.(59)

If you're clean, you can walk on him. But if you're a sinner, it'll sink before you get to the other shore.

Getting across the river, there's somebody else who has to judge you. He directs you: "Take that trail." So you take another trail, and you go right straight to a St. Peter. And when the St. Peter receives you he'll see the OK on you from the One that directed you. The Creator directs you!!

All the histories(60) that are brought to the Indian, to the people,(61) from the next world, say they have to go through this.(62) It isn't like going straight to heaven. It isn't. You have to do penance to get to heaven, after you're dead. There's penance to be done to receive the hand of the Lord, bleeding. But, "You shall be mine," He said. So sooner or later, if you stay on that straight road of life, you'll eventually make it.

The helping-woman, the sand woman, also doctored on the problem-man's back. The woman opened his shirt and put in those little balls that were sitting next to the sand. She looked like she was putting them in there. She opened his shirt all of the way, and worked around inside there for awhile. She was putting that power, you know, putting her hands of power on him. She was putting the power of the sand -- you might as well say -- on his back. She stuck her hand on the sand and then put it on his back. We know we come from earth and go back to earth. We have to live with the earth, and earth helps in our healing.

She handed him a few of the small sticks. He wrapped them up in a cloth, and put them away. Then she breathed over him. And sang over him. Three or four times. She sang Ah-a-a-a-a, with a delicate rising and falling voice. It sounded more like soft laughter than pain or fright. It was very gentle. She finished, then sat back down at her place on the front of the quilted blanket. She said some more things over the sand after that. She came 'round and sat down on the front of the blanket. We couldn't see any more of the sand after that. But we could still hear her. --... She said a few more things, then handed the patient the rest of the little sticks. He put these away later on.

Then the problem-man sang.

Then George sang.

As he sang the helping-woman sitting by the sand got up and went and sat in a chair next to the old man with the cane. She sat down across the room from the head Medicine Indian.

After the song, the Medicine Indian said something, and the helping-woman answered. He said another something, and she responded with a short comeback. They continued on like that. He would say something and she would have a comeback -- sometimes just a word. He was praying to the Spirit, and she was answering. She was doing this as a spokesman for the rest of the group, and as a spokesman for the Spirit.

All during the time quite a few of those sitting around, including the helping-women, spit into small tin cans. More than half, no, about half, did that. The spit wasn't colored, so they weren't using snuff or chewing tobacco. While the helping-woman worked, the head Medicine Indian, didn't say much -- but he kept spitting in his little tin can.

In another small can, a small tin can, a small fruit-cocktail tin can, on his right, the George had some tobacco. They use that tobacco at any time, in ceremonial, but he didn't use any while we were there. And we didn't see his pipe. We missed that part, sure, as tobacco always comes first in ceremonies.

When the helping-woman was done, the patient got up and came over and sat next to the sitting woman and little girl next to us. He had kind of a red mark, a light red mark, on his forehead. Maybe it was made by pressing the forehead very hard, but maybe it was too red for that. . . . The man also had a pound can of tobacco, to give to George after the others left.

When the patient, after the ceremonies, walked over and sat next to his wife, the daughter began complaining. She wanted to go home.

During the meantime a couple other children wandered in and out, and when the little girl next to us saw them, she wanted to go even more. She was too young to understand the goings on, so people paid little notice about her.

After the problem-man came over and sat next to his wife, George sang a dancing song. And the people danced. Everybody danced. They got up and danced around. Everybody danced East-to-West,(63) around a small wood-stove in the center of the room. Everybody danced, except the problem-man, his wife, and the doorman.

The doorman, about twenty-eight, sat to the right of the door. He sat next to the old woman sitting in the kitchen. All through the ceremonies, even during the dancing at the end, all the people were serious -- except for the doorman. Unlike with his job at the beginning, when he came out to meet us when we arrived at the place, this guy wasn't serious at all -- for the most part of it.

All of the dancing women, except the old lady, the helper-lady, carried a pan of food. One of the pans had some kind of dried up bread or biscuits in it; another, fry bread. A lot of them carried bread and things like that in their hands. I never really looked very close at what food they were carrying around. They had some fry bread, sure. And rice,(64) and something to put into a stew. They carried that around. That's their feast. It's a festival. That's a gift, mi-gwitch ni-gii-wày. That's a donation that they give out. When they dance around, they feel they dance around to give. They give unto others, and they use that. They reuse that. They give.

They divide up the food so that everybody can get a taste of it. Ya. They had a feast. Well, it was just a sort-of-a-feast.

They danced 'round the room a couple times. Since we were just visiting I didn't join in on the dance. But my foot tapped with the drum beat. My head too. These songs perp(65) people up. These songs are medicine.

Everybody danced around and around. The last time, when they went by the door, they went out. And when they went out the door they said, "Thank you, good bye," and, "Thank you, and good luck." They used the high Indian Language, the special language they use for Midewiwin. It was the special language they use in doings, like the whites use Latin. One of the dancers said goodbye in high language, like the others, but didn't leave the room. She sat down next to the doorman.

At the end they gave the problem-man some of that frybread and food. I don't know much about that. There are lots of parts to that. That was going on, and there are lots of parts to that. This man might-a had a question, or he might-a been ailing, or he might-a been renewing his life. That reviewing with food is just the same as communion. We go to communion, like any religion.(66)

Yea, that's something. I like to, I would like to, follow that.(67) They were very enjoyable. You start thinking it out and it makes good sense. Well, I like church too. I like a good sermon.

