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Flying Bird Image

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

orignal tapes information

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Buffalo Image

37

Jack Nason,(1)
My Dad, My Step-Dad

When I was at Tower School I heard that Jack Nason and my mother connected in legal marriage. Oh, that must-a been in nineteen-twelve when I heard that news. About nineteen twelve. They lived in a log cabin, and they had a nice little barn, and six, seven, head of ponies. They ran wild, but he went and got them when he wanted them.

Indian children, Deer River.

Indian children, Deer River.
Photograph Collection, 1930
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.33 r57 Negative No. 10630-A

My real father had passed away when I was about a year old. Mother's first husband was my aunt's brother. See? He was Betsy's brother, Betsy Crow from Bena.(2) Betsy Crow was Jim Buffalo's sister. My mother had a hard time to raise us, my sister Mary and me. She had to work in a hotel and wash clothes for a living. She worked in Bena, at Fred Crow's Hotel -- "Verle's Hotel" they called it. It was named after Fred's wife. My mother was working for my grandfather, on my father's side, at his hotel in Bena. She didn't make much there, but at that time we got plenty out of a dollar to eat on. The dollar was valued at that time, and a dollar was a dollar. But the dollar was hard to make too. We all worked for less wages, but we were all happy, we were all working -- I mean the people were working in my area. I was just a little boy then, and that's what my mother tells me. She said, "I had a hard time for two years, two, three years, 'till I decided to remarry when you got big enough. When I remarried I got help." So that's the way things went on.

But then the second man had started using liquor, which she didn't agree with. So she finally had to go to work again for the second man.

We didn't suffer, but we didn't spend much money in town either. And, when the Indians needed something, old Ernest Flemming in Bena took care a lot of them. He had a big hardware and grocery store in Bena, Minnesota. It was in town, right in town, right on the outskirts of town. Flemming had a big grocery store, and he helped the Indian logging contractors(3) get groceries. They went there because they didn't have any money.

But some had timber lands. A lot of our Indians in our area had timber on their land and the government sold the stumpage for them. They got timber money from the Indian Office. They'd get a check and some of them didn't know what they were getting this for! Later on, they got about twenty-five dollars a month doing that. I don't know what they got when I was just a little boy. I was too young to remember that stuff.

And they had land allotments that were given to private individuals. Some of them got eighty acres.

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Man standing in forest near Wilkinson Station,  west shore of Leech Lake, on ceded Indian reservation land.

Man standing in forest near Wilkinson Station,
west shore of Leech Lake, on ceded Indian reservation land.
C.C. Andrews Photograph Collection, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.99.75 Negative No. 11394-A

Sometimes somebody bought their land, and they didn't know for how much, and they didn't know who. They don't understand the balance of what is due because the Indian Office just told them by words or by letters. 'Course in them days they didn't make much interest you know. They just trusted the administrators to go along for the best.

Whenever it would get too tough in the winter they'd form a council. Some would ask, "Why are we gonna have a council?"

"Well, we'll request fifty dollars." There was always a little cut in that by the time you got anything. But, later on, we'd get maybe fifty dollars a piece. One time I remember they got a hundred dollars a piece, but that wasn't 'till around 1945 or 1950 or something like that. But earlier on, when twenty-five dollars was a lot of money, that pay helped a lot during those winter months.

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Indians in a horse drawn wagon, Nett Lake Indian Reservation.

Indians in a horse drawn wagon, Nett Lake Indian Reservation.
Photograph Collection, 1928
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE2.3 r80 Negative No.

At Flemming's Store the teams and the ponies with wagons would load up what they wanted. And they asked Flemming [xxxsp??], "Would you take my land for security? If I can't pay for this food, you got security of land. The valuation is about two, two or three hundred dollars." Forty or eighty acres of land at that time was only worth a few hundred dollars. The land wasn't valued much because it was high land. This land was high land. High land and hay-land along the river had two different valuations. They judge on the value of land, including the timber and everything, ya. This land had to be improved by the White people before it was worth anything. Later in years the Whites pulled stumps and cleared land and re-planted it with tame hay.

