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Boarding School Days(1)
When I was a youngster people more or less stayed to themselves pretty much. Ya, they were alone. They didn't like to mix up too much. They'd fear that they weren't good enough, and they'd feel that they didn't want to bother anybody. They didn't want to nose around because they didn't want to get a blame for anything. And when the uprise(2) came they all stayed to themselves, just keeping a-moving, and saying nothing to nobody. They'd just get the berries that were there for them to get, and just get the rice because it was there for them to get. That's all they had. And the other Indians did the same.
There were groups.(3) The relatives -- son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws -- came along with the canoes when they traveled in groups. And if they were alone somewhere, they knew where their relatives were. Sometimes they'd join them. Maybe the relatives were near, or had a little log house in the area.
As I remember, in my days, there weren't very many settlers in our country in canoes days up on Mississippi.(4)
Near Winnibigosh and White Oak Point and Leech River Forks, there mostly weren't many White people, in my younger days.
As a boy I played most generally by the Leech River and Mississippi Forks, but to get what little English I speak I had to leave there and go to school. The government, the Indian Department, had superintendents that went out and picked up kids, children, to go to a government school. We kind of hated to leave our folks in those days, but when we got in groups(5) we saw other children going to school, and we wanted to go too -- some of us.
As I remember way back when I was four, before I was six years old, I commenced to pickup my memory. I wanted to go to school, just the same as the others. We had government schools. The government schools were cutting in, and the boys would go to school. I had a sister that was old enough to go to school. She was older than I am and didn't want to go to school, but I wanted to go to these government schools.
So I went to school right here in Ball Club.(6) I walked from Mississippi down there, two miles and a half, to the public school in Ball Club. We lived at the fork,(7) on the Cass County side, and I walked up here to school. It was a foreign school . . . I suppose it was a public school. I don't think I ever completed the year at Ball Club, because the winter was so rough. It was hard with the cold and snow.
But If we had it a little rough at the Ball Club school, we never noticed. Now, boy, I think of these school buses. Why I had to walk in the cold, through the snow, breaking road. I had a poor chance to go to a public school. I might as well say that we were pretty near froze out in cold mornings on the cold days going to school in Ball Club.
Now the younger class have public schools and they drive them up to the school now. They drive the school buses up to Deer River and take them home after school, right up to the door. I think that way it's nice and warm up here in the North. That way they use kids good. They get hot lunches now too. We had to carry our lunch when we went to the public schools here. And I had to walk three miles in the cold, in the snow, to go to a public school. And I was pretty young at the time too.
So I finally got to get around six, seven years old and I went to school in Bena, Minnesota. I went right there in next town from Ball Club that is west of Ball Club. As I remember, I went to Bena school and my folks(8) kept the place at home. My mother was alone at the time, and I went to school and she kept the place.
If the children wanted to go to school, they left to go to school. When they were six years old they had to go to school. That's where I went to school. When I was six years old the superintendent was across the river here(9) with a horse and buggy. Well, when the school wagon came by, I got in the wagon to go to the government school. They had a wagon and boat that'd go around picking school kids up to go to the school.
"Paul Buffalo," he called.
My mother said, "Oh, it's pred'near ricing time. Pred'near ricing time. Paul, Mary, there's the government team. There's a superintendent of the government school. They've come to get you now. Everybody leaves."
They had the "U.S." on them. So we packed up right now!
The man, the interpreter, came across the river. The police came across with him. He was the police in that area, the Indian police. They took us across the river. We bid good-bye. "After ricing we'll come over to see you," they told us as we left.
They had a government school at Bena, Minnesota, and that's where we went at first. That was about nineteen-six. There we were at Bena, at the Indian school. After we got in school we had so much fun that we thought we were better off there. We had three meals a day, and a good place to sleep. We were going to school and playing games. We had work details to help clean the yard. We learned how to keep ourselves up, and to patch our clothes. We had a long time to go in the Bena Indian school.
They had a pretty good government schooling, and the school held a lot of children, students. They had a nice government school that held, I presume, about two, three, two hundred children; I think so. The school was made of just common sheeting, lumber and siding, and it was up on the hill, right by Lake Winnibigosh.
They put up a nice set-up for the Indian, the government did. We had a good school, it was a school that we stayed right there. They had good employees and I got kind of interested in them. I pick up lots from them.
I know that I was finding my way of life by learning ball games and sports and all those other games we played. In the spring of the year the boys used to play ball. In Indian, bak-I-tay means "when you hit." We called a ball player bak-I-tay jii-i-gay wIn-In-nii. That's a "two-legged who is hitting."
It was an interesting life. It was an interesting life. So I got in with a lot of schooling. I was happy. I went to school. I spent most of my time in school, in the younger days. Then I was troubled with my eyes. I couldn't read too much.
They had one big dormitory upstairs and then on the second floor they had a playroom. It wasn't very big. It must-a been about 20 x 20. And they had a basement for our washroom. But that held quite a few kids, children, and there must have been about fifty, twenty-five, fifty of them, living in that school. That government school had boarding, so they called it a "boarding school." See, we ate right there. We didn't come home at night. We stayed there. We stayed there all winter -- a year or two in a row.
In the spring they'd let some of the boys at the boarding school go home on weekends. Those who wanted to go home then went on weekends. But not everybody went since we had the ball games to pass the time in the spring. Then, in June, when the school was out, they let us go entirely. When summer came they'd let us go home for a vacation. We'd leave to go down home and help our folks to garden. The Whites come in and settled amongst us, and we are friendly to Whites. We have picked up a lot from them. We have learned how to plant a garden with the Whites. My folks were gardening on Leech River and Mississippi Forks. I helped with the garden.