Everybody has the same principles. They believe in the same Spirit. Well, you know, you could understand that stuff. The main part He says is, "Wherever you speak of Me, I'll be there." He didn't tell who you have to be, or what church you have to go to. He didn't say that. He said, "Wherever you speak of God, my name, I'll be there. I'm everywhere." See, that's a big word. He's the same God. He's the same Manitou. Ya. He's the Manitou. He's the Master. That's the Master.

As far as I could see, they were working on a certain man. It looked to me like these crafts they had were gifts to the old man for doing the ceremony. They also had some other things there, like blankets and cloth and water buckets and stuff. That's his gifts; he gets those instead of money. Giving of those gifts is a requirement. They put them in front of him, and then he accepted. He could use that cloth to make clothes and everything. He could make clothes, shirts, for himself. Well, in that line(68) you get tobacco too. If you smoke tobacco, you can use that. But usually they divide that. They divide that. They give it to somebody that needs something.

If he accepts these gifts, he does all he can, just to help the guy who probably needed that. There's some guys, and some people, who want to go and get a good meditation from this power man. It helps. And you feel better too, by getting a good lecture. If you hear a good lecture, you feel good.

If you go bare-handed they won't say anything. But really, to do it right, you have to take tobacco, or a little liquid,(69) or something else. You should lay a little blanket, a little shirt, socks, cloth or something down in the front of the main Medicine Man. You should put it down and tell him, "I come here to see you, George. I want an answer from the good way of your history. So the things you believe in, tell me. And I'll ask you questions, and you answer them."

Wh^$

You have to know how to meet the Indian doctor, otherwise don't fool around!(70) He'll laugh at you when you go if you don't know how to meet him. He'll think, "He doesn't know anything." He could -- here he could -- put a hook(71) on you on that. You didn't think. You didn't think of him well enough to even meet him properly.

But George is a good Indian. He wouldn't do that.

The medicine doctor didn't give the patient anything to drink.(72) He doesn't have to! He talked to the Great Spirit, and the Great Spirit took him out to the open air, the fresh air, to be able to walk, to be able to work with his strength. You don't have to have medicine to cure somebody. Christian Science doesn't have medicine. You have to have your belief in God. He'll do the rest! Wh^^h$! The Spirit will do the rest!

This problem-man didn't take any medicine of any kind -- at least not during the ceremony while we were there -- but they gave him signs to carry. "Carry them signs," the old man said as the helper-woman drew the map of the regulations of life in the sands they had. They put out the rules of this organization for everyone to follow. They put out good rules to follow. Those rules tell you the proper road to follow. That's what this meeting you saw was for. After that old man put out the rules to the other guy, the problem-guy, they all joined him, they all greeted him, and they all danced.

Maybe, probably, he got some medicine later on. I don't know what it is, but anyhow he must have gotten some medicine that'll hold him up good. But for the last three years I've never seen him. Ya.

The problem-man took the sand with him when he left. They wrapped up the sand and took it out to their car, along with two other medicine bundles. Sure, that's his. He takes it home, keeps it around his place, probably. He can do anything he wants with it. He takes it with him so that he can have good luck later on. He takes it so that he can remember the path of his life.

After the doings was over, and most everybody left for the outside, I went over and talked to my uncle George. I told him that some of the younger people wanted to know how things were in the old days. "They want to see the old ways of doing things again." I gave him the two cans of tobacco that we brought. I put them in front of him and said that we wanted to have a demonstration showing the young people how the things were done in the old days. I told him that we wanted to have a moccasin game at the Migwitch Mahnomen celebration in Ball Club.(73) George Wakefield was the head man up there. He had lots of power. And as a powerful man he could arrange that too.

Of course we talked Indian -- until he came to the part where he said he would come if they had some "ice cream." When he said "ice cream" in English, everybody laughed.

We saw right there how they were doing it. We saw that woman drawing the map in the sand on the floor. We saw him pound the drum every time he'd get through talking to the Great. That's the style they go by. They're living and working for one another, to save one another. That time they were working to save this poor fellow that was ailing.

Boy you ought to see a real Medicine Man when the patient is really sick! Boy how he goes at him terrible. He's got a big rattle, pred'near as big as a one-pound tobacco can.(74) "hhffffffew. hhhhfffffew." Then he'll chant, "iiouuuuu. oooouuuuu. uuoooooo. hhffffffew!!" That's all sickness. That's giving all he's got, asking for the power in full strength. "We're asking that all we have come to him here, for life."

Oh, I don't know what else they did with that guy at Inger. As far as I could tell George just meditated that guy while we were there. Maybe he cut him somewhere before we got there.(75) He was sick. He got over it too. He got to be all right. Yea.

It seemed like, it sounded like to me, that that problem-man just wasn't feeling good. He was a-doctoring. He got better by doctoring with the Grand Medicine. Doctoring with the Grand Medicine takes care of those things. He came out of it all right too, anyhow. Maybe George re-meditated him again later on. I don't know, but I think it looked to me like he was all right after that one ceremony. He talked normal to me after that, after our first discussion, when I met him later on, a few months later on, in the town in which I live. But for the first discussion he was disturbed! . . . !! . . . !! I caught the dickens for that!