I don't know; I don't think the Indians lost much land like that. Flemming was the one that lost, because he couldn't sell the land. He paid for it; he paid heavy. The Indians would never forget him. He's an old servant for the Indians and we'll never forget him. The land is still in his name at Bena.

And then on a top of that, those that didn't get any money were given a hand when the federal government came in. The federal government came in with rations, I'll say, about nineteen six, seven. Rations in Indian is ^sh-sh^ng-gay o-gii-maa. ^-sh^ng-gay is "the-one-that-feeds-your-area," ^-sh^ng-gay-wI-wI-nii, sh^-way-In-j^-gay-wI-nI-nii. There's two ways to say it. sh^-way-In-j^-gay is "the-people-is-good."

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Indian ration day, White Earth.

Indian ration day, White Earth.
Photograph Collection, 1898
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.52 r4 Negative No.

It was small rations at first, but they were expanding to do what they could do. They gave rations where the Indians lived the most, and the delivered the rations right to the door for some of them. They delivered the food and stuff -- to their credit. Others had to pick up their rations in town, at Flemming's store. We had rations about three or four years.

If anyone was sick and had an ailment of any kind, so they couldn't hunt or work, there was help for that too. Adjustments were made by the doctors. We had doctors to prove the ailment. They'd say, "OK. Go ahead."

We always had flour from the U.S. The government came in with flour. They bought it for us and rationed it to us. We got about, oh, about five or seven pounds of flour, I'll say, either way, five or seven. They gave it to us once a month. They rationed to the families every month at Bena. That was good. Everybody had their containers, and the government rationed sugar, flour, and pork to the Indians. And we always had home-made bread. There was more of that then. More of the breads that I noticed years ago were dark. It was made from dark flour. It was made out of some kind of wheat, dark wheat. But later on the flour became what they called "bleached." Flour is bI-bI-nay. That means bI-bI-nay b^-kway-jii-g^n, that's flour. That's flour to bake bread. That flour's bleached; it's more lighter. That was about 1919 when "bleached" flower started coming in heavy, but we had some bleached flour in 1914. But the dark flour was rich, enriched. We used lots of that. And corn meal we used, years ago. They were there in the rations.

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Issuing flour to Ojibway women at June festival,  White Earth Reservation.

Issuing flour to Ojibway women at June festival,
White Earth Reservation.

Photograph Collection, 1896
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.52 p3 Negative No. 34860

The government came in and also gave us rations in fresh pork, barrel pork. The Indian Department of our branch-bureau used to issue out "salt-pork rations," they called them. Big slabs of it, thick, out of the salt barrel. Oh, nice! That was from the government to help the Indian, which was very good. They gave us very nice pork, the best barrel pork they had. At the end of the month, they'd ration the out: "How many in a family?"

"Numbered."

And he'd give out the barrel pork accordingly.

When they rationed, at Bena, they gave us about five or ten pounds of pork. It all depends on number in the family, but generally we got five or ten pounds to a family for six.

They'd poke that pork out of the barrel and throw it on the counter and ask, "How many in the family?"

"Four."

"OK. Take the whole works."

Then they'd wrap 'er up.

The Indians got a slip to show for those rations too. The government gave lots of things besides barrel pork, but they didn't give coffee. They give tea instead, black tea, and sugar and flour. We got sugar. We got prunes, dried prunes, dried apples, dried peaches. We got so many pounds to a family. It all depended on how many were eating out of that. We got so much flour, from the federal government. We got so much flour and raisins. We got something good for the blood. And we got black tea, always. Black tea is m^k-k^-day a-nii-biish, tea, black tea. We never got coffee or anything. We got black tea, and we liked that.

The government rationed us pork, sugar, and salt. Well, they didn't give me, they didn't give us, much salt. They had everything for us, where they could. But before we had salt, you know what we did?