Then school would be out and they'd close the school. Just the employees would watch the school during the summer. The superintendent would watch it when we'd come home.
After we planted a garden in the spring then I would go back to school in the fall. Then, as usual, I would go home again in the spring. I must have been about eight years old, when I was still going to the Bena school. From about the time I was six until I was eight years old I went to the Bena school during the fall and winter, and then I'd go home in the summer, and then I'd come back to school in the fall. In the fall I had to go back to school. That's the way we went on.
They heated the place with wood. Ya, they heated the place with regular old wood. They had a night watchman, at times, who would watch the fire. It was kind of hard to keep that building heated up with wood. Later on they got coal. They put in furnaces in these government schools later on in years, but this Bena school was a kind of small school. It wasn't too big. It was just a grade school, but it was a boarding school.
All year long we'd have chores to do and details to work on, but on Saturday afternoon we just had time off. On Saturdays and Sundays we'd pick up rubbers(10) and bottles, and sell them for a nickel. They used to buy them, so we'd pick them up and sell them in town, then go inside and buy our candy. Ooh, we had a lot of friends then.
That was when the railroad was coming in and they were working on the railroad, the Great Northern.(11) They had foreigners working, "Dagos" they'd call them. They'd work all day long. We couldn't understand them, but it was fun watching them work. Boy how they worked. Those days they worked! We had hot summers too, like we do now. Still, they'd be out there working on the track.
At this time, I lived at Ball Club, right in town. Right around Ball Club. A little after my sister Mary and I left for the Bena school, after ricing was over with, my mother moved to Ball Club. To climb that train and ride from Bena fourteen miles to go to Ball Club was a big thing. Now a-days I figure it's like going home to New York. It was so far those days, but now, with those high powered cars, in just ten minutes, fifteen minutes, you're home from Bena. Those days it was slower. Yes, that's something!
In the winter, when it was nice mornings, while we were at school doing our chores on Saturday mornings we'd look out and see a bunch of lumberjacks coming across the lake with pack sacks on their backs. "That's big loggers across there," somebody'd say. You could see them coming all the way across the lake. They came from lumber camps. Those days there was a crew going, a crew in the camp, and a crew coming. When it was time, a crew would just quit and leave for town. But there was usually a crew in the camps, a crew going and a crew coming. They'd exchange like that. From Bena some of them would go up towards Third River and right across Lake Winnibigosh. They'd go up to Third River. That's up on the Winnibigosh up there.
We used to sit and watch them, and wonder if they could ever make it across walking. They would though. In time they'd gain, and finally we'd see them go out of sight. Sometimes some of them would get caught in a blizzard. That's a wide lake, that Winnibigosh, but they walked across it.
Then sometimes early in the morning you'd get up and you'd see a pack of wolves going across on that lake. Four, five, six, seven wolves'ed be portaging across the lake in packs. Wolves did that, right out on the middle of the lake. The schoolhouse was right on top of the hill, right near the lake, and we could see all of that. We have some boys living now who can verify that.
Some of the Tibbitts's boys, like Tommy Tibbitts, went to school there. I remember that he and his brother and friend had traps -- just a little way from the school building. He'd catch wolves there. You could almost see his trapping ground from the schoolhouse. He set trap for wolves, and he'd catch wolves there.
They used those wolves for fur those days. Ya, they used them for fur. There wasn't much money in them, but traders bought the fur. We had a trading post there in Bena, and old Flemming was buying then. That's where the boys got rid of their fur. There were muskrats down by the lake, and they trapped them too.
Yes, we'd look out on the lake in the winter and we'd see a pack of wolves. There's a lot of interesting things in life up here in the north. I just can't get out of here. I had a lot of chances to go to big cities and see a little city life. I think I learn more by living up here. And I enjoy life, you know, and I'm more free.
About 1908, in there, we went to a sister's school, where it was a boarding school . . . . I don't just remember what year, but anywhere somewhere in that neighborhood, I think. I was pretty young anyhow when I went to the Red Lake sister's school.
Anyhow, we went to Red Lake, to the boarding school at Red Lake. That was a nice school. I was boarding at the sisters's school at Red Lake. I enjoyed that school, and I think I began to learn the religion, from life and from the religious. I was always happy, and I obeyed the sisters and tried to do what they told me. I studied hard.
Then my eyes kind of started to bother me. And after a little while I came back. I'm a little defected besides that,(12) but still, I did pretty well, I think. I learned a little more English, enough to get by with the Whites anyway. I think I was always happy in life. 'Course we had doctors, wonderful schooling, wonderful teaching, and wonderful development amongst our Indians at that time.
Government schools started keeping you all year about 1908, or something like that. Maybe it was around '07. You could go to school for three years. They had three years of school available, but I think they quit operating in our area in 1918. School was the most important thing in 1910 and 1912. It was more important than the doctor and priest -- at that time.(13)
If the priest wouldn't have come, the Indians would have gone to school eventually, and lost the Indian way of life by going to school. But I think most generally you couldn't understand Midewiwin anyway.(14) School had destroyed the Indian way of life; that's why people are now going around picking it up. That's why they come from the University now, picking up their cultures. School has a lot to do with the Indian history-cal loss.
A lot of our people in my days knew that the way they were taking our way of life was by sending the children to boarding schools. The government has always asked the Indian to get an education. And they had boarding schools. We were invited to go to school. And when we were home getting Indian lectures(15) to go out into the world, we knew we had to change. We had to change our mind. "We can not stay home and learn this experience of life altogether by ourselves. We no longer can learn only through lectures on the experience of life by the elders. We have to have a learning by others. We have to follow the road forward, and leave home." And when you leave home, you know you have to stick with the directions given to you.