The problem-man, gave me heck anyway, because we busted in on them. Later on in town he gave me heck because we went in there. But the doctor let us in, you know. Boy, sometimes they get mad when you interrupt their ceremony! Boy I tell you I was scared from that!

The guy being meditated didn't like it that we came in there. He didn't like it. The patient gave me the dickens over that! I saw him in town. It wasn't two weeks when I went to Deer River and that guy who was being doctored came into Deer River too. He got after me. They got the ailment out of him, but after awhile, a week or so later, he caught me over in town and he gave me hell for me interfering there. He said, "You disturbed my doctoring, my doctor, by going in there with that white man!! You disturbed the session!"

"You shouldn't-a done that. You shouldn't-a brought the white man in, because he doesn't know anything about this. Because maybe he believes it, maybe he don't. That disturbed, disturbs, the Medicine Man. But he kept right on anyhow. He broke through and made me well. I feel better now, I don't know for how long. There was disturbment when you went in there with that white guy."

"Humm. How come you feel that way? I didn't do anything wrong, did I?"

He said, "You aren't supposed to go in there with a white man."

"Well how do you feel now? You feel any better? You're still up on your feet. So what are you crying about?" I said, "I know all about it. I know what he's doing. That's my uncle," I said.

"Oh."

"I'll tell you," I said to him, "we're in for that too. We're looking for life; we're looking for a betterment. I worked with this boy a long time." Face to face I was talking with him and he was a big fellow too. "I work with this boy a long time, and I think he's helping the Indians. And he believes of what we do. He believes what we believe in. He believes in the Great." And I said, "I don't believe we disturbed you, because our heart was there. Whatever you do, whatever an Indian does, whatever church you go to -- any church -- we work for the same principles. We work for the Great. It's there. If you do right, if you don't say anything to anybody to make them feel bad or to be confused, there's no disturbance. That's our duty to go in there and listen to them. You should be glad we came in there and saw you. That's going to help you. We joined you to help you come out of your ailment. You're looking good now. You're looking good. We favored(76) that doctoring. We favored with you, with your medicine doctor. We were working for our doctor. I know my white friend will do good. So will I. So will everybody else."

It is no fooling when they go in and speak right up to the Creator who created you.

That's why that woman said, "From earth you come, back to earth we go. If we provide help to stay on the right road we'll be ready to meet the Great. We'll be ready for Him at any time that road ends on this earth. But if you take the bad road, the side road, you might go wrong." This is what she was telling him. That's what that lecture was for.

"You better not worry about it. You're all right."

"OK," he said.

"I'm glad you don't feel bad over it."

So we departed without any hard feelings. He never said anything after that. And I met him a couple of times after that. He's different now. NO, he's not disturbed about it any more. But for three years I haven't seen him now.

He'll find out if it worked gradually, gradually. Any, any medicine you take doesn't work right away, but you get your strength later on. He was worried about a disturbment in his curing.

... I would say we disturbed the doctoring. I didn't care to go in there, but the old man said, "Bring 'em in." That's why I took my friend in there. That's a respectable place to go in. As a Medicine Man, as an Indian, I was welcome because the old man was my uncle. He didn't care(77) about me. He knows I've seen those things. The one being doctored already blamed a disturbment on you my white friend. But my white friend got the privilege from the Medicine Man to come in.

I asked the doorman, "I got a man here that want's to see this."

"OK."

He went and asked the Medicine Man. The doorman came back.

"The Medicine Man says OK. Why sure!! Bring him in."

The doorman says, "Ya. Come in."

That should make it OK! It should. It should not interfere. There's a lot of hitches on that stuff, boy.

So this is it! So it stands yet. Nothing happened to the problem-man.

But I don't know where he is right now. I don't know whether he died or whether he's still working. I have never seen him for three, four years now. He's a husky man, a big man, and not too old. I'm going to ask my uncle some time whether he's living, and whether he was disturbed since we last saw him. That would be a big question to him.

Ya.

I wanted to ask my uncle about that before, but there were too many around listening in. I went there three or four times since we left there,(78) but there were always too many around to talk about it. See? But my white friend got the privilege right from the Medicine Man to come in.

George let us in already. So we stood there and looked. He knows I know it. He know's I've been telling my white friend about it. So everything turned out all right.

The problem-man thought we busted in. We didn't. They let us in. That was his brother at the door. That was the doorman's brother who was a patient there, laying there on the floor. They're both alike, they look alike and they're both the same size.

Boy those guys are dangerous(79) up there at Inger! But they know I'm not scared of them.(80)

You see, I knew this was going on, and I wanted to see George Wakefield. He's my uncle. I get a lot of dope(81) from him. He's older than I am, and he's been through the mill. He's a very nice Indian. He'll tell the truth.

I go visit my uncle once in awhile, and talk to him about the history of life. He talks very well about life, about other people, about neighbors, about friends, and about relatives. He's a doctor, a medicine doctor. He knows all the medicine that could be used. He knows medicine, and his wife also knows medicine. His wife is still living. If you ask him for any kind of medicine to use for your ailment, he'll give it to you.(82) He'll tell what to use. And through that medicine he'll bring you help. He's meditating on that medicine. He's asking the Great to give you the power to get power to get on your feet through this medicine.