We went to the logging camps. We found a lot of that salt, rock salt, where they had pork in there. They dipped that out and then they put it by the heat, to dry it out. Then they put it in a sack and hammered that down. They made good salt.

zzzadd??-91SALT.DL here, or earlier, or later?

The government didn't give much sugar either. Oh, they gave us about six pounds a month. They were afraid of diabetes. So I think that's why the Indians are healthy now.

The sugar they gave us is sii-jii-baa$-kw^d, that's a sugar, white sugar. And the brown sugar is o-zaa-way sii-jii-baa$-kw^t. They bake with that, and they use that for tea. A lot of them use the brown sugar. It's as good as maple sugar.

Maple sugar is o-zaa-way sii-jii-baa$-kw^t. That's the same as brown sugar. You use the same word for brown sugar as maple sugar. They are the same. Ya, o-zaa-way sii-jii-baa$-kw^t, ya.

We had other things to eat on. We had meat and everything from the wild life. We had blueberries too. And the government gave us white rice too. So we put the dry blueberries in with that, just like raisins. Boy, they're good together. They gave us about, oh, about, eight pounds of white rice -- eight to ten pounds. We were more on Chinese food then.

Sometimes it was comical. In those days we ate like the Chinese and looked like American soldiers. When I was a boy clothing was all prepared at home. I think we got into boughten clothes pretty heavy when the federal term of office changed(4) and they started to buy clothes for the Indians from government surplus. They bought surplus clothes and they distributed them amongst the Indians. I remember in nineteen-eight, seven or eight, that they shipped in a bunch of clothes, surplus army clothes. They gave us wool clothes. They gave us rubbers, overshoes, and everything. We were doing good. We all wore soldiers' clothes. We all wore army clothes. With our old clothes we often wouldn't dry off, maybe, because we didn't always have a change of clothes, probably. Yup. But after a while, when the army surplus clothing was given to the Indian, we would have a change of clothes, and we could dry off when we got wet.

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Teacher and young boys posed for photograph, Indian boarding school, location unknown.

Teacher and young boys posed for photograph,
Indian boarding school, location unknown.
Photograph Collection, 1900
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.65.52 Negative No.

But in those days they all still trapped and made clothes, and they all did well. They got food rationing from the federal government, and they bought us army clothes from surplus. Those Indians looked like a whole bunch of soldiers, but they were warm clothes.

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Bill Matrious.

Bill Matrious.
Photograph Collection, 1908
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.1M r40 Negative No. 59051

That kept up the Indian. So, we didn't have a hard time, much, because the federal took care of us from away back. The federal government knew what he was doing for the Indians, so we respected that. I think we had a good federal president, a good federal government, that helped the Indian lots. Believe it or not, boy, I've seen them do it. The warehouse supply would come, and that was through federal funds. We got rations that way.

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Elmer Brunet, Indian agent, showing clothing to women and children, Mille Lacs.

Elmer Brunet, Indian agent,
showing clothing to women and children, Mille Lacs.
Photographer: Zula Corning
Photograph Collection, 1930
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. E97.5 r9 Negative no. 56607

And if we needed wood, they saw that we got wood. The young men always cut wood, and the Whites and the Indian women went and helped cut wood too. And there was wood close by to the camp, and that's why they camped there.(5)

So that's the way we survived.

When the White people came in, they weren't so rough as you think they are! No! And they had to pay for the expenses too.

That was a good deal.

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Tar paper house, Cass County.

Tar paper house, Cass County.
Photograph Collection, 1910
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. MC3.3 p8 Negative no. 74193

 

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Dwelling and Indians at Vineland.

Dwelling and Indians at Vineland.
Photograph Collection, 1925
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. E97.31 r143 Negative no. 37915

Later on in years they gave us enough for tarpaper to build our housing. Well, in some places they gave you the money to buy tarpaper -- if you're trusted -- and you buy the tar-paper yourself. You'd go to any store and buy your own tar-paper.

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Chippewa family at Grand Portage.

