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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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33

Medicine Men / Medicine Women(1)

Chippewa medicine man singer with ceremonial turtle clan drum.

Chippewa medicine man singer with ceremonial turtle clan drum.
Photograph Collection, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.37 p20 Negative No. 21120

 

They call me "medicine man."

Right there in Deer River they say, "Here's the medicine man."

I don't like that stuff, that medicine, because it's too rough.(2) I said, "Leave that alone."

And I don't like the name of it either -- I don't like the name "the medicine man." And I don't like what they tell about me. When they say "the medicine man"; other Indians hear that and they think, "Oh, he's got power then."(3)

"That's not my name," I'm thinking.

Nothing happens right there, when they say that. Nothing happens until later. I feel bad about what they call me, and I point at them with my finger(4), and forget it. I said, "Leave that alone." I use a sign. I point my finger at them, and bury the hatchet.

The old folks, the old men, told me I had power -- but they did it according to the Indian belief. The way they told me, with my life, was that I had power. That is not the same thing as being a "Spiritual Doctor," a jess-a-kii.(5) They had a big medicine meeting and the Indians said to me, "You're named that, nah-nan-dah$-way-i-way I-ni-nii -- "Medicine Man" -- because you have the strongest will power of your age. You aren't too old(6) yet, and it takes old people to use medicine. But with your age they select you for a most powerful Indian. You know too much.(7) You can answer questions. They go right to your head.(8) You clarify them right away.

I asked them why they said that.

"You know too much. You know the Indian way of life. You know how to do things."

"Well, it isn't that I do all that alone."

"But we hope that you're, you're the one, that can answer those questions."

"I know how it works. It's bad . . . bad."

Later on they ask me all kinds of things. They ask me what you use for this and that. They ask me how to do that through doctoring, how to do this, through medicine. I get tired of people asking me that.

Wh^h!

You know, I think a lot of times that the White people think the Indian doesn't know anything. But we have doctors, Medicine Doctors . . . Medicine Men . . . who studied from way back, and passed on their experience to the Indians who came after them. And the younger generation and the doctors we have now are practicing the same medicine we have. They buy the herbs and the ginseng and all that stuff. Nowadays that's mixed in with the White medicine, too.

Three Medicine Doctors came to see me one time. See, I've been practicing all medicine. Many people know that. These three Medicine Doctors had a problem. They looked for me for two or three days, but they could not find me. I was here and there, travelling all over. Then I got a message, "These Medicine Men are looking for you."

"Why are they looking for me?"

"I don't know. They seem to have a problem. I'll take you up there." This man said, "I'll take you up there, if you want to see them."

"You shall take me right now."

I went up and saw them. How happy they seemed to be for me to meet them. And I told them, "As I understand it, you have been looking for me. Is there any reason that you're looking for me? Is there any cause? Do you feel in-disturbed? In any way do I disturb?"

"No. We can't say that very well. But there's something in the air that we can not understand. It could be the weak spots in the air. It could be in the climate. We have bad weather coming. There are bad signs of that." He said, "We tried to help someone with his problem, but there seemed to be a hook(9) in the front of us. So we want to know who's doing that hook. And you are the main one we want to talk to. You're younger and you have power, but I don't think you would ever do that to us."(10)

I looked at them. "Don't ever feel that way. Whatever you asked, I stayed out of it. Your creation, your help, is handed down before you through the power that the three of you have. I know you too well to interfere. I wouldn't join against you. In no way and for no cause would I work against you. I would help you. I would favor you more through my belief, as my history has shown. I have tried hard to work with you. But don't ever think that I'll interfere with what is coming up before you or with what you're building up. Interfering with somebody else's doing is too dangerous. It might backlash against me. Do you feel that I'm in the way? Do you feel I'm magnetizing the power that you have tried to put before(11) to help this guy? I don't think I'll ever do that. So keep your mind clear. I don't do that. I keep clear."

And they all had a big smile on their faces.

"We love to hear you. But there's something above that could be doing it."

There was somebody interfering with their doctoring. They felt somebody was bothering their medicine with power, because the medicine didn't work. I told them "you have to go back with your tobacco and give a little talk. Have your drum with you. Then you'll have the power. You can't go there and ask to exercise power without a drum, without tobacco. You have to put a handful of tobacco out before you try to help anybody. That's the first step. The second step is to talk to the Great Creator, that's the Great Master. Don't forget Him when you are working. Go ahead and work with Him. This is great power. You don't have to show off who you are or anything. You don't have to brag about it. You don't have to complain about it. But be careful. Try again."

I said, "Maybe there could be a bad warning on that, a bad sign on that, telling that you will not have the power to go through with it. But," I said, "try again. Maybe it'll be all right the next time you try. So do it again, just the same, whether I'm there or not there. I won't interfere with you."

So that's all I could say.

So they went out and tried. And they all felt good. They came back to see me to talk about what has happened. They were so happy. We sat together and laughed. "We were wrong putting the blame on somebody. It's our fault. It's our weakness. We didn't do right."(12)

"I think, the way it looks to me, you made it all right.

"Hmm."

"That's what I figured."

One of these guys is supposed to be the new Medicine Man from up north. He's a son-in-law of the Medicine Doctor who cured the guy at Inger.(13) He's from Inger too. He's got a great power. He's supposed to have a great power. I think he did wrong there. I think he was drinking with it. Maybe he was drinking and using the power at the same time.(14) You can't drink and go out in the field and try to find the power. I feel that he overdone it, but I didn't tell him that. He has to find his own way. I can overdo drinking at a certain time, but when it's time to use my power I just leave alcohol alone. I don't drink until I get it(15) started, then it's all right. You can't have the smell of alcohol on you when you're meditating or doctoring. You can't get the power until you start asking with all of your strength. That is true.

Both he and the other two guys got satisfied.

Everything was OK. And they were happy. See, I told them, I said, "It isn't me. It isn't me. But there's somebody that maybe has more power and is interfering with you. That's why that power stops. Maybe I should be meditated in a good way. But I can't say that I'm stopping anything."(16)

Maybe my power got there accidentally. That might happen because I believe in power too(17) strong. My belief is strong enough that everything stops before me. So I'm careful about that. When their power stops before me they could feel it. Somebody was affected. I radared somebody with my power. That power is not alone; it's with you.

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Paul Buffalo collecting medicine

Paul Buffalo Meditating Medicine.
Leech Lake Reservation, Minnesota, 1966
Photographer: Tim Roufs

If I would have been interfering with their doctoring it would have backlashed on me because there's too much power being used when you're doing that. If I was interfering with them they would know right now that it was me. They would know right now. The message(18) would have told him, "There's the guy." If I passed away they'd say, "That's the guy."

I wasn't though! But the power is there if I want to interfere.

After they saw me maybe they went to see somebody else. I don't know. Maybe someone else told them to go see me. "Maybe he's the one," somebody told them. "Maybe he has too much power. He's young. Maybe he goes out and talks more often to the Great Creator. So that's where the blind, that's where the problem, is.

That's normal to go talk to other Medicine Doctors if your own medicine isn't working. That's normal. You talk to them to find out where the trouble is. See, he'll tell you.

My nephew(19) believes in Indian doctoring, but he's a little afraid of that. He's a little afraid of my medicine and what I do with it. I know he know's I have that. But he doesn't know how to handle stuff like that. He never learned, but he believes in it.

He believes in it, but he doesn't know how to handle it.

See, the reason why I know that he believes in it is that he went to another Indian doctor besides going to me with his problem. He wanted to see a guy like me, but then I thought about the fact that he was out of the same family. He's out of my family, so when he first came to me I told him, "We'll go to another family with your problem. Maybe we'll get better results." I sent him to an Indian doctor from another family because if he went with mine it would sound like, it would look like, mine would be favoring everything his way. "Go over and see the other one," I told him. So he went and saw the other Indian Doctor. The other Indian doctor has the same method that I have, but since it was my relation, my own nephew, who was asking for a remedy, it was better to have the other Indian doctor work on his problem. See, my nephew passed me up because we're related. So there's another Indian doctor working on his problem, and I joined that. I took him to that other one.

About a year ago we went to that other Indian doctor. There's another one here. I'm not the only one that has medicine. We went to that other one, George Wakefield, and George was working on him. He has work to do with another Indian doctor yet. My nephew has to come back and thank for what he saw, for what happened.

The other Indian doctor has a rich trail of his own, and you and I have a trail of our own. We cooperate, and we don't cross.(20) You see? That's what that means.

Of course there's another Indian doctor here close by, a third one -- Jimmy Jackson. I told you, I'll never, I'll never cross him. So my weasel skin, my belief, is all right with him.