The school changes your way of life when he takes your hand for better education. You're leaving the Indian lectures, but the lectures are in your mind from a little boy up. Then, when you go learn in school, and when they're training you, you'll feel better and stronger. Then you are really willing. Then you're well equipted. The trail is cut out for you.
Then, if you're cut out for a certain position that you make up your mind to do, you know how you're going to do it. You have to learn to start to work or you have to learn certain parts of education to get there.
Then, when you learn that, the mind is set. See? That's how they changed from home. But if they had no interest deepening, and if they want to stay with their Indian lectures and don't move, the boarding school won't do any good. It's just like you don't want to go ahead in life, it's like you want to hear the lectures too much. By that you show that you aren't interested.
Then the education holds his hand down and says, "Come on. We'll show you the road." You know you're going to make it. You got help by the training. That's true. But if you don't take the advantage of the best offer they have for you to learn, then you might have a hard time making it in this world. You have to have interest, and when you practice the interest by joining for better education you commence to see that you can do it. You can get up there. You can do whatever it is you put your mind to. It isn't too late. Well, then if you're young enough, you're going to go whereever you want to go. That's what I say. If you practice, you practice your mind, you practice your way, you practice the job, it's always perfect. If you practice, it makes perfect.
Lectures are telling you how to go. Sure. Lectures never never quit. Lectures, they stay. "Remember, respect the other guy." That's the lectures they give us. But you have to work your mind at the same time too. You can't just depend on somebody else to pull you along. No! You have to be willing to put two and two together. And when they see you're willing, it's easier for this guy that's training you.
We'd set and talk. It was a good thing they had learned us. We are trained. 'Course nowadays I can not do much, but I'm not afraid to try; I'm willing. That's the biggest part, to be willing. Be willing to help work. By working that way, I think today that's why I feel good. I didn't expect anything for nothing. For my part I enjoyed, felt good, that I made a little for myself or a little for the house. I spent it, a little for here and there. I was proud of it.
Now at this age I wish I would-a listened to my Father and Mother more. And I heard my sisters and brothers say the same. I wish we would have had more of that pointing. Today I see we have a chance to work, to produce. They told us, "Later on it'll be crowded. They're(16) coming in fast." And I always wondered about that. "Everybody has to help themselves, and it'll be a little easier on those that help themselves." I think that's a big word; boy, it is! I wish I had a little more of that and kept it. Now I know what they're talking about. And I heard that over and over from other people.
Our family and the other children were all trying to help one another, but still when the time came, we had to go to school. But in that short time that we had together we tried to help. That's the way we got along so well. We felt good about it . . . in a way.
The mixed-bloods usually wanted to send their kids away to school, but the full-bloods didn't want them to go away. The full-bloods like to have their kids near them. And they were afraid if they sent them away that they might not have money to go see him if he's really ill. "But if they kept him home," they though, "we could take care of him if he got sick." That's why the full-bloods like to have the children at home.
And besides that, the traditional Indian was afraid to go anywhere because he might not make it back before he passes away.(17)
But the mixed-bloods know how to raise them right. And he's able to borrow the money anywhere to go somewhere where his kids are going to school. We've seen a lot of mixed-bloods in school in my time.
The older Indian(18) had a hardship, but the kids shouldn't be the blame. Later on, the younger generation of the Indians had a better understanding of handling their own affairs. So they helped their father and mother. They helped the old people. The old people really started putting their kids to school then.
People nowadays have more interests. That changed their ways of living. They have more interest in life. They're looking for the betterment. They get a better education. We didn't accept education years ago. They thought they didn't need it. There were so many in their language that they stuck together. They were not used to talking to people or to meeting different people. So they stayed to themselves. They didn't mix. They didn't bother anybody.
And many Indians didn't understand English. They didn't take interest in the White man's ways and still lived the Indian way, by the old hand-picking blueberries, fishing, and everything else. And the White folks left the Indian do that. They left the old typicals(19) do that. The old full-bloods can't help not understanding, because they didn't go to school in the olden days. They had a little schooling, sometimes, but they didn't have the chance they have now.
They had to walk to school. They didn't have the clothes. They'd miss school because they had to stay home and help their folks. And they didn't have doctors like they have now. There's no excuse now not to go to school. But time before, there was always some excuse. Something would arise before them, like difficulties, and they couldn't go to school. They had reasons for not going to school. And they were financing their own. The government schools came later on. Those that did go to school went to the government school. Afterwhile, the government schools became for everybody. The government schools, as I think, were taking a lot of money for that.
But not everybody who could go went to the government schools. What I think is that some of the Indians were also afraid of the buildings, the structures. You know, if four or five hundred Indians were in a school and it caught fire, it wouldn't be very good. That's what we were drilled about.(20) Otherwise we wouldn't know what to do if we were in there and the building caught fire. It was hard to wake some of these young Indians up. So if we'd lose a big bunch of Indians in that big school, if a storm hit them or killed them, if there were damages that would crippled them, that wouldn't be so good. I think that's one reason they stopped having the Indians go to those government schools. If they had a real fireproof building, and if it was well equipted for fire protection those days, I think they would have kept right on a-going to those government schools. At least that's the way I look at it. But I think it's a good idea to stop it and open public schools so that the Indians can go along with the White.
Then too, some of the old traditionals were worried about Windigo. We heard about Windigo, but I don't remember anyone in my time that saw one. That must have been before my time. Windigo is story telling from a-way back. I think Windigo comes from the giant stories of the Whites.(21) I think it's from the White direction of language. I think it comes from the White's stories about the giant, the big man, the powerful man.