Chippewa family at Grand Portage.
Creator: Frances Densmore (1867-1957)
Photograph Collection, 1930
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.31 p64 Negative No. 30575

We had commercial stores for builders. We had commercial buildings. And Flemming was the one that supplied it, in Bena. Sometimes they just gave us the tar-paper. If we wanted it, ya, they'll deliver it.

Later on, as I remember, when I got home from the Tower school, John Richardson or Wickerson was the distributor man in the warehouse for the federal government ration program. He took care of the warehouse. That was about 1913, 1914. That was thirteen!, thirteen. I came home from school in 1912. I was there three years. So that must have been 1913. It was twelve or thirteen, ya.

Some of them got pretty good housing by accepting the government materials and by working. They didn't wait entirely for the government to come in, but when the government came in, the authorities trained them. The government came along and trained them how to build, told them what to use, how to handle tools, and everything. Finally we got our own tools and learned how to build a little shack, house, shelter. That's the way we got along. We got along by learning from others and by encouraging the Indians to learn from the people who have come to know something.

And we learned a lot of stuff from the White men we lived with. They educated us to live a better way of life. We enjoyed that life, so we approved that better way of life. It is a good thing in life that you can learn from one another.

I think they did pretty good. They gave us beans, black tea that was good, and sugar, to help that family at the end of the month, while they were helping themselves too. I think that was a good plan; a lot of them used it good. They had nice little tar-paper homes; some of them got nice places; some of them did well. Everybody was happy. Everybody had celebrations on July the Fourth. After the celebration, they'd get ready for the winter; harvesting(6) would come. After harvesting we were all ready for the winter, at least we tried to get ready. Our leaders too would help us plan. And after harvesting we had another celebration. We went along good that way.

And it was at one of those celebrations where my Mom first met Jack Nason, my Dad. My Step-Dad. My mother met Jack Nason at Portage Lake. She went to a powwow there. That's in Portage Lake, I know, but we didn't portage. That's by Chain-of-Lakes. That's out of Bena, south of Ryan's Village. And on Portage Lake they had a big powwow. And there she met Jack Nason. My step-dad met my mother at Portage Lake. There was a big powwow on Portage Lake.

I don't know exactly how we got there, but it was by ponies and wagons. Those days the Indians came by wagon and by horses. There was good road on the high land. They came from all over -- south, north, west. I think some party took us there, some nearest relatives, some good people. We went by wagon road.

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Horse drawn wagon on road through forest of Norway pine, Elbow Lake.

Horse drawn wagon on road through forest of Norway pine, Elbow Lake.
C. C. Andrews Photograph Collection, 1901
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.99.65 Negative No. 11382-A

Portage Lake is by the Soo track of the lake, the one between Leech Lake and Portage Lake. The Soo railroad ran by there. It's by Chain-o-Lakes. And when the Leech Lakers had them old powwow-days gatherings, with moccasin games and everything, they had big crowds. They had big doings, big crowds, big dinners, suppers. One year they powwowed for a whole week. And there was a big powwow there. And that evening you ought to see the Indians! Some Cass Lakers even had tents up.

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The powwow, Walker.

The powwow, Walker.
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1920
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.37 r14 Negative No. 37756

They ate wild rice, maple sugar, blueberries, and everything. They used to live it that way. They invited on another to have a spiritual dinner and to talk. They gave thanks for what they received: "We're looking forward for a better season. We hope that when we're traveling in these waters that the waters will help us. Everything nice is here for us to eat. We thank. We find more every year for our children. We're happy. The children are happy, playing along the beaches, playing in the canoes." And they sang and had a big powwow. Bells were ringing!(7)

I sat and watched.

I watched very closely.

That's where I began to realize my mother had a boyfriend. I didn't know at that time that she had a boyfriend. A big fellow came along and danced(8) with mother. He looked like a White man, but he wasn't -- he was an Indian breed.

His name in Indian is mays-kuu-ga-nay-aash, may-sko-gwan-nay-as, "Red-Feather, A-Flying-Feather." mesh-ko-gua-nay-ash- is "Red-Feather-Flying," "Red-Feather-Waving." That's what the Indians called Jack Nason. In English they called him Nason, Jack Nason.