Now, study that. Study my point. Study what I'm explaining to you. Does that sound like reason, or does it not? I proved Indian medicine to my nephew. In that way I proved to him that he could get results even without special favoritizing from a relative. I told him, "Go to the other. He's got the same thing, maybe better." My nephew got results on George Wakefield's power, so that's why he's kind of leery of mine. That's why he doesn't cross over to me or anyone else. That's the first thing my nephew learned. Nobody should cross his belief, his strength -- in any way! I said that many-a times. "Don't cross me."

That's a big word. Don't cross the other! Go yourself. But if you're going to cross him, and you have to do it, let him know -- freely. If you use your power and you think it might interfere with somebody else's power, tell him freely about it.

You see, you have to cooperate with other medicine doctors because sometimes you need them yourself, like when you need doctoring. I have no right to doctor myself. Somebody else has to doctor me. Because. I have the power, I may have the power, but somebody else has to doctor me. It's the same as with other doctors. Other doctors will have somebody else doctor them because they're probably too ill to help themselves with the right kind of medicine. And just so much medicine from the other doctors will help you. That way it's a square deal on the medicine. You'll be taking just so much medicine. It will be balanced so that you'll take just what you're supposed to take.

Oh, I could try to doctor myself, but I don't know if it will work. You have to have somebody else doctor you. One doctor can not do it alone. It has to be two doctors. That's logical, and legal. You have to give the other doctor a chance.

I want to tell you another story of medicine. I want to tell you about a Medicine Woman, and that's my mother.

A few years back there was a boy in Bena. Sonny came over to my mother and said, "Grandma," he called her "Grandma," "Grandma, I've lost a couple, two, three children. The wife did." He told my mother, he said, "Could you fix her up, Grandma?" He had tears in his eyes from crying because he just lost a child.

So she said, "Yea."

He got tobacco for her, and asked my mother to fix his wife up so her children would live. You have to put tobacco out to show some respect.

"I'll do that," my mother said.

My mother went out and got that bark she needed for that. A lot of Indians know of that bark yet. There are four trees that they use. I think it was yellow birch, for one. Elm, is another one. They generally use a little bit of elm. I think the others were oak, two kinds of oak, red and white oak. They take the chips from those four trees and then they simmer it. They also used wild potato.(21)

Then my mother picked that tonic up and gave it to this young lady, and told that young lady that when that child is born he'll be a little bit tan. She told her that his color would be reddish. But that reddish will come off him in a few days. Generally after a child's birth they lose the surface skin so that's where that reddish color will be.

My mother gave her a bottle of that tonic and told that young lady, "you won't use any more than half of this and you'll be all right. That's internal medicine."

And really, from that time on, that woman had children. She was able to have children because she was drinking that tonic that my mother gave her.

It didn't take very long. I think it just takes thirty days, sixty days, something like that. They seem to get along good doctorizing! I know quite a few have been taking that in my time. The women take that for internal injury, or for internal organs like the kidney, or for flushing up the blood. They take that for everything. Whatever it is, it's really good. Yea. Even the men folks drink that. They tell the menfolks, "You drink that too. It's good for your internal. It flushes you up." So it must be good, whatever it is.

My mother was also a midwife. When a woman would have a baby my mother would come and take care of her. Yea. I know many times, when I was a boy, I said, "Where's mother?"

The old man said, "I picked her up, took her over to the neighbors. There's a woman there about ready to have a child and she has to help her." She often went to the Barnses. They had eight or ten kids. So she went there and helped out often.

She has to stay there until the child is born. When the child is born, she dresses the navel of the child. She's the one who dresses him up. She knows what to use. She'd smash up dried blueberries, and she'd put them on a cloth. She'd smash maybe a cup of them to cover the navel. And then she'd take a scissors and cut the navel. And then, after while, she'll put this application on, the dried blueberries on.

They used blueberries! Later on, raisins! That's all they used. Later on she used to buy these raisins. Before that she used dried plums or dried blueberries. They used berries of acid. And they never had any trouble. They go along good that way.

I've seen how they do it, later on, when I was about nine, because we were around, sometimes, when it was time for the child to be born. They're in pain, you know, and it seems to be that when I was a little boy I wanted to look and see what's the matter. They told me to stay in the other part of the log cabin. They always had a blanket, over it. They always hung a blanket up to cover over the compartment where the child is being born. You aren't supposed to look in there. We were in the different compartment. This was in the wigwam, or anywhere! You never can tell where you're going to be when time comes for the baby to be born. So all I saw was a rope hanging down. Every time a pain comes down on that woman about ready to have a birth, she pulls on that rope. They were laying on the floor and the rope was tied up there with a cross stick on, and then they'd pull on that.

So that must be a relief of the child pain, that's what I figured. She could help herself around. They don't have to lift her. Anyhow, they can brace her a little, but she can help herself. The old woman, my mother, would tell her, "Now, you be brave and help yourself with your own muscles." The way you helped yourself(22) when you wanted this.

That was good. That's what I saw in my times.

They were mostly women that went in there. But she had a big trust for the women. They knew how. If the man was there, if that was his wife, he would help. Sure! He wanted to know what was going on. But the men were always crowded with work. They'd be out on a logging drive, or logging in the woods and everything.

We're talking about the Medicine Women and Medicine Men, the doctors. And we're talking about the nurses, the assistant of a head doctor. That's where they learn, and that's how they get to be a Medicine Woman or Medicine Man. They get to be doctors by practicing with experienced doctors.

The nature of life is what's given to them to use as medicine. We benefit from a certain kind of food, from roots and berries and flowers and all kinds of stuff. We use what is good for the body, both the external and the internal.

I'm going to tell you some more about my mother. She studied medicine. She studied a lot of medicine, and she can reach out and get any kind of medicine, mixed it together, and it'll make you well -- most generally, if it isn't too late by the time you use it.

She looks at the teeth and the eyes to find out what's ailing people. They used to have eyes become affected from the teeth. She tapped them teeth. "What happened to your teeth?"

"Decayed."

Most of the Indians' teeth were just eaten up by decay. They eat too much sweet stuff. They eat too much energy food. You have to eat lime food. My mother studied that. Lime food is fish, and eggs. They had duck eggs, which they found. They would pick a couple eggs from the nest for medicine. But when they did that they had to put something on the nest to thank the Great for what it's going to be used for. And my mother did that.

One time my dad, my step-dad,(23) was logging. And that spring he brought the team home. We had a heavy team of horses. They weighted about, oh, somewhere around seventeen-, sixteen-, seventeen-hundred pounds apiece. That's a pretty good sized horse, and they were fat. They were a working team. We had one bay and one grey, iron-grey. That iron-grey cost four hundred dollars, when my sister bought it. It was my sister's. She had money, timber money, from her allotment. She sold stumpage. She had four hundred dollars and she bought that horse from the horse farm. And that was a nice horse. It was four years old. I remember that because when she bought it I thought to myself, "Four hundred dollars for a horse four years old. That'll be a hundred dollars a year." But it was a beautiful horse. It was dapple-grey, iron-grey. It was beautiful the way he carried himself so nice. They put him in a woods and he acted just like he knew what was going on. He knew what he was supposed to do. He didn't make any fuss. He felt good. He was kind. She was kind, that horse. She was a female . . . a she-one . . . . She was a nice horse, so we were always proud of it.

In that spring of the year, in the year when my dad was logging, they cut the brush on the logging road down to little stumps. They cut those stumps -- the hazelnut stumps from the hazelnut brush, and all the stumps from the other brush -- low on the logging road so they could clear the logging road clean after it would freeze. They plowed the road with a timber eight-by-six, or ten-by-six, which they made into a four-horse snowplow. They plow the logging roads, and when the snowplow goes over these stumps, these little stumps, that frozen timber, will tip the little hazelnut stumps and everything down. They're about four inches high. When they push them down they'll snap and break.

So this horse came home limping that spring. She never limped before, but this time she was limping. My mother said, "There's something wrong with that horse. It could be the leg -- the feet or the hooves or anything." The old man inspected a hoof. "There isn't anything wrong."

But there was still a question about that.

My mother knew about medicine, about doctoring, and she pressed the hips of the horse. There was nothing wrong there. She looked at the legs, clean down to the heels, and the horse never moved. She went to the front feet and reached down to inspect the horse's foot. I think it was her right foot. Anyway, she touched the foot and that horse raised her foot up.

"That's where it hurts. That's the foot that hurts."

So she got a carving knife and went to work. They have a special carving knife for horses' hoofs, you know. And she whittled that frog out -- they call the center part of the foot of the horse the "frog." She whittled it out. She discovered something and she hollered out to the children, "Bring that pliers, the nippers." And she reached down there and gave something a hard pull. Then she pulled easy. Then she started wiggling the nippers.

There was a stick, a sliver, that ran up that horse's foot and was covered with that frog. See, that small stump-sliver got under the frog. That's why the old man couldn't see it. But the ankle of the horse was kind-a swelling. When my mom touched that, the horse lifted up her foot. The horse knew she was going to give her help. She pulled that sliver out. Boy, after she pulled it out then the blood and the puss came out.