Respect the medicine. Respect the searching for life. That's what he said, "This boy's searching for life. Stop the ailment. If there's any foul play,(83) push that out. But I don't think there will be any foul play, not through me,(84) not before me.(85) And when I speak for the medicine given to my friends, my neighbors, my relatives, that's all I have to do. That's all I want," he said. "And if I could do that, I'm doing great for the country."

"Instead of going any further and talking in a spiritual way to the Spirit,(86) I'm content to just use the medicines," he told me. A lot of them had power through the Spirit. A lot of them were practicing that at one time. He's not interested in becoming a spiritual doctor, a jessokid, a tent-shaker because he doesn't want to be the blame for anything. See, that's the next thing, to get into the spiritual doctoring, but it's good enough that I know the medicine as a doctor."

A medicine doctor for doctoring in good faith, for good purposes, is called, nah-nam-dah-wii-way wa-sIn-in-nii. My uncle is nah-nam-dah-wii-way wa-sIn-in-nii. na-nahn-dah-wii-i-way wI-nI-nii, ya, that's medicine doctor. If you add -ikwe on the end, that means "woman." We have women doctors too. My mother was a doctor. She knew a lot of medicine, but she wasn't a spiritual doctor.(87) She was a Catholic. She doctored for good purposes. Those are the kind of people the Great respects. The Great respects the guy that helps the others, because He kind-a put us on earth to help one another.

My uncle told me, "I don't do anything wrong.(88) I wouldn't because I live with them. I have a lot of people here. And I think if I do wrong I'll be taken in the wrong place by my own doings."

After he's dead, that's what he means.

 

At that time I expected that there would be changes in the near future, which happened. George Wakefield was a very good man. He was a very honest Indian. He was very careful amongst his people. He was careful amongst his friends and amongst all. He's well liked. He was really careful with the power that he used. In fact, I asked him one time, about seven or eight years ago,(89) "Uncle, I have a right to ask you any question. You're my uncle. Uncle," I said, "do you use that power of yours in a good or bad way?"

When I asked that he just gave a little laugh. He said, "No. I don't use that power for bad. I use that for the good. That's why I'm happy and feeling good all the time. There's nothing working against me. Nobody got anything against me. When they're having problems, or when they're in trouble, or anything, I just ask(90) to straighten it out for them. I use good power, good will, for all. I use my power for happiness, to keep the evil away from destroying people's minds. I get an answer by that. I don't wish nobody no bad luck. I can't do that, because I always lived a life and my folks lived a life. I remember them, and I do live a life. I help more people, and I'm glad that I'm able to help who comes to me. So if there's anything good that I can do for you, or for all, I will do it. But if I use my power for bad purposes I will get sick."

I said, "Uncle, why would you get sick? You got the power."

"It would make me think of all the wrong I done. If you do wrong unto others or unto the group, if you wish wrong, it'll affect your heart and work up to your brains. If you're drifting along in this world with something that you have done wrong, it'll make you weak. You'll lose strength. You'll lose power. You'll lose your body, maybe. But when you do right, or try to do right, when you speak right and try to be happy, I think you'll gain something. You don't fear nothing. You're ready to talk to anyone, and that's a good thing."

"I got lots of friends. I can't turn my back to nobody. And as long as I've gone this far with the good, I want my people to do the same to one another. That's the only way I can do it now. They're looking at me. If I'm doing wrong, they'll read it out of my actions. And they'll know it by listening to my words. I talk words. I move in action. Action and words speak louder than your personal ideas of your life. The words you speak will tell the truth. The action you have will tell the truth. The way of life you carry will tell the truth. You'll always be happy if you do right. That's what I believe. And I wish that all my people, good Indians and friends, could live in peace and trust one another, for happiness on earth and in eternity. That's all we're living here for. It's just a few minutes, that we're living here. But we have a day coming when you'll see what wrong you done. Everybody else will see it too. You'll be ashamed of yourself. You'll suffer for that. You'll be condemned then. You are condemned for your wrong doings.

"You will have done your work, good or bad. And if you're good, you ain't afraid. When your time comes you'll be happy to go 'cause you done a good work."

"Is that all, Uncle?"

"Yah. I can't do nothing bad now. You asked me, 'Do I use it(91) for bad?' There was times years ago when they had Medicine Men who got more empowered by doing right, by helping others. They become empowered by meditating others, as a person. But some of these didn't use their power right. The ones that done wrong didn't last long. When they done wrong they affected their heart, they affected their brains, they affected their internal intestals. Sometimes they affected their walking. They'd get a limp. They'd affect their walking limbs with a stroke or something. Sometimes they'd affect their vision. They'd become blind. Sometimes they'd become hard of hearing. I don't want that to happen to nobody. I don't want that to happen to me. So if I could see without hearing, I could see anyhow. But hearing and seeing and looking is a big thing. You need to see and hear when you're meeting people. That way you know who's your friend. When you work for the good, people are always your friend from the beginning. That's why they come and talk to you. They're always your friends from the start, and when you stay that way they're always your friend. When you stay that way you become one of the mains of life. And when you answer their question, answer it right. Tell them the truth of your history. Tell them what you believe in."

"Thank you," I said. "That's all I want to know."

"That's the whole dope(92) right there. That's what I believe in."

"It's in the good book already, Uncle. It says there, 'If you do wrong, if you say wrong, it's a wrong, it's a bad road.'"