The way the Indians got it, Windigo is a man who will eat anything. Even people! It's hard to fill him because his food pocket is so big and it takes a lot to feed him. He has power, and he can make high winds. He can do anything. Windigo is an overpowered person and he eats everything that he sees raw.
I remember a day when I was eight years old. I was going to go north to school, to Tower, Minnesota, and an old lady about eighty, ninety, years old came to my mother's place. She said, "Where's the kids going?"
"I'm sending them off to school."
"How long are they going to be there?"
"O-o-o-u, ooh!! What school did they send them to?"
"A school close to Canadian border, north."
"O-oh-oh!!, my daughter!! The people eat one another up there!" That's what she said. "In the history, years ago, there used to be Windigo. They call them Windigo because they eat one another. And he's up there." That's what she said.
My mother laughed at them. "Maybe that was true in the olden days, but they don't now," my mother told her. But the old lady had that in her head all the time. The story-tale-ing of the history, way back, was empowered.
My mother told me, "No, it couldn't be that. Times have changed. You can believe only half of the stories you hear. Most of that is a story to fear the younger class."(22)
Now things have changed! Why I really think is that the younger class are telling more stories than the older class. Why now, the older class wants to listen to the younger class. The older class feels he's repeating the school's teaching. And they like to listen to them talk about school.
By the sufferage of going to school and working the home I decided that I would do better in the government(23) boarding school -- in the boarding school that we had in the past, the one at Tower, Minnesota, on Lake Vermillion. Pretty soon my family had things ready; they had been working and getting ready for me to winter in the Tower school. Locally they had a chance for logging, selling a few sticks of logs, bolts; that helped. And there was a little price in fur, and that helped. There was always something where they could earn a little money, and I think this was great. That's the way it kept going.
So one year I was transferred to Tower, Minnesota. I was there for a few grades. I think it was in 1909 that I was transferred to Tower, Minnesota. And that was a nice big government Indian school.(24) We called it "government school" because it was run by the U. S. government. It had more children, and a lot of Indians were with me up there, about 400 Indians, and we were friendly. We never, we never gave one another hard feeling as we might have, as we were all strangers when we came in. They helped me, along with the other children. Boy, that was a life! I enjoyed that, and they had the best meals and the best cooks they could get for the boarding school. The government had done that for the Indians. I suppose at this time I should appreciate it -- which I do. It is a great thing you know, the experience of life.
Well when I went in the Tower boarding school, that helped both me and the family. That released the family from food and clothing. Then we were in training in school. When we were in school we were trained farming. We were trained how to take care of the animals and crops, and how to keep the home fires burning. And then when we got back, we knew something about farming. That helped, and things kept getting better.
The White people didn't have the government school like we did, like the Indian did, but the White people had public schools and they worked at home.
So I went away for three years. I left the reservation in 1909, 1910, and 1911.(25) Three years I stayed at Tower Indian School without coming home. I learned lots. I learned how to work. Later I learned how to farm. I learned firing steam boilers, keeping heat for the building at certain hours. They taught me lots of things, and I helped out at the same time. By that way I helped myself to learn all this.
When I went to the Tower government school I thought I was leaving my people. My folks signed for three years, and I stayed up on Vermillion Lake, at the Tower Indian School at Tower, Minnesota, all that time. When I got up there I thought I was losing my Indian way of life, my Indian learning. But they were sending me off for a better education, with schooling and everything.
When I got there, I found out that if I talked Indian and I was caught by the employee, I got punished from the employees. "You're not supposed to talk Indian here. You're supposed to talk English." So that's what I got. So now I was thinking, "Am I losing? Am I going to lose my Indian way of life?"
But it wasn't long before I commence to see Indians, Canadians -- or at least they were from pretty close to the Canadian border. And I heard them talk Indian, but they had a little sling(26) in their language. They had a Canadian sling, northern.(27) But I learned their pronunciation pretty fast, and the little sling of their language didn't bother me. I understood them. They have the same language as I have, but they have a sling on the end. That's how they put out the sound, so I didn't laugh -- but I was looking at them and studying them all the time. And I noticed the way they carry themselves.
Some of that comes in from France too, you know. There was French coming in there. Sometimes when they talk they get so far away from the Indian, then they start using the French part, A-pan. With the Minnesota Indians,(28) we have the same thing.
I went to the Nett Lake Indian School too. That's pretty near, pretty close, to Canadian Indians, and I met a lot of Canadian people. There's where I was first puzzled talking Indian to them. When they said, "Where'd you come from?" I said, "Ball Club." And they were talking Indian.
"Is your father living?"
Then they'd ask me, "Is your mother living?" In Indian they'd talk. They would say that in Indian. So I got puzzled because they didn't say my "mother" in Indian, "do-du." Un uh. You know what they said?
"Is your nI -maa-mA$ living?"
I couldn't figure that out.
do-du, do-du means a breast of your, . . . a breast of any that lives off of the breast, and that's nursing for milk. That's do-du. If you hand a baby a bottle with the nipple of the breast of a woman, you say, "that's your do-du," "that's your 'mother.'" You feed from there. do-du is that.
But the way they put it is, maa-mA$, ma-mA$. Geeze that falls back, a long ways back.
But the only way to say it really is do-du. That's plain, do-du, gI-doo-du$ and gI-doo-du$. That's the old Indian way of saying it.
Your father is day-deI$. See, that gets way way back down there in the past, ya. But when it comes to the new, the same as the new, the latest, it is, pA-pa.