So anyway, mother hollered at the children, "Go get some hot water, and lot of salt. And there's a 'Save-the-Horse' on the window of the barn. I want that 'Save-the-Horse'." That's medicine for the horses' foot and legs and everything. "It says 'Save-the-Horse.' I want that." My sister Mary went right close to the barn and got that medicine.

And then they got a tub of water, and she put that horse's foot in a tub of water with salt in there. Salt draws. And she washed that foot good and clean.

And once in awhile the horse would smell my mother, just like it was saying "Thank-you." You could understand that horse by looking at her action.

And then my mother changed water again. Then she rinsed it. And she had a sponge-rag to wash that ailment.

She pressed that wound again, but no puss came out of that anymore. The blood starting running out. See that's a purifier, so she left it run awhile. She pressed it and pressed it, then she changed water again. She soaked that foot in water with salt again. Salt draws, in the water. And when that horse got out of that tub she stepped on that foot pretty good.

My mom took care of that water, then she told the kids, "Run over and get some cloth."

(24)She burnt that cloth on the stove. They burn the first wrapper to kill the germs. She put the medicine on that first layer of burnt cloth, then covered that hole with that. She wrapped that hoof, right next to the frog, this way, then that way. She wrapped it good. Oh, then that horse'ed try to lick that cloth off. That was painful, you know, and the animals lick their sores to heal them. She probably liked the taste of the salt too.

And that horse would nose my mother every little while. It was just like the horse was saying, "Thank you."

"I'll do that two, three, times. I'm trying to help you," my mother told the horse. And the horse just stood there looking at her. You could almost see her say, "Thank you."

She gave the horse three treatments. She took care of that horse with three treatments. We let the horse in the barn. We fed her grain and watered her in the barn. We kept her in the barn so she would not use that foot.

In about five or six days my mother took that rag off. That blood on that horse was still dark. But by washing it, it cleared up again. That salt and that medicine drawed out the infection. Salt is healing. That hole closed up a little bit, and the more it closed, the more the infection comes out. When my mother took the cloth wrapper off, that horse gave her foot a few licks, then she went out to the meadow. But after my mother let that horse out, that horse walked on that foot without a limp. After that, she started eating everything. Oh that horse then began to eat good! And she built up again. She sagged a little bit earlier because of the pain.

My mother was a doctor and she treated animals just like a veterinarian.

That was about 1926, somewhere around that. Then she was pretty active, she was young and everything.

You know, my mother doctored that horse when that horse's foot was coming up on swelling. And when she pressed that, that horse lifted up her foot. That's why I remember that. I think a lot of my brothers and sisters could verify how strong my mother used the medicine.

W^^h!

One time we had a big black horse, a nice one. He was gentle, but he was bony. He was able and willing, but he caught a bad cold one time before we got him. The White people called it "discomposures." It's from a cold, where he coughed and sneezed. I was there when my old man went and doctored that horse. He built a fire, then let it steam. He put charcoal in the pail and lit it. Then he put the boughs, or something else that'ed smoke, on the charcoal. He picked up the smoking-boughs and put them in the pail with lit charcoal. Then he put the pail up there by the horse's nose and let him breathe the smoke. He held it up on the horse, and when the horse breathed that smoke from a certain bark and from certain boughs, it made him cough. The horse tried to get away, but my dad held it up there. He held it right there for about five, ten, minutes. Finally the horse sneezed that out. That didn't hurt him. It made him feel good.

They won't drop with that smoke pail. We give them air, fresh air. The only thing that happens is when the smoke hits that nose and nostrils it'll make him cough. That's the way we used to do it years ago. We'd make them sneeze, make them sneeze.

That horse was a good horse, but he sneezed from a cold, from a bad cold. His nose was running for a long time. So the Indians knew he had a distemper and they fixed up medicine to put on a horse. Boy it made him cough. And when he sneezed, big chunks came out of his nose, chunks about an inch long.

Ya. They cured that horse.

Well, they got the smoke from bark and boughs and everything. We have a lot of medicine for that, mostly boughs, boughs and bark, the inside bark. You have to know how to make that stuff. Then you have to let Him, the Manitou, know what it's for. And by gosh, that horse was cured. Boy, I tell you he was a good horse after all. But there were chunks that came out of his nose, just like white matter.

So that's how they'd treat all the ponies that had caught cold, distemper and a cough. And they use that.

No, it is not a lie. It's the truth.

And we had one like that again later on, so I picked up stuff and put it in a pail. I got something that made him cough. I got a hold of him and I let him breathe that smoke. I didn't smother him. I just gave him a touch of it. It goes down through his nose when he breathes anyhow. And when he hits that, whuuw!

We use mostly cedar, but not too much. You have to mix it mild. I mix it with the inner bark of slippery elm. They're all good medicine trees. We use ground up roots with that too. And we fix up horses like that. Just think, even my mother used to work on horses.

Sometimes a horse is meditated to get him to go faster. If you have a fast horse, but it is not meditated, a trotter or a cutter can pass you on the ice or on the road. If the guy that passes you always has to hold his horse back, you'll feel like he's giving that horse condition powder.

No, he's meditated.

The Indian way.

To meditate a horse I boil a medicine stew and blow it all over him.

Fh^^-uuuwww.

Fh^^^-uuuuuwww.

Fh^^-uuuwww.

I spray it over him with my mouth. After I meditate him, when I take that horse out, he can hardly stand still. He's raring to go. You just have time enough to hook(25) him, if you hook him and hold him at the same time. Then jump right in the cutter, but you have to do it quick.

But even though your horse is meditated and is quick, another horse can still come by him and pass him up. Another Medicine Man can come by him with his horse and put his power to your horse just by passing you. If he does, your horse will slow right down. And all he has to do is pass your horse. That's how strong that dope, that medicine, is. That's the way that stuff works.

They do that to people too. They do that to dancers.(26) They do that to singers. If you're at a powwow anywhere and are pretty popular in the powwow, they could cut you down half with their power. Somebody will see that something went wrong with you. That's what it is. And it's all the fault of jealousy. So you have to watch that. If you're making good, a person could stop that with his medicine. That's why I say, "be aware." That's why they gave me this power.

Watch out.

Oh! that's something to think about.

Boy!

I went up to Orr, one time when I worked for McKusick, about 'thirty-two, about 1933. They were peeling pulp(27) up there at Orr. I saw a woman sitting. Everybody was peeling pulp except her. All the campers were peeling pulp but her. She couldn't work, but she wished that she could see, so she could work. Everybody else was working and making money. I think they got two, three cents a stick -- maybe four cents -- anyhow they were making very good money. And that was good clear timber that they could handle good. They could double-up on heavy ones to put them on the horse, on the saw horse. A man and a wife work together, one peels one end, and the other peels the other end. But this one woman sat there all the time, listening to them figure how much money they earned by their work. They earned that. And she was just sitting there. She had a good schooling and everything.

I said, "Who is that?"

"That's my cousin. She's from Cass Lake. That's Mrs. Littlewolf."

"What's wrong with her?"

She had her head down and was holding her hand over her eyes.

"She's pred'near blind."

"Oh."

I walked up to her, "Ah, I'm Mr. Buffalo. My mother's a Medicine Woman. And we study all the time. I know some medicine that'll help you."

"Would you please? I'm suffering. My eyes are burning."

"The acid formation burns your eyes. And you have to wash your eyes to get that acid out. Too much of that accumulated. That's what makes that wax over your eyelids. Then they stick together and you can't see. That's that acid that burns you, and your eyes are dried up in the morning. You have to keep your eyes clean. I'll give you something."

So I cooked that medicine. I simmered it a little bit. I got the juice of it.

I thought, "If I make it strong, it'll burn her eyes. But if I make it mild, and use just the first stage of it, I think it will help her."(28)

So I made it mild and I put it in a glass jar, a little jelly bottle, I think, a clean one, and locked it tight. I took it over to her.

"This is the medicine for the eyes, and you could feel what it is."

"Ya."

"Could you see a little?"

"Ya."

"You have wax formation before your eyeball, so, well, I'll try it."

That was in June, in the last part of May or the first part of June. On the Fourth of July they all got paid; they got paid pretty close to the third and fourth. They were excited to join that big powwow in Cass Lake. They had a lot of drums there.(29) So I went to Cass Lake to join the powwow, and there was a woman dancing. I met my cousin's wife again, that's Mrs. Armstrong. I said, "Who's that woman? It looked like I met her before."

"That's Mrs. Littlewolf, the one you doctored. You doctored her eyes."

She was laughing. Her eyes were clear and everything, but she wore glasses though.

And my cousin's wife called, "Come here. Do you know him?"

"Paul, are you Paul Buffalo?"

She grabbed me, "Wait awhile."