"Do you see that mark we got on our map? The straight road takes you there. It takes you to the good destination where you want to go. But if you're headed towards a bad destination, you'll find bad roads with thorns and brush. And if you go through there you'll tear your clothes because there's thorns on that brush. It ain't so good to go through there. Maybe it'll scratch you. Maybe you'll meet some evil-minded person. And if you're taking the next road, you're taking the wrong road again. You might go left because you wanna see what there is in there. But when you get there you might see a bad person."

 

Now he let it down.(93) He didn't want to say anything, no. He's like that. He doesn't want to say anything more about it. He told me. I know he will do that. He respects that. The Ojibwa tribe is strict on that. They won't tell you about that. They won't tell you anything until you want to join them and want to be initiated in that Indian belief. When Medicine Men are through with it, they've done their share. And they don't want to say anything about it. They don't want to pass it on to just anybody.

My uncle George didn't want to pass it on to just anybody because he was aiming to pass it on to some-body else. So when he talked about it the next time, he talked to this one, his son-in-law.

George Wakefield made a session. He called his son-in-law over. He made a special ceremony. I wasn't there, but I know what they did.(94)

"Son, I know that you had lived with me,(95) and that you are living with my daughter. You're my son-in-law."

It was his son-in-law that he was talking to:

"You know this good will power, and I want my children to live with it. Take care of the children. I'm getting old. I'm losing strength. I don't care much for it. I think I done my share. But you take a hold with your strength. You could stand up beforehand for all of these that wants to see me. Now they can go and see you. I cast my power over unto you. I want all to know that you are taking the power. I want to relax. I'm past the age now where I should be using power. At the age of seventy-nine I began to lose strength. But you keep that power. I want you to use that power just the way I use it. You're young yet. Make it as good as you can, to get away from the evil. And do right. Ask the Creator, our God, our Master, for the best for all."

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Chippewa wooden effigy in the yard of Mr. Strong at Nett Lake.

Chippewa wooden effigy in the yard of Mr. Strong at Nett Lake.
Creator: Monroe P. Killy (1910-)
Photograph Collection, 1954
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.26 p7 Negative No. 35461

"If you use that power right, there'll be no danger. There'll be nothing to hurt the neighbors and friends. There'll be no sickness. You'll have to meditate that sickness too. You'll have to give to keep the sickness away. You put things out, to keep sickness away. Take little shoes and hang them up on the tree. Hang them on the surrounding trees near all four corners of the house."

A lot of them ask me, "What are those clothes they're hanging in the trees?"(96)

"That's a 47 gift. That's a gift they're given unto the Spirit to keep the evil away."

"Give. When you see something hanging in the trees you'll know that's what they're giving to the Spirit. You'll know the Indian is living there."

"That's what they give. This power man, gives gifts so he could keep his power. And this thing hanging on the tree has power. This pair of shoes, pair of socks, or moccasins, or something, hanging on the tree is given to the evil, bad evil, to not come near. It's given for sickness to not come near. It's given to keep it away."

I've been talking with this son-in-law. He always stops and shakes hands with me and has a little talk, a little chat, with me. He's a wonderful person. Yea, he's quite a guy. He talks English and Indian too. He saw me just about a month ago. We were talking. "I took it over," he said. "George is getting too long in years."

Maybe George is slipping a little, see? At his age, yea.

Well, of course this fellow is not through talking to me yet. He still wants to see me.

"Paul," he said, "we were just discussing about you. You have an uncle."

"Yea."

"And we're cousins, cousins way back. We're cousins, yea."

The Indian has a relationship with a long range. They weed out of the same family, years beforehand.(97) Yea. The marriages went a long ways. They respected first, second, third, and fourth cousins.

"Your uncle is getting pretty old."

"Yea."

"He gave me that power. He gave me the strength. He gave me his power to go ahead, to go and keep up his power."

"Good," I said. "I know when they get old they begin to lose strength."

They lose their will power. And when they become childish they might make a mistake. That's what they're afraid of. That's why they get it off of their hands before that time comes. They give it to someone with a clear mind, clear will, strong will. They give it to their son, daughter, wife, or anybody younger.

My uncle George was about eighty, eighty-four, or something like that, when he gave it up.

"I took it over," he said. "We talked about you. Ya, we talked about you. You're one of them that's been getting along pretty good. Your help is good. And when you help, you got health. We don't hear nothing about you.(98) You're amongst people all the time. And every time we see you, you're just about the same. You're seventy-three years old,(99) and boy, that's doing good. I think you got an answer by working with what's right."(100)

"Thank you," I said.

"I think you done right. You have good will and use your power for a good purpose for all. When anybody tells you problems, you try to help them out. I know how you feel. You don't promise that you can help them. You just promise, 'I'll do what I can to clear you.'"

I pray to the Great. I don't do it by myself -- I pray to Him. By praying, by asking the God of the country, you will receive an answer. You get an answer because you believe in Him. I can't do anything on my own power. Un ah. I have to work with the power that's given to me. The power that is given to me is with me. But I got to use it right. If I misuse that power then the Great leaves me. I can lose power too. See? So when you got power, you got to have Somebody to go by. You have to have something in your pocket so you can exercise that power.(101) That empowers you.