See, the French or the White comes in and then it's pA-pa, baa-bA, and mA-ma, $n-maa-mA. That's not in the old way. But reverse that and from the Indian, if it's your dad, it's day-de$, day-day. See, that's your father, or great, or day-te-naa$, de-de-nA$. Well that's the leader of the family. And then your ma is do-du$ and grandmother is no-ko-mIss. We use that. We never use "mA-ma."
In the olden days we never used ma-mA, maa-mA$ or baa-bA, but we understood that though in the later years. I think it comes in more with the White language. We pick up a lot of that in Indian.
Now I think Orr, Nett Lake, talks pretty much Canadian. They're pretty close to Canadian. You see, the way we say the language is different. From a long time ago, we say, nay-wi-j-ah? We say it clear. And you know what they say? They say, "ah-I-j-ah." "ah-I-j-ah." "ah-I-j-ah."
"Did you go feed the Mi-sta-din?"
"I already did it. I already fed him."
There's no difference between White Oak Point and Winnibigosh. No, there's no difference, that's in one group. Cass Lake and Winnibigosh is OK, but if someone is from Tower, you would know they were from close to the Canadian border. They talk more like Canada, Cannuks, but they are Chippewas and you could understand them too. They also have a little sly(29) like Wisconsin in their Council.
My dad, Jim Buffalo's from Wisconsin. I have relatives there. My relationship is through the Chief, the Buffalo head Chief of Duluth. At school I'd say, "See that guy from Wisconsin? He knows some Buffalos there. That's where my dad's from. I have cousins, and aunts down there, that I have never seen. I should go down there sometime."
And my sister said he said, "Ya, I met Margaret Buffalo. I told her about you. Geeze she's been around, for her age. She said she likes to meet you. She's my aunt, my cousin-like. She likes to meet you, and everyone else. You have claims down there,(30) a lot of claims." I have claims down there. And I have a claim in Duluth that I never pressed.(31) Buffalohead Chief of the Great Lakes was my grandfather.
My Mom's from Leech Lake, nearby to Onigum. Leech Lake, Winnibigosh, and White Oak Point Indians have a little sly too, but we can understand other Chippewas and we know where they are from by the way of their language. It isn't so bad at other parts of the Leech Lake Reservation because we're neighborly(32) and it's too close to notice much difference. But if someone from Nett Lake, Red Lake or Wisconsin comes in there, we know right away where they're from.
That's what also makes for a lot of dispute in writing and trying to clarify the Indian language. You can't write the Indian language very easy. It can't be done by using the alpha-bats(33) because the Indian language is different. Maybe you might have too much with that to put in letters.(34)
So if you're going to be with the Leech Lake Mississippi(35) bands you have to understand clearly their meaning and what they say.
And if you go farther west, their pronunciation begins to slip. They talk with a sly too, but they can't help it.
A lot of Canadian Indians live near Canada on Vermillion Lake. There's quite a tribe in there, and they're a little shorter than the original Leech Laker. They are a little shorter people. Those days we didn't know who they were or what they would do.(36) But they believed they were Indian, so we tried hard to talk to them.
The three years we were up there we would often go visit certain old Indians. The first time we went to see one of them they laughed at me when I went up and asked about "mother." Every time we talked to them the old lady would look at the old man, "What'd he say?" she kept asking. So it'd take a long time to understand us.
"I'll say it over again, 'wah-nag-ah-du-du-!'"
"I don't know what du-du is."
I was with a boy from the school. The boy I was with had enough education and he said, "that's 'your mother.'" He'd interpret their language and I'd interpret what I meant with him. So that's the way I broke in to understand them.
Red Lake is just about the same as Nett Lake. Red Lake is pretty clear though. They use the same language, the same song.(37) They're still pretty clear. Their language is coming back to them too. Probably they're practicing more. But Red Lake must have mixed with Canadians too. You can tell that the way they say "horse." "mis-tah-din," that's a "horse" of Nett Lake. They'll never say bay-hay-jI-go-gah-jay. That's too long a language. They say "mish-tah-din." That describes the way the horses feet clydes -- you know, clicks -- when they're running. Mish-tah-din, yah.
Well, you see that Nett Lake way of speaking doesn't confuse me any because I can understand what they mean. I know how they're going to use slys and languages and everything. Nett Lake would be all right with me because I went to school with a lot of them and they all know me. I went to school at Red Lake too. They all know me.
I think the best years of my life were 1911, '10. I had better learning, and the boys that were with me were trying hard to learn our languages. We told them a lot of stuff too that taught them the way we use our Indian language. But the old people, boy, could they talk to one another in Indian!
Most Everybody my age went to government schools. There was a line-up and in the line-up they called roll. I was in "A," that's the tall ones. There were also "B," that's the middle-sized ones, and "C," that's the little fellas. "A," "B," "C," were the line-ups, and they'd call roll. We'd stand in a good line. It was pretty. And there were about forty big boys, and there were about thirty, thirty of 'em, middle-size, and the rest were the little ones.
I enjoyed the boarding school where we stayed. I stayed there three years without going home. I didn't want to go home. I just wanted to stay there because they had good schooling. We had night watches, night watchmen, to take care of us. In my times we were dressed good. We went to school good. We had good teachers. I could name quite a few schools I went to. I think I appreciated everything I went through, because I enjoyed it. I worked with them, and I thanked them.
I was trained in government schools. I stayed with the government schools three years because I loved the way they treated the Indian. It was good. It was the best. Had to be, because everything was ruled out.(38) It was ruled the way it should be ruled. We lived on rules and regulations. Everybody lived by rules and regulation, or somewhere near them. That way they're feeling good.