She went over and called her husband. He was a drummer.(30) He got up. "A friend wants to see you. He is the one that cured my eyes. This is the one that doctored me, when I was suffering."

He shook hands with me. He said, "OK. Are you here on anything special?"

"No," I said, "I'm just joining in and visiting."

"Let's go up to the confectionery."

So we sat down and he treated me to an ice cream soda.

"I'm paying for this," he said.

"He's paying for that."

"Anything else you need?"

"No."

Then he gave me his tobacco, his cigarettes. "This is for the offer. If you want them, take them. If you don't, leave them on a stump, in the open."(31)

So I took a few out and put them on the stump. I kept the rest. That's where I started to smoke.

I have to smoke, because my smoke goes up in the air. And I watch that. You have to have a peaceful smoke. It's a habit form and it's for peace for all. You have to cut the strength of the tobacco with sweet and mild kinnickinik. A pipe will do it. I used to have a pipe, a wicked looking one. It had eyes, a nose, and a mouth.

Bud Tibbitts, in Ball Club, is one of our native boys.(32) He still lives there, and he's a very nice boy. They all know that my mother was a-doctoring. She had done a lot of the doctoring and many people went to her for medicine. But my mother has passed away now. So Bud asked me, "You must know something."

"Yes, Bud," I said, "I know a little."

He said, "Could you help me?"

"What's your trouble?"

He said, "My foot. You want to see it?"

"Let me see it."

So he took off his shoe, and there was a high instep in there. There was a lump on the back of his foot.

I said, "How long you been that way?"

"Oh, about six months, or pred'near a year."

"You must-a hurt that foot at one time."

"Yea. I did."

"Why didn't you go to a doctor?" I said. "We have doctors. Good doctors."

"Ah, I'm afraid it's too late. The way it looks, they might cut it off."

"No, they won't, but he'd probably dig in it, you know."

"Well," he said, "Ah, I wouldn't go anyhow. I think it's too late, because I could feel it ache all the way up my leg."

"Oh." I said, "How does it feel?"

"Just a steady pain, and, I don't know what it is."

"Well," I said, "what do you want me to do? Do you want me to take it out?"

He said, "I'm asking you to take it out."

"You believe in the Indian way of doctoring?"

"Yes, I do."

"OK."

Then I went out and got some medicine and put a poultice together.(33) I got some balsam pitch, and I just made a poultice. Spruce will do for that too, but spruce hurts because it hardens. Balsam is the best. Balsam is flexible. I busted the blisters of a balsam and I put that pitch on a cloth so that it got soaked up. I busted the eyes to get some balsam pitch, and I put it on the rag. I burnt the rag first to disinfect it. I got a nice clean cloth and poured that pitch on there. I took a spoon and I dumped that in there. That was good enough.

I made Bud take off his shoes and socks. I took all of the dirt out of the infection. It was just a high bump, so I laid that poultice on there. I put the poultice on there and then put the second layer on to hold that pitch in there, a second layer of cloth without pitch.

So I said, "You keep that on there for nine days. Keep it on until I come to take it off."

Oh boy, when I went there on the ninth day he said, "My foot is awfully itchy. It just sets me crazy."

"Oh." I said. "Why don't you step on it?"

He said, "I'm afraid to."

"Well," I said, "step on it as hard as you can because we got an action on it now."

So when I unraveled his foot there was a cord in there. A long cord came out of him. It looked brittle. It was -- it seemed to me it was -- very brittle. I have some people right today that could verify that. I showed Orson Weekly.

"Look it there Orson."

"Yuiii$$!" he said.

Orson Weekly will tell you all about it. They were there and they looked.

It was just like a greenish cord. It looked like it was something infecting that made his foot infected. It seemed to me like it was a bone or something. It might have been a chip, a chip off the back bone of his foot. If you hit hard it will chip off. Well anyhow, I looked at it, "I think it will be all right."

That was about seven years ago. So I asked him, just lately, "Does it ever bother you any more?"

"No." he said, "my foot never bothers me. I'm getting along good."

Now he feels good with that foot. He thinks a lot of me now.

He always comes to get me anytime he has any problems working. I help him with raking and everything.

Now he can wear those fancy boots. He got them on. He wore them. Yea. They were fifty dollar boots too.(34) He had to get his foot fixed, otherwise he couldn't wear them. He wanted to wear them.

I asked him, "Why did you buy fifty dollar boots when you can't wear them?"

"I don't know."

I think he was interested in just the price.

We also have medicine to cure bed wetting.

If we have a young child coming up and if he wets the bed, the Indian used to say, "Well, you have to chip him off like a tree. Cut the bark off of the tree, and then dry it up that way." That's the ceremony where you put a block of wood by the kidney and chip it off like a tree. That means gii-tchíi-g^-wàa. That gii-tchíi-g^-wàa means you're scraping his back, or her back, with a sharp axe to purify the internals.

See the sign?

When you cut the tree, when you chip it off, that side of the tree dries up. If this person, this child coming up, is wetting the bed pretty regular, he might have kidney trouble. The only way to stop that is to "chip him off" like a tree.

You set him on a chair, or on the ground, and put a stick on the back of him. They would use any kind of green stick. They don't care what kind. Then you take a hatchet and you chop on that stick, all of the way down, just full length. You throw the top bark away. And when it becomes thin, you have to go easy on it. When you're chopping just tell him, "I'm going to chop this wood in the back of you, and you'll be a well man if you're wetting the bed." And when you're done chopping, tell him to go. See? That's what they used to do. That's all they had to do.

Most generally it worked.

That's Indian doctoring boy!

The last time I saw that was about 1920 -- it was 1917. They did that to one of my brothers, Joe "Sky" Nason. They were always fooling around with everything, they fool with everything. But you have to be serious when you are using that medicine. They did that to him, and after that he was all right, I guess. My brother-in-law did that, Jim Mitchell. But they were taking turns, and then laughing.(35)

Some of these things are still common. Some of these things are very simple, that's why we still use them. But some things are more difficult. People don't like to take time out to make tonic and to get everything to work with. They just do everything in a hurry now. See, like with Bud Tibbitts now, I spent time, a lot of time, looking for certain trees to cure his foot. So, that's the way that is. You have to go out and get your medicine, if you know it. But if they don't even know it, they can't use it, even if they want to take the time to get it.

I'll tell you a story about this medicine for colic, for cramps. In 1930,(36) I followed that stuff quite a bit. I followed a lot of it. I know it. I know the mixture because they gave it to me. The old people gave it to me, and they knew a lot of that stuff because they were raised right with it.

I was up on the Leech River, oh, many miles! I had gone about eighteen miles, sixteen miles, on a rough road. There was a drought in the west. And there was a farmer up on Leech River. I think that boy's living yet, the family is living yet, south of here at Ball Club. And they had a big hay camp across from where I lived. That was on the Leech River.(37) They came up there to hay.

At a certain time of the year -- during what the Whites call "dog days" -- the water's bad, you know, and you have to have a good well. And you have to be careful what you eat. Everything has to be boiled and everything. Those days we didn't have any refrigerators, but they kept things pretty, pretty clean, the White people. And the Indian also watched out for the "dog days" especially. That's where you have to watch the stuff what you eat.

I was at my house, my log house up there, where we had a claim. I was living up there. I thought I was going to plow this area, but I didn't have any equipment to plow, unless I chopped a garden spot by hoe. So anyhow I liked it up there. There was plenty of wild game, fish, and everything you wanted to eat. So that was part of our living. We'd take sugar up there and camp around there and pretty much live off the land.

So one day the old dad was there and the big hay outfit was going. They had a loader. They had a hay cutter, mowing machine, loader and horses. So one day Mr. Slater(38) was the one that was putting up the hay. He took the contract over at his brother-in-law's. I think they were his brother-in-laws, the Godfrey brothers.

One day Mr. Slater came to my house. "Paul," he said, "would you come over and help us?"

"What doing?"

"Help us just pack down the hay as we load it," he said. "The loader will do it's job."

"OK."

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Hay stack and wagon.

Hay stack and wagon.
Creator: Louis Enstrom
Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.51 p45 Negative No. 57685

Well I thought it would be pretty good. I could make a few dollars there. I could make a dollar or two dollars. There wasn't much wages then, but everything was cheaper those days too.

Well I went to work for them and by gosh we were going along fine -- 'till noon. So this boy tried to help us. He was about twenty-one. He tried to help us. That was his nephew; I think it was his nephew. And he said, "Boy!," he said, "uncle, I don't know if I'm going to make it. Give me a cup of coffee or something." And he threw himself on the ground.

I don't know exactly what he was suffering from. The heat got him, probably, and he caught cold or something to his stomach.

They heard that I knew medicines all over here, most of them, you know. I was joining them at Godfrey's, and Godfrey had heard that too.

"Paul, would you help us?," he said.

"Yea."