In the olden days those old Indians had all kinds of names. We called people by any White names, "John," "Joe," "Jack." There were a lot of brothers in them days and that's how we kept them straight. Well, we called a guy with the best name they could find.

"Hello Jack."

"Hello John."

"Hello Joe."

"Hey."

It didn't matter what his real name was.(9) No! Hell no! And that's the best way the use one another. Some names we used quite often, even if it wasn't the same name the Whites used, because the easiest word for the Indian to use on the White names were the ones they used, like "Jack."

"Jack" turned out to be my step-dad, but his name was John, John Nason. They called him "Jack."

And he danced with mother, then he sat down.

The chief would get up and talk of this great land and about our Creator. You know what? My dad, my step-dad, Jack Nason, was the best singer they could get. He sang like Raymond Robinson.(10) He was a good singer. He had a good voice. And when he sat down, he hit that drum. "There he goes!!," they'd say.

There was a "squaw dance," a "give-away dance." Sometimes some people call that dance a "squaw dance." I don't. Lots of 'em don't like that word "squaw."(11) They got up and got ready to dance. They were passing clothes to one another, as gifts. And then he sang. He sang a song. He first sang the introduction, then, when he hit the second chorus, they all jumped up and danced. And each one danced with the ones that gave to them a present.

Ho -- ly!

When they got ready to go home, he said, "I got my team outside. I don't like to go home alone. One of them's wild. He might break loose, and I'll have to stay overnight."

So she said, "OK. Anytime you're ready, I'll go home with you."

He told her, "Put the kids in the wagon. I'll take you home."

So we got in the back end of the wagon. It was a nice little outfit. Boy, did he have nice ponies! And Jack had a nice team of horses, with wool mats, and ponies.

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Horse-drawn cart on road through forest of Norway Pine, Winnibigoshish Indian Reservation.

Horse-drawn cart on road through forest of Norway Pine,
Winnibigoshish Indian Reservation.

Photograph Collection, 1902
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. Collection I.99.24 Negative no. 11358-A

And she said, "Listen to him. This is gonna be . . . maybe it will be . . .  your dad."

"I wish he was. He was a nice man," I said, "Mother."

That was when we lived at Bena. He unloaded us at Bena and the Old Man said, "I'll see the kids, and I'll see you -- later. I must go home. And you see I'm not ready to get married, because my regular wife tipped over and drowned on that river, on the Mississippi."

Rose Nason, Thomas Nason's mother, Rose Nason, she drowned when they tipped over a boat. It was a big boat too.

Jack Nason was a breed and so he had a little White blood. He was an Indian all right, he was mostly Indian, but he had a touch of [xxxsp?? Mennonite? or May Knight ??] Mainnight, White people. His hair wasn't black. He wasn't dark. He was very light. Jack Nason's step-dad was "Second John Smith."(12) John Smith was his step-dad. Jack Nason had a little Mainnight [XXXREM check: May night?] in him. But he was a good, good step-dad. He looked like a White man. He was good to my folks.(13) He was good to all of us.

One time, after that powwow, we were going to go to the Indian Village at Sugar Point with him. Sugar Point is o-t^-k^-mi-gung. My mother's from Leech Lake, and all these Leech Lake Sugar Point people get along good. That's why I like visiting over to Sugar Point. That's why I enjoy talking to them.

We had a horse over there that was given to us on the powwow. It was a nice little horse. We called it a "crazy-quilt" pony.

His hide was like a crazy quilt. It was a beautiful little horse, a beautiful Indian pony. We got him in the barn and we caught him. We tied him on the back of our sled. He followed our horses that we had hitched to the sled. We had a beautiful big team on the sled. It was no use for him to try to jerk out of there because we had him tied around the neck with a rope. The only thing he could do was upset the sled, but he never tried it. He came along. And when he came along he was more apt to be behind these horses. A horse is a horse. They talk to one another.

So we were riding along and we came to the main part of the Indian village before we left. They told us, "They got fur there you can buy."