My cousin, the son-in-law, he said, "I'm coming over to see you sometime. We should re-meditate you. We should back you.(102) We should back you with power so that you may be capable of getting around, same as usual. We think, we discussed, that you have done well all these years. You have kept firm. It wasn't easy, but anyhow you are still here. We decided that you believe in us. You believe in the Indian, and you stayed with us. I think we should help you, and you help us. That's the way that works. But after all, it's gonna help the whole world. Whatever you wish for the good will probably come true. Your wish for the good purpose will be answered right now. But there's nobody there to answer your wish for the bad purpose. Because you have already done good you're regarded with a good spiritual(103) that can never be seen in person, until you die. You're protected. They(104) surround you. You can feel them. There's no evil that will get in there."(105)

My cousin finally came over and we re-meditated. Now we work with him the same as we worked with George. And same as with George, my cousin and I are both content just to use the medicines for doctoring in good faith, for good purposes.

The next thing, the next step, is to get into the spiritual doctoring.(106) But we're not concerned about being spiritualists and talking direct with the Spirit. Same as with George, we don't want to be the blame for anything. Same as with George, it's good enough that we know and use the medicine as a medicine doctor.

But some of them are brave enough to talk right up direct with the Spirit.

Yes!

Some of them are brave enough to shake tipi and talk direct with the Spirit.


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Chapter Endnote

This ceremony took place on 12 July 1966.

For about ten years even the very fact that it occurred was considered highly "secretive." Ten years later the author was directed to prepare and publish this account. The Manitou Himself, through Paul Buffalo, who had consultated with other Anishinabe religious powermen authorized the publication of this and the forgoing chapter. Paul Buffalo, again in consultation with other religious leaders, also indicated that it was the author's religious duty to present this information publicly, in part, fulfills the dream Paul Buffalo's mother had in the 1930s, in accordance with the vow the author made in 1965 to "write down what I [Paul Buffalo have to tell you."

Paul Buffalo, on the way back from this ceremony, 12 July 1966, said that he would describe all of this "tomorrow." "Tomorrow" he changed his mind and said he would first have to check with he people "up there" and see if it was OK with them. At that time, shortly after the ceremony, and after the later encounter with the patient in Deer River (see page 930), the author was told that he may have to wait "five or six years" to see if there was a "disturbment" by his presence as a white person in the ceremony. In 1966 Paul Buffalo did describe some of the general features of this curing ceremony, but it wasn't until January of 1976 that he would talk about many of the things contained in this chapter when, it was determined, there hadn't been any known disturbment. Several details in this chapter are from the author's notes, also approved for publication.

At the encounter with the patient in Deer River, in 1966, we were told by the patient, "These things never occur anymore in this area, do they?" It was pointed out to us on another occasion that the run-down condition of the dance hall in Inger (Cf., p. 892) was "proof" that these ceremonies didn't occur any more.

In another discussion, later on the day of the ceremony, Paul Buffalo said NOT to tell Wayne Cronin, a Leech Lake Reservation Business Committeeman, about the ceremony, because "Well, that's their belief up there. ... You have to believe in these things, and they work." In that same conversation Paul Buffalo said that as long as he was along people would never question me.

Sometime in the 1970s, prior to January 1976, there reportedly was a meeting of Medicine Men at Grand Portage or in Canada, attended in part by Jimmy Jackson (RIP), another Medicine Doctor in the same area as Paul Buffalo, at which they determined that the signs were such that some aspects of Midewiwin, including some Midewiwin curing, should again be made public. Preparation and publication of this information has been, since that time, authorized by Paul Buffalo in consultation "with other Medicine Men."

Jimmy Jackson also guided the handling of this and other similar material, especially in its "secretive" stages from ca. 1965 - 1975. Jimmy Jackson later consented to do interviews in public, including televised interviews with Larry Aitken. Cf., for example, Jim Parsons, "Spirit Gives Medicine Man Power to Help his People," Minneapolis Tribune, March 27, 1983, pp. 1B, 6B. By the 1980s many aspects of Anishinabe beliefs were public. Jimmy Jackson, for example, had business cards identifying himself as a "Medicine Man," and wore an athletic coaches-type jacket with "Medicine Man" embroidered where one might otherwise see "Coach." Over the years Jimmy Jackson also indicated that it was now time to prepare these materials to hand on to the younger generation in their present form. Preparation of these materials is done with respect for and a special dedication to the memory of Paul Buffalo, Jimmy Jackson, George Wakefield, Mike Fairbanks, Raymond Robinson, and to others still living who wish not to be named.


Footnotes

1. Paul Buffalo uses the vision to include dreams. But this also frequently includes visualizations more classically termed "vision" by Whites.

2. An important Midewiwin ceremony.

3. Midewiwin powermen control the weather, and ceremonies are generally held only "when there is not a cloud in the sky."

4. Inger, MN, a traditional village on the Leech Reservation. See map, Figure xxx, page xxx.

5. The Mide, Midewiwin Grand Medicine doctors.

6. It is important that you approach the Mide properly. Cf., page 887, 836.

7. Commercial tobacco, Indian tobacco or kinickinick, cloth, clothing, a blanket, a metal pail, food . . . but not alcoholic products.