That's what I lived. I lived by the rule and regulation of this big building. That's education. And they were drilling it in my head, over and over. If I don't learn it, they'll tell me to study. See? I seen that. Now I can go out in the world anywhere and get along with other people. Why? If I didn't have the education I'd-a stayed in the brush. They got me out of the brush.
But even though I went to quite a few schools I'm not very well educated -- because I had eye trouble. I went to the school doctors with that eye trouble so they could clear up my eyes. That's what delayed my education. I was almost snow blind, you might as well say. They call what I had "snow blind." When you get that, it hurts you. It delays your ability to go to school, or your ability to support yourself.
I was eight or nine years old when these government schools were really active. They were learning us, learning the Indian child, how to play games like ball games on ball teams. They had bands(39); and they were educating the Indians so that the Indian could understand English.
So whether or not we believed in Grand Medicine, whether or not Grand Medicine was a part of our Indian beliefs, they would have us go to the White man's church at these schools. The old Indians didn't know that there was church going in these government schools! A Catholic priest came there and they had Episcopal priests come, and we heard their lectures. They used to ask us, "Do you want to go to church? Do you want to hear a good lecture?" The disciplinarian of the boys, the superintendent, said, "When you want to go to church you have the privilege." And we said, "Yes," and we put on our uniforms with the buttons with eagles on them, and we went over to the chapel. Yea, we had to be clean to meet that clean person. So when the boys went to those churches, we all dressed up for church, and we had learned English enough to understand those churches and lectures and preachings from the priest. In church they have a certain preaching that they have to do every season. The top director there is the priest. These all meant well, but we began to lose the old Indian way of life.
As we came along in my class -- the younger class -- years ago, we saw that the Indians were failing in their way of life. See? When our Indians were getting schooling, they didn't stop for these old Indian ways of life, these Indian lectures. So we were losing it. The Indian way of life began to be drifting: Indian teaching, Indian beliefs, Indian churches all were drifting. I mean, there weren't Indian churches, we talked out in the open, the way we should.
Father Beuhl(40) from Duluth used to go up there to the Indian School and serve. He had whiskers. He had long whiskers. He was an old minister, a priest, so he talked good to the Indian. He made lots of tracks with Indians. We met him as a group. We met him in a community hall of the school. "Chapel" is what they called it. That was when I was there in nineteen-nine, -ten, -eleven. I was there three years. Father Beuhl was an old guy. I think he came from a foreign country, but he was a wonderful priest! He would say, "My child. . . ." That attracts the Indians. I think they gave him meals there and everything, ya.
So when we came out of those schools we were getting along a little better in life with our education, and we felt we should go to church to gain any headway in our life. But in going to church, we had to have good clothes. Now-a-days too, you have to be clean, you have to be shave up, you probably have to have a nice car. Church is all right if you -- if you -- believe deep enough in it! Going to church is the same thing as looking for Christ. Maybe you put money in for Him.
We didn't talk very much English in school at first. I'd say I knew "no" and I knew "yes yes." But after a while I was pretty good. English came to me because I had people that taught me a little English at the Sister's school at Red Lake. I could hear it. I could make out what they were saying. Then when I went to the Tower school, the first year, I just took to it just like that.
I feel happy about it. I feel satisfied about it. I feel that's a good way to learn. I wish I had that chance longer. In my school days we didn't have the things they have now. Of course there were the government schools, but it was so hard to learn everything because half -- you might as well say half -- of the school wouldn't take interest in what they were coming into in the world. All they knew was the old way. Right off of the Chippewa language we had to learn English. After we learned English, then we'd study how to read and how to figure. We studied different things, like geography and all that, but it all came too fast you know, particularly for those having difficulty with English. They'd be teaching us other things in English even before we learned English! Well, if nothing else we'd get the English and go home and teach our children English.
That's why our children have a better chance now. And those that wanted a schooling in those days now have a better understanding of their children, that's what I mean. Their children got a better chance too, because they understand their folks, since most of them talk a little English.
They didn't allow Chippewa in school, and before I knew it I was talking English more or less more than Chippewa. But for three years I didn't forget the Chippewa. The school was all English, but for three years I didn't forget the Chippewa. I came back and I could talk just as good in Chippewa. And they all wondered about that.
"Geezes, for three years you were in the government school studying hard. How could you talk Indian yet? Because at your age you should lose that Chippewa when you stay in English."
"No, I couldn't lose it."
As soon as I got back home I understood it. I started to talk Indian. They laughed(41) at the way I talked Chippewa when I returned. I could talk English and Indian both. That's what I liked about life. The Chippewa never left me. I know a lot of them lost it. But it comes back. When they hear it, it comes back to them. But I didn't lose it. I knew everything, even though I went to the government school three years straight. I was the one that hardly ever heard a word of Chippewa. When I came back I started to talk to my folks in Indian. They were surprised. Everybody told them, "All he'll hear is English. You won't be able to understand your children." My sister was the same. She had really good Indian explanations. They were surprised!
But those that went to different government schools, like Haskell and all over, Oh geeze!, they didn't know anything about the language when they got back. A lot of them from my area went to Haskell, and Pipestone. A lot of them in my area went to Pipestone, and to Haskell. I went to Bena and Tower and I was supposed to learn English there. But I was supposed to go along with the Canadian Indians, to go along with the Chippewas, too. That's why, maybe, I talk so much.
A few years after I returned home from the Tower Boarding School, one of the old folks visiting said, "Is that ku-Irz-zi-bAn-i's boy? From Wisconsin?"
"Who's his mother?"
"May-giid, Margaret Nason. Mah-giid, that's his mother, his home mother."
And the Indian turned around to me, and shook hands with me.