We asked them there, "You got any fur?"

"Ya, them people down next to the lake, they got fur." So we stopped there for dinner. And my dad says, my step-dad says, "Anybody got any fur? I'll give you a good price for it. I'll give you money for your mileage and everything. It's a long way to the trading post. It's a long ways, but I'll give you a check here, which is good. The check is good."

Boy, right away they came in with their fur. They came with weasel, mink, mushrat,(14) skunk, and everything. Well, my dad, step-dad, was quite a grader of fur. He graded them. He was sitting down grading the mink. "I give you so much for this. I give you so much for that. It if satisfies you, you can take it. You don't have to take it, but if you want to sell it, I'll buy it." So he bought it. He bought the fur. After he started buying, more came, and more came. We had a lot of fur.

We did it once. Just once, because we were on the journey to go get a pony. We didn't care about buying regularly, we just bought it for a buyer in Deer River. We bought it for the Harriett Brothers [xxxsp??]. Ya. I don't know how many skins we ended up buying. I didn't pay any attention to that.

That Indian village was at Sugar Point.(15) That was at Sugar Point, a place where lots of people sugar camped.(16) I was about, about nine, when I went out to Sugar Point with my dad, Jack Nason.

At that time we were staying with some nearest relative in Bena. But they were strict to mother, and worked her too hard. Ya. And that boyfriend told her, "After a drive(17) I'll know where to look for you. You stay with your nearest folks that you can find at Sugar Point. Go to Sugar Point, then I'll be there. That's where the logging drive will be going. I'm just going to cross the pond.(18) I'm going across the lake with the drives and the booms and the steamboat. And when I cross that lake and hit Sugar Point, I'll see you."

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Lumberjack working with floating logs.

Lumberjack working with floating logs.
Photograph Collection, 1905
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.41 r16 Negative No. 9485

So my mom went to stay for awhile with her folks by Sugar Point.(19)

We moved from Sugar Point to a place on the Leech River quite a ways out of Ball Club, to a new place south of Bena about ten, eleven, twelve miles, because the Nason folks were there.(20)

Nasons were there. That's why she went there. We traveled the Leech River many times, going back and forth to Bena, and we knew it very well. We'd push our small boat back and forth from one place to another. We lived below Peterson, below Peterson Homestead. That was a farm. That's below Federal Dam, about five or six miles below, on the river, alongside Leech River. Then the next place was John Smith's place -- John S. Smith. That was at Federal Dam.

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Indian family in front of log home.

Indian family in front of log home.
Creator: Ross A. Daniels
Photograph Collection, Postcard, 1915
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.31 r133 Negative No. 54722

And from that part of the Leech River they moved down the Leech River toward Mud Lake. They moved sometime after I left for Tower school.(21) By 1911 they were at that part of the Leech River called the "Crow-Buffalo Landing," down from John Smith's. The second bend down from John S. Smith's old place is called "Buffalo and Crow's old place." Sometimes they call it "Crow's Landing," ya. That's on the north side of Leech River. Ya. Old Fred Crow was my grandpa.(22) And that was "Fred Crow and Buffalo Landing." Fred Crow used to have a logging camp there many years ago before I think I was born! I was born just about that time. That logging camp was located right on the Leech River, by the Crow-Buffalo's Landing. That's below Federal Dam, about four, five miles below Federal Dam. Ah, maybe it was six, it could be six miles south of Federal Dam. On the Leech River.

By the time I got home from Tower School(23) my mother and Jack Nason were living at the Leech-Mississippi Forks. They lived on "Nason Point" at "Nason Village." They got married legally, through a Catholic Church. And then from there on they lived together. They had a big dinner on that marriage. He was a good man, that Nason, ya. That's my step-dad. He is Tom Nason's dad, and my sister Mary and I joined up with him in that marriage.

He was her third man. She married the third man, and the three times was legal in their church. They were Christian, Catholic. They got married in church. It was a legal marriage. And they had lectures. They gave points on the way to live with a marriage, how to bring up children. They all went to church at that one day, Sundays, and they had respect for the day of rest.