8. Act according to the correct way of life.

9. They go out and really celebrate, i.e., drink.

10. That is about xxx% xxxfrom Roufs, p. 32 = 12; 12/X = %.

11. Paul Buffalo said the Indian word for "superstitious" is "one who believed in everything he sees."

12. Dan Raincloud, on the Red Lake Reservation in Northeast Minnesota.

13. The term "Medicine Man" is not a well-liked term (Cf., Ch. 32 33, "Medicine Men / Medicine Women"). Occasionally they are referred to as "The Indian." Paul Buffalo does not like the term "Medicine Man," but uses it with the whites because they understand that term and would probably not understand what "The Indian" meant.

14. That is something from nature, from the natural world, and therefore you are not supposed to pay for it or make money off of it. You can not, in a sense, buy and sell something that was "put there by the Great for everyone." It is also sacred, and you can not buy and sell sacred things (just like, for e.g., Roman Catholics are not supposed to trade in the buying and selling of indulgences).

15. "Sleeping Giant."

16. For Grand Medicine and for doctoring.

17. And later on they went to Fond du Lac, MN. Cf. map xxx, page xxx.

18. Tuesday, 12 July 1966.

19. Paul Buffalo did not actually see the guard talk to George Wakefield, so he reports that he only thinks that is what happened. It is important for Paul Buffalo to distinguish between what he actually sees, what he thinks probably happened, and what he knows from the truth of nature (i.e., about things because they belong to part of the natural world, like, for example, leaves come out in the spring).

20. It's important for a patient's relatives to be there, for whether they are there or not affects the cure.

21. In 1995 there was a move on to change all "Squaw _____" geographic place names in Minnesota to something else. "Squaw Point" near Cass Lake, for example, was changed to "Oak Point." The Duluth News-Tribune of 9 April 1995 reported that on 6 April 1995 both "White and Indian parents have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to change the name of Squaw Lake School. . ." (p. 4B), "expressing the view that the term was offensive only when used in a derogatory manner." As of this writing, 17 April 1995, the matter is under discussion in the Minnesota State Legislature. Cf., Steve Kuchera, "An Identity Crisis? Squaw Lake Isn't Caught up in Minnesota Name-change Initiative," Duluth News-Tribune, Monday, April 17, 1995, pp. 1A, 4A. Cf. also, Paul Buffalo's discussion of the word "squaw" on page xxx.

22. A little flat pile of sand deep enough for the woman to draw lines in.

23. See Figure Figure 2\xxx.

24. Cf., page xxx.

25. High "staff" of the Midewiwin.

26. We didn't get too close so that by our presence we wouldn't (a) disturb the actual ceremony itself, as it was going on, and (b) so that we wouldn't disturb the effects of the ceremony, i.e., the cure.

27. See Ch. 43 41, "John Smith Wrinkle Meat."

28. The patient came out all right, and therefore this is proof that it was all right for Paul Buffalo to follow the orders of the head Medicine Man and bring his white friend into the ceremony.

29. Grand Medicine.

30. "In this rite is also perpetuated the purest and most ancient idioms of their language, which differs somewhat from that of the common everyday use," W.W. Warren, quoted in W.J. Hoffman, 1891, p. 161.

31. Slangs, that is, dialects.

32. See Ch. 29 30, "Mi-de-wi-win."

33. Generally, but not always, one will not say "yes" or "no" to this type of question, but instead will answer with a statement about life in general.

34. That is, his group of Indians, Leech Lake Chippewa.

35. July, and he's thankful that they have been able to see the spring and summer come again, with the new plants and new generation of animals. Seeing the young plants and little animals proves that God loves us. How can one see newly-hatched birds in the nest and not know that the Manitou loves us?

36. See Chapter Ch. 29 30, "Mi-de-wi-win" for description of Midewiwin initiations.

37. Although George Wakefield used Midewiwin in general the Medicine Doctor does not heal or cure, he is just the agent through which the Manitou heals. Paul Buffalo frequently used the term "mediator" in describing a Medicine Doctor, not "curer."

38. See Ch. 29 30, "Mi-de-wi-win."

39. See Ch. 41 38, "Finns, 'The Sweatbath-Men'."

40. People on both sides of the room, i.e., both the medicine people and the patients relatives, are asking (praying) that the Medicine Doctor become even more empowered and thus more likely to cure the patient -- or, more correctly, to intermediate a cure from the Manitou for the patient.

41. The Medicine Doctor, his wife, and the female helper sitting on the opposite side of the sand from the patient.

42. They were the individuals on the opposite side of the room from the Medicine Doctor who were responding to the prayers of the Medicine Doctor and the woman helper.

43. There were nineteen inside of the house, including the two invitees.

44. They were all supporting the Medicine Man in his cure.

45. Support; back.

46. You are most likely to go, not required to go.

47. "Indian tobacco."

48. Indian incense.

49. Director for the problem man from the medicine man.

50. "Book" in this sense also includes the oral traditions and the commonly accepted Anishinabe ways of doing things.

51. For examples of a road of life drawn out see Densmore, Francis Chippewa Customs, (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 86), pp. 89. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. (Reprinted, Minneapolis: Ross and Haines, 1970; St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1979; and elsewhere.), and Hoffman, Walter James. "The Midewiwin; or 'Grand Medicine Society' of the Ojibwa," in Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Seventh Annual Report, 1885-1886, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), pp. 176 (and Plate IV following p. 170), and Johnston, Basil. Ojibwa Heritage, (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1976), p. 86.