So I heard them talking there. So this boss came up to me again, "Paul," he said, "how did you Indians get along way out in the woods? And when you get attacked by something, you know, like sickness or a sudden ailment in the stomach, what do you do? How did the Indians get along so well? They seem to get along pretty well. You know, you must know something for the stomach."

"I know about it, but I don't know about making it," I said. "It takes time to make it." And I was working you know.

"How long would it take you to make it?"

"Oh, it wouldn't take but an hour"

"Could you make it?"

"Well, the idea is," I said, "most generally White people nowadays don't believe in anything. They don't. All they believe in is the White doctors, which is good. But if you can't get a White doctor you're almost going to take anything you get when you're very sick like him."

He was just rolling on the ground, curled right up.

I went home anyway and dug up this root, about three roots. I scraped them, and told the woman, "Boil these. Let them simmer awhile, but not too much. I know another part to put in there, but I think this is enough. If that doesn't do it then I'll put in another part. But this is enough."

And somehow she did it, while I was having dinner, you know, lunch. She did it while I was having lunch. "Well, I have to go back across. Are you ready with that stuff?"

She ran it through a strainer, a clean cloth. She was pretty clean too, you know, in her housework. I put this in a bottle, a pint bottle. Of course those days there were a lot of pint bottles around. It was a nice bottle. I put the cork on, and stuck it in my pocket. I looked at it. I said, "I don't think it'll take all this pint. The first one or two swallows might be enough."

And I got over there with the works in my pocket.

"How's the boy?"

"I don't know. I don't know. I'll probably have to take him in, and that's a long trip."

And he was still rolling. He couldn't pass, you know. He was cramped, cramped up to the stomach. He had a cramp in the stomach. I told him, I said, "Here." I said, "Here's the best, one of the best, we have. One of the best we have! And if that doesn't do, I have something else. But this here if it fails, then we'll go to a little higher strength. But this will do if we catch it in time. Will you drink it?"

He said, "I'll drink anything, the way I feel!"

Geeze it struck me hard when he said he would use Indian medicine!

"This is the one that's going to do you good."

He took that bottle. It was nice and cool(39) -- you know, nice and warm, normally warm, body-warm. He drank it. And he drank it about three times. In an hour, two hour's time, he was ready to go to work. He told his uncle, "I don't know what it is. It seemed to just let me get better. There's nothing wrong with my stomach now, nothing!"

And they spoke about that a lot of times. And then I left him. "Well, drink it again, before you go to bed or anything. Keep it up."

The next morning I was going to check on the boy, and by the time I got there he already had the horses hitched up ready to go to work.

The man thanked me. They used me good. He said, "You had done great. Whatever it is," he said, "it sure helped."

That was way back in years. And it wasn't a couple of years, a few years ago, and I was talking to one of the boys.

"You Godfrey?"

"Ya."

"Remember that medicine?"

He's a big fellow now. He's got a family.

"Remember that medicine you took when you had a colic?"

"You Buffalo?"

"Ya."

"Hooo! I know about it!" he said.

"Well, well, well. . . . I'm Buffalo. I'm the one that gave you that."

He was fishing up at the Mud Lake Dam. Joe Barnes and I were driving by and I told Joe, "There's the guy who said it was great medicine."

"Ya. I heard about it," Joe said.

See, the Barnses lived on the same river.

"That's the guy. I pulled him out of it. Oh, Boy, talk about him suffer!"

So that was one of the great medicines we have for colic, for cramps, for summer complaint. He had a summer complaint, that's what he had. He couldn't pass. It's checked. See? But if you turn his stomach to the right way, the way that's supposed to be, then he was all right.

They thought a lot of that. The news of that was all over. He said, "That old Buffalo," he said, "he don't fool around."

I was glad to hear that. I was glad to help him -- in the shape that he was in. He just threw himself on the ground, on the meadow, you know. He'd hold his stomach and curl right up.

I was about twenty-seven when that happened. I thought it was thirty, but I was younger yet.

Boy that was good medicine. It is good. No, I know all those medicines. I think I know, not all, but I know pretty much. I know quite a bit. I know enough anyway. Hazelnut brush, white oak, burr oak, that's another thing, another medicine.

We use the bark. Just slab the bark off. A lot of times you'll see where the Indian lived by looking at the trees. Elm is good too. You slab the bark off, then mix them barks, just the chips. They scrape the rough bark off the top and get the inner lining of the wood. Then they put it together and boil it. Then we boil it for a tonic for any ailment, any ailment inside. It's an inside healer. That's why we use the inside layer. See the sign there? It will wash, wash and flush up, and rinse. That's great stuff.

Whaah!

Ya, that was a great thing. There's a lot of great stuff in that medicine. I can point it out to you as I walk along in the woods, "That's good medicine. This is good medicine. That's good medicine." Everything goes together. But you have to have the right mixture. You have to know how everything goes together.

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Paul Buffalo Meditating Medicine.

Paul Buffalo Meditating Medicine.
Leech Lake Reservation, Minnesota, 1966
Photographer: Tim Roufs

There's one root that goes with everything.(40) Well, almost everything. We don't always have to use it, that medicine that goes with everything. And we don't always use medicine from the woods.

Sometimes we use common plants for healing, like when we use beans to heal warts. It has to be a white bean. It has to be a white shiny bean. They're smoother. The brown bean might work, but I never use that. I always use a white bean. But anyhow you can try this.

Regardless of where you are, our Great Creator is with you, with your spirit. It shall not be seen until you're called.(41) Then you'll see Him in person. It's true, so use Him. Use Him like I do when I'm doctoring a man's warts. Talk to the Spirit:

"This man has a wart. He gave me that tobacco. He didn't ask me to help him for nothing. He gave me tobacco with the question 'Would I help him?' That's a big thing."

"I pound the drum. I pound the drum for this man. I pound that You may help him: Great, from the East, West, North, South. Here you are. You come down to me. I have used You before, for every question. I always received You, because I believe in You. We believe in You."

"Do you believe in it?"

"Yes."

"I'm going to give this bean. For him. I hand it now to him. I had it in my hand."(42)

"Where your wart is, you rub that wart with the bean I have given you. Rub it right there briskly, kind-a briskly, but not too hard. Keep it in that hand, there. Keep it in that hand."

"Now walk over to the door."

"Open that door. Face towards the door. Face towards the door. Now turn around. Turn around. Back up a little ways."

[Pause.]

"Throw that bean out the door, as far as you can."

[Pause.]

"There."

[pause]

"And when you throw it back this wart will level right down. But just don't think about it. Of course, you can't help thinking about it once in awhile. You'll see it get a little smaller each day."

That's the way they do that. It's your problem. You do it. I told you what to do about it. I do it stronger(43) than Mike Fairbanks does when he doctors warts. And if you try to go find that bean, I bet you can't find it. It's gone.

See the sign there?

I've doctored lots, not on warts, but on rheumatism and on back injury. I've even done that right there in Deer River, right there in the Sportsman's Cafe in Deer River.

I walked in there and somebody said, "Paul. There's our medicine man."

I didn't pay attention when he said "medicine man."

"Watch this," one of 'em said to another one setting in another booth.

I heard what he said.

An old man was there. He was having a hard time walking. But he still walked without a cane.

"I got a pain on my back," he said. "Paul, can you help me?"

He handed me his pack of cigarettes. I knew the old man. He was a nice man. He was a White guy. But he believed in the Indian, and that's why he handed me the tobacco.

"Ya. I'll ask for it."

So I held my hands on his back. Then I put my arm on his shoulder.

It cleared him.

That's all it takes us. Course all the time I was doing that I was asking The Great to help the old guy.

"I feel good already!" he said.

He never complained about that any more.

Sometimes, lots of times, we doctor about weather.

You know in church you can see candle-fires burning. They give you a candle in church and bless that candle. When you light that, it signifies that you're there. That's a blessed light.

Well, the Indian has that too. The Indian says wherever you camp, if there's a big storm, anywhere, light up. You can light up anything. A piece of birch bark, or wood, or anything. You can light anything. Even your car lights would be a light, because it signifies that you're there. Ya. You can light anything, but make a little fire. If you burn a little wood, cover it up so it won't spread, so other things won't catch fire. Build a little fire. Make a smoke. By doing that you signify that you're there. And by hanging a feather out to wave, or some other things, you signify to the Great Creator that you're there.

The thunder'll go around, and it may not strike us. That fire means you respect the thunder. Thunder is electricity -- but it's life, and there's a Master to it. The life of the thunder is there because there's a Creator behind it who makes it. And when that Master knows that you lit a light that signifies you're there, the thunder goes around your area, most generally.

Who makes it?

The Creator. He knows when the earth gets dry. He wets it up. He knows what the people need. Isn't that great to know what we need in life, and when we're short of anything, we feel it? He's telling us what to do.

You know why we have terrible storms sometime?