"You're smart. You went away to school for three years. You studied three years in one of the government's schools. You are smart. You could talk right up, right up to us. When we spoke to you right after you came home, you were cute -- 'course you were young. And you were more active. You could talk plain Indian, and we all wondered how you didn't lose a word of Indian."
1912, '13, '14 was the best way of life. Then things came in and changed us. It was too rough, you know, in those days that followed. There was a time when we had a "free way," for if you wanted anything you could go out and get(42) it. In '12, '13, '14 we had a good "free way." Now in old age I'm forced to follow the social changes in the country. I can't follow the old way anymore at my age. I just go along with the rest.
So when I was about twelve years old I went away to school again. . . . When I was twelve . . . or fifteen years old . . . I was in these government schools. . . . About '12, in there, I started school at Onigum School.
There was a nice bunch of boys there, which I still know that they're living. We had engineering and public divisions, and supervisors there that would look after the school. That was quite a set-up. Charlie Gahbow and I were chief engineers. He would go on in the morning one week and I would go on in the morning the next. We'd take turns. We ran the water pump for the school.
They had the best meals, and Oh, I enjoyed that!
Charley, Charlie Cloud. Budreaux, Charles Budreaux, Robert Budreaux and Ellis were all there. Ellis, of course, was living years ago. I don't remember that Ellis went to school there when I was there, but I think he had been to school. There are a lot of Indians who went to Onigum school.
Oh geeze, that was a big school, nice! They had a lake, skating rinks, ball diamond. And they were all cared-for. We all done up chores.
I think that I'd done pretty well in the boarding schools. And we'd come home, and we'd feel that when we'd get home that we should get to work and help at home with what we'd picked up in school. We'd help them learn. And we'd tell the Old Man that that's the way we'd do in school when we set-in the garden. We'd tell them that that's the way we'd carpenter in school, and that's the way we'd do things. That's the way we'd help.
That's a big issue from the government to the Indians, to go out into the world. And you'd learn not only one trade, but you'd learn everything, or at least enough to get by on anyhow in labor. And I tried. I enjoyed that all the way through! About 1914, '15, '16 I moved to Federal Dam for two or three years with my own wife.(43) And when I became around eighteen years old I decided to quit school altogether.
So when I got to be around eighteen I wanted to sign up for the U.S. Army. But I was defected and too young to sign up for the Army. I was defected and I was getting around eighteen years old. I wasn't able to sign up for the Army, and I was too young too. I was only getting eighteen, see? I wanted to sign anyhow. "No" he says, "you gotta be 18."
So, well, when they found that I was defected and they weren't going to take me anyway, I kept on going to school, for awhile.
And then I began the labor.
When I was eighteen years old I didn't believe in anything, but then I commenced to study the Indian way of life and then I learned some things. I was too young and I thought that I didn't need help when I was young. I was eighteen years old and I was capable of doing any job I wanted because I thought I knew everything. I went to school for a long time and I was able to help anybody. I was glad to help anybody, whatever I could. I'm defected a little too, in my right leg and arm, but I get along all right.
But when I was eighteen years old I knew there was enough food and enough local work, timber works. By that time I already had a job in the camps,(44) and I already got job wherever I went. So I left school and stayed in the camp where there was better food, better living. And we worked. There wasn't much money in timber work, and the money wasn't valued too much, but anyhow we enjoyed a good living. Lots of them also worked with me in the woods. My people could understand that kind of work, and they enjoyed it. So it was a great thing.
The U.S. sent me out to a government school to understand things, and I'm proud of the U.S. doing that. For three years straight I stayed in one school. How wonderful I was used in that government school at Tower, Minnesota. That's where the Uncle Sam sent out many boys and many girls on their own. We had nice lectures and nice books of the great American way of life. They taught us that we should respect the Old Glory that waves, and keep it up there. That's what I like, and so do the other people in this country. When we respect the Old Glory, we like that. What did they put that up for? We should all know that Pledge of Allegiance to my flag. That's what I say when I see Old Glory. We should all know that. We should all know that!
Friends, people, at my age I've seen many days. Now I see the younger class with their fast education drilled into their minds -- but they're forgetting the experience of life! I hope they don't forget that altogether. With the experience of life, and with better education, they'll have two ears on their head, in their great mind. Study, but with two eyes. What you hear and see is a big thing for this world. It's a better understanding that way. You're made individually. Your mind works, your ears work, your eyes work, your body works, and you feel good when you see the picture in views. You can't help feeling good when you shut your eyes and picture a great world we live in.
How many go out for this country? How many go out to protect our country? It belongs to us. It belongs to U S. It belongs to the people that live here. They're American, U S. It belongs to "us." With better education, better ears, better eyes, and a better mind, we feel well. We're strong. We're able. We have strength. We have strength and we feel it.
How do we feel it?
With the other person we can tell. By the way he feels towards us we know that we have a country of our own. We believe our own mind. We use our own mind.
I can't use your mind. I can't tell you what to do. But, you, you see things, you hear things, and you work with your hands and feet. And you walk into the great great land that's producing your life, that's producing the strength of your life.
Everything grows in this world, and it grows every year. It grows naturally with sunlight and the moon. With the sun, vegetation grows. Your mind grows too, with the vegetation. After the vegetation's gone you still have your mind, strength, power.
You know why?
It'll come again. The vegetation will come again. It lays down to rest, but you're still there. In this northern part of the country we know that it'll come again the next day, if we use our ears and mind and sight to respect what we could expect for the future. And we have strength! We do our work seasonally. It's rough, but we don't complain. We sit tight. We look. We feel good. We hear. We hear things worth thinking about.