52. The one who mediates between the Manitou and the patient.

53. Sings a song with words rather than chanting a tune without words.

54. A branching side road.

55. The great Medicine Doctor of the World, i.e., the Great Manitou.

56. Cf., Ch. 28b 29, "Carry Something You Believe In (Weasel Hide Lecture)." "'What's Behind the Sun?': An Indian Sermon."

57. Another level of staff of the Midewiwin or of spirits.

58. In this case, the Bible.

59. The bridge that you have to cross over in the next world is actually a live creature, some kind of a monster. If you've lived a good life, you can walk across without problem. If you haven't lived a good life, the creature comes alive as you try to cross, and presents difficulties for you, according to how you've lived. See Ch. xxx.

60. Stories and personal histories.

61. To the Anishinabe. Anishinabe means "the genuine people."

62. When people come back from the dead to visit in the world of the living they all say you must go through this.

63. Counterclockwise.

64. Wild rice.

65. Pep.

66. They share bread and food together in a sacred setting, "like any religion."

67. Paul Buffalo would like to be able to follow the progress of the patient, in order to see what ultimately happened. He lost track of him about three years before the taping of these materials.

68. As a Medicine Doctor.

69. But for the Midewiwin not alcoholic liquid.

70. Cf., page 887, 926.

71. A hex, a spell, jibik.

72. Sometimes they give them a medicine or herbal tea to drink.

73. Since 196xxx the Migwitch Mahnomen, "Wild Rice Thanksgiving Days", celebration has been held on the third weekend of July by the community members in Ball Club, MN. The event is open to the public.

74. For an illustration see Densmore, Francis Chippewa Customs, (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 86), pp. 97 (and Plate 38). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. (Reprinted, Minneapolis: Ross and Haines, 1970; St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1979; and elsewhere.), and Hoffman, Walter James. "The Midewiwin; or 'Grand Medicine Society' of the Ojibwa," in Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Seventh Annual Report, 1885-1886, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), Figure 1, p. 159, and xxx

75. Cf. discussion of bloodletting in curing, page xxx.

76. Supported and backed, with our own power.

77. He didn't worry about him.

78. In July 1966 - January 1976,

79. Dangerous in the sense that Midewiwin can be spiritually dangerous.

80. If you are living the right life, and your relatives are living the right life, and you have your own power under control, there is no reason to be scared of them.

81. Information.

82. But he will not always grant you your request. For example, an individual, another relative of Paul Buffalo, asked the Medicine Doctor to put the jibik (bad medicine, "foul play," a hex) on his ex-wife in order to have her die so that he could get custody of their child. He refused.

83. "Foul play" generally refers to someone who is trying to use their power in an unacceptable way against you. Putting the jibik (hex) on you would be the most serious incidence of foul play. Using your own power to harm or inconvenience someone would be foul play. Trying to doctor someone when another doctor is already working on them would be foul play. Trying to overpower someone else's power would be foul play.

84. He is not doing any foul play either for himself or in behalf of anyone else.

85. Paul Buffalo's uncle was a very powerful Medicine Doctor and so not many would even think of trying any "foul play" with him. At this time he is probably the third or fourth most power Medicine Man among the Anishinabe in northern Minnesota, following one at Red Lake and one at Mille Lacs, and maybe Grand Portage.

86. That is to communicate directly with the spirits, i.e., as jessokid. See also Ch. 31. Ch. 31 32, "'Spiritual Doctoring' (Tipi-Shaking), and Bone-Sucking Specialists." In the literature on Chippewa and other Algonquian Indian peoples a Jessokid is also sometimes called a "Conjurer" or "Tent-Shaker."

87. She wasn't part of the Midewiwin.

88. With his power.

89. Recorded in xxx [check tape 42 ca p. 12].

90. The Manito.

91. Power, Grand Medicine.

92. Information and advice.

93. He's retired from being an active Medicine Man.

94. He didn't see it personally. He heard about it.

95. This was probably as what anthropologists call "bride service." Cf. xxx Ch. 25, "Courtship, Marriage, and Living with the In-Laws."

96. It is customary to hang articles of clothing, like little children's shoes outside on the trees as a sign to the Manitou that there are believing traditionals living there; it is a way of asking for protection for those living there. It is also a way of acknowledging the Manitou Himself.

97. They "weed out" as marriage partners, and potential marriage partners, people of the same patrilineage. That is, people of the same totem group are "weeded out" of consideration in marriage. The totem relationship goes back to the creation of the totem group in mythological time. Thus dozens, if not hundreds, of generations are and have been "weeded out" from intermarriage within the patrilineal family group.

98. They didn't hear anything bad about him.

99. In 1973.

100. Living to old age is a sign that you are living right. Thus living to an old age is an "answer" or result of "working with what's right."

101. See discussion of weasel hide on page xxx, and Ch. 28, "Power."

102. The two medicine people should meditate together to reaffirm that they are both working for the same ends, and are not working against one another or are competing with one another.

103. People consider that he has a good guardian spirit.

104. Guardian spirits.

105. This little speech by the new power man was taken by Paul Buffalo as a sign of official recognition that he had done right in attending the curing ceremony and bringing a white person in with him. No harm came, and therefore there was no problem.

106. The next highest step is to become a jessokid, a tent-shaker. Cf., Ch. 31 32, "'Spiritual Doctoring' (Tipi-Shaking), and Bone-Sucking Specialists."

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