Young Thunderbirds cause them. The young birds are trying out their way of life and they get a little too far out of line.

See, the Indian says these thunders are birds.(44) And after the birds -- certain birds, bun-ah-jaa -- get big, they're still young. They go around raising Cain, and tipping over anything they see. These young birds go to bunches(45) that don't recognize and respect nature and the Master. They go where there's just selfishness, where they just want to live the best life for money and silver, where they live just for wealth. They're bàa-no-jaahns.

You know why they call them that?

They're young, young kids, young birds. Listen, b^'n^-jàa is young. A big Thunderbird is aa-nii-nI-ki. aa-ni-mIk-w wi-gw^'d naey-shi$. It would be a Thunderbird because they have the power to fly. It's a power to live well. aay-si is a bird. pI-ny-sii is a hawk, a hawk of any kind. They're just like an eagle. chi-bI-ny-sii, that's the highest one. bI-này-sii is a small one, bI-nay-sí$.

Then the old, old history birds, the experienced birds, tell the young birds to be a little more quiet. But they're trying out their way of the world. They're trying out their life. They're happy, just like little boys and little girls. They don't know what they're doing. They don't stop and think about the Creator or about why they're there. They have to learn to work, for the night is coming. Night(46) is coming. Each and every one will only live a certain time. We can't live forever.

So that's why you see that feather hanging out. Because of the little Thunderbirds. That's what the Indian says. So they talk to the Thunderbirds. "Be careful," they say. And they light up the campfire and raise up a feather waving on a stick by their camp. When they do that, the Thunderbirds go away.

"Oh."

The birds go where the people don't stop and consider who's giving them life. That's the place for those birds to go.

See?

Way back you didn't see people acting without considering. Now, all we want, all we believe in, is what we read -- and money. And people now play games only to get that silver.(47) That's all we believe in, and that's what White people believe in, now. They don't believe in anything in nature.

But there is one day they believe in something, Sunday. But what is that Sunday? In the Indian way, there is a Sunday every day. Every day there's a blessing. A good day's a blessing. But the White man works everyday, and then on Sunday he reads up on the Old Testament about the old time of God. Well, the Indian didn't know that Old Testament reading, but he was still in this country. We didn't read about the Great -- we felt Him. It came natural to us.

Thunderbirds.

There are Thunderbirds up above. The Thunderbirds are the leaders of the East and West, South and North. And the howling winds, the howling of the East and the howling winds of the other directions, form together. They sat together in council and said, "It's time to purify the earth. It's getting too germ-inated." Thunderbirds have power to purify the air. Thunderbirds are all over.

But where are they when the storms come?

Wherever the heat formulates and the cold air hits the birds, the masters of that, are there. The master of all is the birds, the big birds. They may be a small bird too, so they can change when they're ready.(48) Some animals have the power to change their form, like Winibozho.(49) A powerful animal, like a Thunderbird, can do that. Sometimes that's why you don't see them around.

Where are they going?

They know what's coming.

The Thunderbird is the bird that cracks a whip for lightning. Lightning is a combustion of the coals, and there's a guardian for that, the Thunderbirds. The Indian had guides(50) to purify the earth. And these Thunderbirds could raise Cain. In the spring of the year we were always told to be aware. Wherever you were, when there was a big storm coming we would expect the Thunderbirds to come, and come purify the air. The destruction of the Thunderbirds, the roaring of the lightning, purifies the earth with an electric light. It burns the germ in nature. That's their duty. That's what those Thunderbirds do. bí-du-ay-d^-mu'g. We have certain ways to put it to understand. You can say it anyway you want to. bí-du-ay-d^-mu'g, that's "the thunder is coming." That's a warning.

Lightning

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Now when the Indian said, "Bad storm coming," we'd all get scared. We'd tighten up our wigwams, load them down so the bark wouldn't blow off, put tobacco out, and build a fire. If you build a campfire the Thunderbirds won't go near. We'd put tobacco in that fire, the one which was going all the time. Wherever you build a fire, or put a feather on a stick and let it wave, the Thunderbirds will bypass you. If there's an Indian there, they'll usually raise up a feather. That's true. And these Thunderbirds will respect that sign of your belief.

So that's why you see that feather hanging out. That's what the Indian says.

And so they talk to the Thunderbirds. "Be careful," they say. And they light up the campfire and raise up a feather waving on a stick by their camp.

When they do that the Thunderbirds go away.

Oh!

It doesn't take very long for a little message(51) to go through your mind. In your own belief you could do it yourself, just by working your mind and doing these things for the North, South, East and West. We're guarded. We're surrounded. We're guarded for the storms -- which is what we're afraid of. When I ask to be protected I look forward that we should get an answer. We fear the cold weather ahead and lots of storms which may cause a lot of trouble. We fear those, that's why we do this. And by doing this these storms may go around us. This may help you avoid your problems.

Around July was the time of the Thunderbirds season. July, I guess, in the White's calendar, is the worst time of the year. The Indian says, "Look out! Boy, they have a cloud with them and they're coming out of that cloud. I hope these little Thunderbirds, the young ones, don't raise Cain with us."

"Oh, they can practice!!"(52) The Indian said, "These little Thunderbirds practice. Oh, those little ones will upset the country. The young ones raise Cain. They're just like young people. They go out in the field to practice and everything."

We're afraid of them.

I saw Thunderbirds once,(53) but usually they're w-a-y up above. You generally can't get close to them. Now I'm old enough to tell this. You have to be an old man to tell the story about the Thunderbirds. You have to be an elder. You have to know what you're talking about. You could see it in your mind. You could see it in your dreams. Always remember, there's a Creator, the Master. He's there. He's there to talk to about weather. He's there whenever you need Him. Remember that. And remember to put out tobacco or something, and light a fire, and you'll be all right.

In the old days, the really old days, it wasn't only the Thunderbirds that banged around up above. It wasn't only the Thunderbirds that purified the air. It wasn't only them that affected the weather, and influenced the seasonal.

No!

Before the Whites came we had jII'ng-gway, an air-shock, like thunder.

You see, I have a small home which I still heat with wood. Now everybody has oil; a lot of them in the community area are commencing to use oil. A lot of them ask me, "Did you get your winter's wood up?"

"No. No, I didn't," I said.

Last year I got a whole truck load, all sawed up. I gathered it myself and hauled it in. This neighbor of mine loaned me a truck, and I got the best wood in the woods. I burn wood, and I was proud when I had that big wood pile all ricked up by my yard. I was very proud.

What happened?

It became cold, and I think I had the coldest house. I just made up my mind, I better fix up my house to cut down the fuel I use. I did put a little improvement on it. Well, it looked like it was going to be a mild winter to me. Well, then I felt it. But even if it was a bad winter it didn't worry me because I had enough local people around to help me pick up enough wood to heat my house enough to get by with. It never worried me. But they asked me, "Have you got your winter's wood up?"

"No. I want to go out and get a load though."

And this party said, "I thought you had enough for two years."

I sat there, laughed, and said, "No I haven't." I never fear for that fire. But anything could happen. But, he said, "I'll tell ya, I'll ask ya. . . ."

I said, "What's wrong?"

He said, "There's a forty-mile-an-hour wind coming, and there's a big snow storm coming right over the whole area. They predict it's gonna be cold. It's gonna be rough tonight."

"OK," I said, "I'll go home and I'll talk to the Spirit."

At home I talked to the Spirit:

"Please bless me. Bless us all. Don't suffer us too much. And there's lots of pollution that You have to take care of. And this pollution is to be purified, that I do know. I think if you clean the polluted air, purify the air, you may do good, but I hope it don't hit so hard in my area because we have a lot of lakes here. We have a big body of water of the great seas."

And the next news I heard they said that there'll be only the tail-end of the storm coming over my area. It's likely, if the people pray for anything, if they all pray so the hard storm doesn't come, if they pray to the Great Master of the weather, He will answer you. There are four winds we call East, West, South, and North. Those are what can not be seen. Those are the ones too, to talk to. Talk to the trees too, and all that.

I always got results in my area.

Storms are dangerous and you have to plead to the Great for those storms to not hit your area. That's your prayer. But wherever there's pollution it has to be purified by the air, by the snow, by the storms, and by the rain. Wherever there's pollution, that's where it hits the biggest.(54) The destructive air has to be cleaned naturally, naturally. That's why we should try to keep our air and water clean.

This formation of the gas over the big highways is the worst place to draw storms, because it has to be purified. The polluted air has to be purified into the ground. If it isn't purified a lot of people will take affect on it when they breathe in that stuff.

That's why the Indians always say, "Keep it clean." And they want it clean. That fume is dug into the ground. That belongs in the ground. The experimental motors are polluting everything. People make money out of everything. Some of those people process fuel and run it into the air, and make good money doing it.