In my time, in my past, I went to school, but I had trouble with my eyes so I was lack of education. Ever since then I've been very sorry that I could not help my people. I could not help my people because my eyes weren't very good and they disturbed my ability to learn and to go to school.
I felt sure that the government was going to educate my people enough to help me to live in peace in my country and to work for a better way of life. The improvement has proven out, for we now have better equipment, electricity, and all that. We have had help for a better living, better education, better housing.
Now it's getting even better. We have better education now and it's still improving. I think our government is pushing hard for more teaching for the younger class as well as the older class. With all of that education, we have a better living.
And I always dreamt about that improvement in my thinking, when I was going to school. I dreamt that the people are going to be so advance educated. I felt that those that were educated will never leave their people behind who lost their chance for education. So we trust, I trust, that those that have an education will live in this area and will have spoken for betterment for us.
1. For further information see Berg, Carol J. 1981. "Agents of Culture Change: The Benedictines at White Earth." Minnesota History, 48:4:158-170; Beaulieu, David. 1971. The Formal Education of Minnesota Indians: Historical Perspective Until 1934. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Training Center for Community Programs. 38 1. maps ERIC ED050873; Coleman, Sister Bernard, O.S.B. Where the Water Stops: Fond du Lac Reservation. Duluth, MN: College of St. Scholastica, 1967); Crawford, Dean A., David L. Peterson, and Virgil Wurr. 1967. Minnesota Chippewa Indians: A Handbook for Teachers. St. Paul: Upper Midwest Regional Education Laboratory. ERIC ED017383; Ebbott, Elizabeth. 1985. Indians in Minnesota (4th ed.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; Fruth, Alban. 1958. A Century of Missionary Work Among the Red Lake Chippewa Indians, 1858-1958. Red Lake, MN: St. Mary's Mission; Visenor, Gerald. 1984. The People Named the Chippewa: Narrative Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; xxx-check and Kegg, Maude; and Nichols, John D. 1983. Nookomis Gaa-inaajimotawid, What My Grandmother Told Me, with Texts in Ojibwe (Chippewa) and English. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Archaeological Society.
2. Cf., Louis H. Roddis. 1919/1920. "The Last Indian Uprising in the United States." Publications of the Minnesota Historical Society, ed. by Solon J. Buck. Minnesota History Bulletin, 3:273-290, and Pauline Wold. 1943. "Some Recollections of the Leech Lake Uprising." Minnesota History, 24:2:142-148.
6. Information from a formal interview includesw the following:
7. Leech-Mississippi Fork. xxxdoublecheck-the-following: Later on, while Paul Buffalo was away at Tower School, his mother and step-father, Jack Nason, returned to the Leech-Mississippi Fork. About 1909 they moved. Cf., Ch. 2, "Bena Childhood," Ch. 37, "Jack Nason, My Dad. My Step-Dad," and Ch. 40, "Leech and Mississippi Forks / Mud Lake Memories."
10. For canning jars??XXX
11. Cf., Ch. XXX
12. With paralysis in the right leg and arm.
13. See Ch. Xxx...
17. People wanted to die in their own territory so that when they began the four-day journey to the next world they wouldn't get lost. Cf., xxx
18. Indians in earlier times, including the "full-bloods" mentioned above.
19. The old traditionals, traditional Indians.
20. They were in fire drills. Even so, generally speaking, the old timers were leery of large concentrations of people. In the 1960s I wanted to take Paul Buffalo to Minneapolis. For years he wouldn't go, indicating that he had been there in the 1920s and there were "just too many people there."
22. Cf., Hay, Thomas H. "The Windigo Psychosis: Psychodynamic, Cultural, and Social Factors in Aberrant Behavior," American Anthropologist, 73:1 (1971), pp. 1-19.
23. Federal government.
24. Federal Government Indian School.
25. These are for the school years of 1909, 1910, and 1911. I.e., he left in fall of 1909 for the 1909 school year, and returned spring of 1912 when the 1911 school year ended.
27. "Northern" relative to Ball Club-Bena, MN, not northern Canada.
28. Minnesota Chippewa Indians.
30. Land claims from treaties.
31. Cf., Negri, Paul, "The Treaty of La Pointe and the Chief Buffalo Grant," (unpublished MS., University of Minnesota, Duluth Library, n.d.).
34. There are sounds in Anishinabe that are not represented by the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet.
35. Two political divisions defined by the Whites in the U.S. Government include the Chippewa of the Mississippi and the Chippewa of Lake Superior. Here he's talking about the former group.
36. Cf. elder woman's fear that they were Windigo, beginning on page 1099.
37. Intonation pattern.
38. Everything was set out by rules, not that things were prohibited.
39. Musical bands.
40. This is probably Father Joseph F. Buh, who spent twenty years among the Anishinabe and who then attended to "the spiritual needs of his countrymen in the mines of Northern Minnesota." (Fruth, Alban. 1958. A Century of Missionary Work Among the Red Lake Chippewa Indians, 1858-1958. Red Lake, MN: St. Mary's Mission, p. 12.) Father Buh died in 1926.
41. Were highly amused with, not that they were laughing at him.
42. You could go out and hunt, pick berries and other foods, collect medicines, make maple sugar, etc.
43. 1916 or 1917 to 1918. His first wife went off
with a guy from Mille Lacs. Cf. p. xxx The few times he talked about this
marriage he still talked about their married life with much affection
and concern about her well-being after she left. This affection may or
may not be apparent in the materials in file [ MARRIEDL.DL ]. He said
he was "broken-hearted" over it. He also said she died of pneumonia that
she got after catching cold while being held in the Cass Lake, MN, jail.
He didn't like to talk about it.
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