But they don't know what they're doing to the people. You can see specks of fallout which is the product of the fumes. And that has to be washed and vacuumed right along. We're breathing that air. Some of that stuff you can not see, but it's in the air.

Where does it go?

It rolls up.

Where does it go then?

There's a lot of sickness now; the doctors are full-handed. A lot of them say they can't understand what the cause of these peoples' sickness is. But they probably do all right. They probably have an idea of it.

I think about five years ago they predicted this.(55) They predicted that the polluted air, and all that experimental chemical, is going to affect people. It affects this country too. It affects the weather, and the moon and the stars. It affects the sun's ray-light; that pollution affects that too. It takes effect on everything. It affects the trees too. We don't know what the population here is doing to nature. The pollution is so much, and we fear that chemical pollution. That chemical formation is in the air we breathe now.

There must be a Spirit, there must be a Master, trying to help this area, trying to purify it. We wouldn't go to church if there wasn't a Great Spirit that helps the world this time of year, in 1970. How long have they been burning that underground stuff(56) and exposing it in the air. All that chemical, all those fumes affect the sun, the ray-light of the sun. All that generates into a ball of fire, you might as well say. Maybe that might explode if something electric happens. Those cars and explosions affect the ray-light, and generate fumes, filth and friction. It generates dirt. I think there's something in the past that happened, in the times we've seen, to keep the air pure. But even the weather can get too pure, too enriched.

That's another thing. It can get too pure, too enriched. Sometimes a meteor falls from the sky. When that happens the air is too clear. Something happened. It has to be equal to be right. Too much is too much. Not enough is not enough. Too much one way or the other is no good.

In the past it would be silent and all at once you'd hear a bang. There wasn't much dynamite around either, in those days. All at once the earth would jar like a thunder.

Bang!

The Indian asked one another, "What is that?"

"Oh, that happens sometimes in the air. It's an explosion in the air caused by the earth generating heat. The clear air and the sun's ray-light are generating, then BANG! The thunder can do it too. See, that's what makes it thunder; the hot air generated from the sun and the cool air are hitting together. That's what jII'ng-gway is. They call it a kind of thunder-jar, an explosion."

How did they know that?

We have a name for that, jing-way. jing-way is an outburst of air set off by the ray-light of the sun.

jII'ng-gway would not happen very often. They happen if it's clear, if it's clear weather and dry weather and the heat generates. It's up in the air and then it hits the earth. It would happen about twice, twice a year maybe. It would occur once in the early spring, and once in about July.

It doesn't happen as much now as it used to. Maybe the new chemicals cooled the sun-rays off. Maybe the chemicals shut it off. They have lots to think about with the chemicals, nowadays.

I was about fifteen years old, sixteen, and I was paddling up the river when I last heard it regular. It might-a been that I heard it more after that, but I couldn't tell because there was a lot of dynamites after that. The dynamite came up from the mines.(57) Once in a while I think I still hear it. It sounds like dynamite, but it isn't. It's up in the air. But I never paid any attention to it. Nothing bad or unusual or special happened, so I didn't pay any attention.(58)

Ya. The thunderbird was there before, along with jII-n-gway, and that's why we have a name for them from the Indian language. But after the White people came we no longer had jII'n-gway. No. The explosion was there, but it wasn't jII-n-gway.

Why?

There were dynamites near the mines. That opened up a different space for the air to go on through. We no longer needed jII'ng-gway after the White man came with dynamite.(59)

I was reminded of jII'ng-gway not very long ago when I was setting with a bunch of White people. We were sitting in the back end of Sjolund's store in Ball Club.

"There's our Medicine Man and Spiritual," Cliff Sjolund said.(60) It was "Old" Cliff, not the kid, and not the one with the wife who always says "Hoi-y Pah-uul" when she sees me. "Old" Cliff said, "If you have any problem, he'll answer you."

I didn't like that part where he said "medicine man," by those words. He should know that. His wife should know it too. She's part Indian. I thought to myself, "Most White people can be excused when they say that. They don't know any better." But I knew it didn't do any good to cry about it. And after awhile, you don't always pay attention every time somebody says, "Medicine Man," even if they should know better.

There was a woman sitting there who moved up to me, close to me. "Paul," she said, "I want this rainy weather to quit."

"Quit?"

"Because I live in the country. We live in the country. The cars can hardly go through. It's clay country."

"How far are you?"

"About six miles."

It's natural to use tobacco, and she knew that. So she pulled out a big cigarette. "Paul, take this tobacco."

"Ya. You're doing something now. You can't ask me without tobacco, but now you handed some to me."

"I know it. I know it."

"What do you want?"

"I want this rain to quit. I want the sun to shine."

"That's a big number. But I will do it. I will do it. You shall receive," I told her.

Everybody looked when I said, "You shall receive."

And that tobacco was a good smoke! It kind-a tasted better, or different, you know.

This woman and her husband own a cabin. They were up to their cabin and were having a hard time getting to it.

From that time on it cleared right up. It still is clear.

Another time when I was in there at Sjolund's with a bunch(61) they were watching a great big rolling cloud coming.

"It's going to hit us."

It looked like a cyclone. I wasn't worried a bit. Uh huh.

They called me.

"Go look at that. See what you can do."

So I lit a cigarette of my own. "Friend," I said to the big cloud, "watch me. Go on to the north."

The people were all watching. I raised my hand.

So I went back inside, and when I looked out again I saw the red sky and the blue sky a-coming.

I noticed later that there was a big storm towards Blueberry Hill. It hit Grand Rapids a little bit on the end.

They were scared of it because of that big black cloud. "I thank," I said to myself, "I thank God."

When it cleared up everybody moved. Everybody jumped in their car to go home to see if anything happened to their children.

I'm not bragging about it!, but I was trained to do that.

That same summer, about three or two {xxxREM check date of tape 48 (48-25), and insert proper years ago here} years ago, it was so wet the potato diggers(62) couldn't go in their fields. They were stuck in the mud.

You ask those guys, boy, about that summer!

One day a guy asked me, "You want to pick potatoes?"

"Ya. But we went out yesterday, and no potato diggers were working. They couldn't get in the field. And I don't think they'll work this afternoon either."

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Potato picking crew, Henning.

Potato picking crew, Henning.
Photograph Collection, 1920
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.54 r13 Negative No. 40373

The next day we heard that the potato diggers were trying it again. It didn't look good, but a couple of us went anyhow. The next day we took sacks and went out to see if we could pick the potatoes that the digging machines missed. One of the local men has a hundred and sixty acres, or around that. I don't really know how much land he has, but he has a big field, where he grows his potatoes. And he picks those potatoes with heavy equipment, and that equipment usually misses a lot of potatoes. This man who I was with went up to that guy who was picking potatoes and asked, "Could we pick the potatoes here what you dropped?"

"You sure can. You got Buffalo working with you?"

"Ya."

"I need to talk to him. We need some dry weather."

He talked to me proper, and I asked the Great for clear weather. I put tobacco out and asked the Great to help my neighbor that let us pick potatoes in his field.

It cleared right up.

"Boy," the potato digger said, "I don't know what to think of it."

"Don't worry about it," I said. "Just keep right on a-going."

"And I bet he's through with those potatoes by now," the man I was picking with told me later on. "Oh! It's been nice for a long time. It's been nice from August to October. It has."

And we sure cleared the area of potatoes. You ask those potato guys about that summer.

Oh boy. When those storms come in they do an awful damage.

I'll tell you a little story of what happened about two years ago, or three years ago.(63) It was ricing time, the same fall we were picking potatoes. It's a true story, a comical story.

When I'm out in the field,(64) I've always got fruit or something. I always have an orange or something. And I lit a cigarette(65) when I saw that there was a big black cloud over John Smith's place, heading right towards us. That black storm cloud was coming onto the edge of the woods across Mud Lake. You could already see the water pouring down! You could see the clouds a-boiling. You could see the rain. We were way out in the middle of Mud Lake, ricing, me and Orson Weekly.

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Wild rice is gathered by flailing the kernels into the canoe.

Wild rice is gathered by flailing the kernels into the canoe.
Creator: Gordon R. Sommers
Photograph Collection, 1940
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.32W p42 Negative No. 8781

"Stop Orson."

"What are we going to stop for? We might as well go."

"I know. . . . Stop."

I was going to make an offering to The Great. When any big storm clouds are boiling and the little Thunderbirds are raising hell, we always make an offering of tobacco and food of some kind. Sometimes we offer some liquid too. And we always light a little fire of some kind, just to let The Great know that we're there. Just to let Him know that we're there believing in Him.

So I began to peel that orange. I peeled it, and I took one clip off it. I couldn't peel the other fast enough.

!! BAAM !!

Lightning hit!

Boy that shook up Orson and me!

We had a long pole with us that we used for poling the canoe through the wild rice beds. Lightning could hit that pole when it's sticking up and we could probably get shocked through the pole, especially when it was wet. We were afraid we might be electrocuted. I was scared of that.

When I heard that bang I said, "Orson, grab your paddle, and paddle just as hard as you can! Grab your paddle, and I'll shove it with the pole just as hard as I can!"

"We have a mile and a half to go!"

"If we can get there we're doing well! We can't fool the Old Gent this time!!"

Oh! he wanted to laugh when I said, "We can't fool the Old Gent this time!!"

"OK!!"

Was that canoe ever going! Boy was that canoe ever going!! We passed a lot of the other ricers too!

We paddled to beat heck, then pulled up on the East side of the landing, below Scott's Landing there. We kicked the canoe in there just as fast as we could, and Orson ran up to the car to get three sacks for the rice. He had strings for them too. By the time we started to come in we already had about two, three sacks of rice in bottom the canoe. We had wild rice and we shoved it right in there.

"Tie 'em up. Come on with the other sack." We shoved the rice in there, then we took a little brush and brushed the last of it together.

"OK."

"Look at the water right across there."

By that time she was already sprinkling. I made a beeline for the car and I got in there. Orson got in the car. When he got in he said, "Jeezes, boy, it's a good thing we didn't get caught out there!"

"I knew we were going to get wet. But anyhow He let us get in the car before He poured it down."

Didn't it pour!!

Ask Orson about that. Ask him about the time when I said, "We can't fool the Old Gent this time!!"

He still laughs about that. And he tells about that lots. Orson says, "Boy Ol' Paul was peeling that orange and telling the Great Spirit, 'We want this rice. . . .'" That's what I was saying, you know. "'. . . Oh, slow down this storm so we can get our rice home and put to good use. . . . ' when !! BANG !!, she hit. You should have seen Paul move as he hollered 'you cant fool the Old Gent this time!! Grab your paddle and paddle. Give me the pole and I'll push.'"

"Boy was that canoe ever going!"

"We made the landing OK."

Ask him sometime. Jeeze he'll laugh. He likes to tell that. I have to laugh at him myself when he tells it.

In a way I feel kind-a foolish too, the way I was putting on talking to the Great. If you believe in those things, OK. I already had done that before and I always got results. It works. I do that lots. Where we made a mistake that time was that I should have dropped(66) that tobacco and that orange and apple before we went out. If we would have made that offering before we went out, we could have filled our canoe with rice. We're the one's that made a mistake, and all the others made a mistake too. A lot of them got soaked.

. . . We all should have paid more attention to the messengers and unusual events.


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Footnotes

1. For bibliography on Medicine Doctors see introductory footnotes to Ch. 32 "Spiritual Doctoring, Tipi-Shaking and Bone Swallowing Specialists," and Ch. 30, "Mi-de-wiwin." See also xxxcheck 371 and 1197, and supp. A entries.

2. He doesn't like the medicine that the "spiritual doctor" uses, which is what he often thinks of when he hears "medicine man"; see Ch. 32, "Spiritual Doctoring, Tipi-Shaking and Bone-Swallowing Specialists." Paul Buffalo is comfortable as an herbalist.

3. See Ch. 28, "Power."

4. Pointing at someone with your finger is shooting power into them. Not a good sign for the one who is pointed to. Pointing five-fingers with a cupped hand, with your cupped fingers pointing towards the person, is "the worse sign there is." Cf., Ch. XX.

5. See Ch. 32, "Spiritual Doctoring, Tipi-Shaking and Bone-Swallowing Specialists."

6. You really are not old enough yet to use power and medicine to the fullest, but even at a young age Paul Buffalo was selected to begin to use power. "Young" is relative. For certain types of power fifty is "young." Around thirty one can start practicing with some power, under the direction of an elder.

7. "You know so much."

8. The questions are quickly understood by Paul Buffalo.

9. Some kind of an interference with their attempts to cure, some sort of a hex.

10. It is thought that young people should not use too much power because they haven't learned yet how to control it all. Here the three other medicine doctors are implying that because Paul Buffalo is younger and is using power he has not got full control of it, or that he is intentionally trying to interfere with their curing and has the power to do that (which is a considerable amount of power). Cf., Ch. XX.

11. Forward.

12. The problem with their medicine attempts was that they were not performing some part of the ritual correctly, or not insuring that certain prerequisites to the ritual were complied with. No one was actually interfering with their attempts.

13. See Ch. 31, "An Indian Curing Ceremony."

14. Paul Buffalo is trying to figure out the reason why the power of these three Medicine Doctors has come upon a snag.

15. The cure, meditation, etc.

16. Paul Buffalo says that he maybe need a re-meditation, i.e., he's less than perfect, but that he is not doing anything specific to interfere with any of the three Medicine Doctors.

17. So terribly strong, especially for his age, but not necessarily excessively. Sometimes extremely strong power goes further than it is intended -- in part because at first the person is not actually aware of the extreme strength of the power.

18. Messenger. The doctors send messages and messengers. Cf., Ch. 33, "Messengers and Unusual Events."

19. J.M.

20. Crossing, in general, means interfering in some way with -- either intentionally or inadvertently. The concept "cross" is akin to "cross" paths. Messages and messengers are sent out, and power is going out, and if the pathways of the messengers get crossed there will be an interference in whatever has been asked for. Cf., Ch. XX.

21. See Ch. 13, "Indian Medicine."

22. Took Indian medicines to become pregnant and deliver a healthy baby.

23. See Ch. 37, "Jack Nason, My Dad. My Step-Dad."

24. Notice the parallels between treating animals and humans. See page 27.

25. Hitch him up, not put the hex on him.

26. Indian dancers at a powwow. See Ch. 24, "Ni-mi-day-win: Come and Dance, Come and sing. . . .

27. Taking the bark off of pulpwood.

28. Usually the Medicine Doctors give a "mild dose" first. Then, if there is no results from that, they strengthen the dosage.

29. The size and importance of a powwow is often measured by the number of drums in attendance.

30. Drummers among traditionals generally have a high status. They are sometimes also high power people. They are highly though of. Paul here is emphasizing that he is a very important person.

31. It's a frequent spiritual offering to leave food or tobacco somewhere outside.

32. Men of any age are called "boys," almost as a term of endearment.

33. Notice the parallels in treating animals and humans. See page 18.

34. At this time the average income was about $XXX per month. This individual worked for the mines, and, therefore, had a higher income than many others.

35. When they were supposed to be serious about it.

36. 1927, cf. page 38.

37. See Ch. 40, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

38. xxx check spelling

39. Compared to boiling temperature.

40. See Ch. 13, "Indian Medicine."

41. You will not actually see the Great Spirit until you die.

42. Where, presumably, it picked up the power to heal the wart.

43. He uses a stronger dose of power/medicine, not that he is better than Mike Fairbanks.

44. Sic.

45. Groupings of Indians.

46. Death.

47. Manipulate. These materials were recorded in pre-casino and pre-bingo-palace days. Or . . . maybe this is a prophesy.

48. Cf. Hallowell, A. Irving. 1964, "Ojibwa Ontology, Behavior, and World View." In Primitive Views of the World. Ed. by Stanley Diamond. New York: Columbia University Press, 49-82. (Reprinted.)

49. Winibozho could change into other forms. For information on Winibozho see Ch. 20, "Winibozho and the Creation of the Current World."

50. Guardians.

51. A prayer.

52. They try different things, i.e., they practice different things, and it is this trying new things out that causes the problems.

53. See Ch. XX, XX.

54. Since storms purify the air, it is only natural that the most storms appear where there is most pollution. Also implicit in the discussion here is that another way to avoid storms is to avoid pollution in the first place.

55. Recorded in January 1971.

56. Coal. Generally speaking the belief would be that underground stuff should stay underground, and that to bring something like coal from underground to burn rather than wood would upset the balance of nature. Paul Buffalo should have been a delegate to the 1992 world conference in Rio de Janeiro.

57. Iron ore mines on the near-by Cayuna and Mesabe ranges.

58. JII'-ng-way was not a special sign of anything, i.e., it was nothing unusual, therefore had no special significance as a sign. Cf., Ch. 34 , "Messengers and Unusual Events," and Ch. 35, "Fireballs, and The Shadow Man."

59. The arrival of dynamite has also been used as an explanation for the dissappearance of things on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation in Wisconsin. Cf., Victor Barnouw, 1954, "Remaniscences of a Chippewa Mide Priest," Wisconsin Archaeologist, 35:4:90.

60. Actually he would say this with respect. Nevertheless, as suggested, it would occasionally annoy Paul Buffalo.

61. "Bunch" here is in the modern sense of just a group of people.

62. Mechanical potato diggers.

63. Recorded 28 October 1974.

64. Outdoors, out in the woods, out on a lake, outside; not in a potato or other farm field.

65. Here the main reason is to light a fire for protection from the storm. See page 42.

66. Offered.

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