So while I was at the Tower School my mother moved from Bena to a place on the Leech River out of Ball Club. She moved to the Nason old homestead, across the river from Joe Barnes'. That's about two miles and a half to the Leech and Mississippi Forks from Ball Club. It was on the side of the Leech River, on the west side of Leech River.(24) It was across the river from Joe Barnes folks' place, by High Banks. There stood a little cabin by the river-side. There stood a barn by the riverside. So we all moved to that little log cabin on the Leech-Mississippi Forks south and east of Bena, south of Ball Club.

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Indian man and woman by their log home, Deer River.

Indian man and woman by their log home, Deer River.
Photograph Collection, 1930
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.31 r203 Negative No. 10631-A

Things began to go good then. They worked together and it got so that we went along good. And out of that dollar they worked for together, they made a living.

I though that's all he had was that team of horses, but when I landed at his plantation on the Mississippi Forks, you ought to see the horses he had! My step-dad had seven, six, head of ponies. He had six head and they all just looked alike. They were calico ponies. He had a farm where the Leech River goes into Mud Lake and where the Mississippi departs. His farm was that point. They called it "Nason Point." He owned a fraction of all of that. So he raised cattle.

He and my mother raised cattle, and the other children came. And when the younger children got big enough they all followed us. They always wanted to be where the old man was. They were only in the way, but anyhow we took them along.

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Cattle on farm.

Cattle on farm.
Creator: Charles J. Hibbard (-1924)
Photograph Collection, 1915
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA3.1 p94 Negative No. 4354-B

Jack Nason was good to us. Boy, he had a nice team of horses. Pulling a big load of wood was nothing to those horses, because they were round and fat. He fed them. He let them run wild on their own.

I called my step-dad my father. As a father, he is a father of mine, Mr. Nason, J. Nason, Jack Nason. He was a friend with everyone that knew him in the north where he was living. He lived a life; he worked; he tried hard. He was a heavy man. He was good to the children. He talked to us. We listened to him, or tried to. Mother didn't have a word. Mother didn't have a word when he was talking. Mother didn't butt-in.(25)

One of the younger children would look at Mother, and Mother would say, "The old man, better look at him. He's talking."

I was proud of my Step-Dad, Mr. Nason, at that time. And he would sit and point and give orders, details.

"Why is he so bossy?" we'd tell one another as we were on our way to the barn or out to the field. I heard that over, over and over.

I got to thinking. It is not for anything that was going to harm us. He pointed out something that's going to do us for betterment. He pointed out the way we should help ourselves, or try to help ourselves. And then we talked it over.

"It is so."

"All right, then you do this," those three brothers of mine would say.

"I'll do that; maybe I'll have to go to town."

My step-brothers were good. I have nice step-brothers and we agreed pretty good; we tried.

The girls worked by their mother. They had their orders. It went along pretty good like that.

And every time they gave us lectures, they'd tell us that the time is coming that you may not be educated enough: "You have to have a living; you have to be able to learn how to work. A little work is good; that's your life. You have to produce for the seasonal(26): cold weather's coming, rainy weather's coming. Save enough for rainy days."

Then we'd get to thinking, "What is rainy days?" It snows up here, sure, but we have shelter. "Let 'er snow! Let it rain; we have enough to eat; we saved enough." That's a good point there, you know.

My step-dad was a good provider.

That's the way they live in that area I live in, and that's far up north. Most of us learned. Where did we get it? We had settlers, people that had cattle prepared. They had big families and they talked to their children. I could hear them talking across the river, and getting after their children. Mat Barnes, the old man, Joe's dad, would get after them. We are proud of those children. We hear those voices today.

I still have cousins at Sugar Point. That's Dave Royer. That's my cousin. We'll go tape him sometime. He'll listen to you if I go there. I'll tell him, "I want to tape you Dave, you're my cousin." Boy, that's really my blood cousin, blood relation. He was my aunt's boy, on my father's side. My father's sister was his mother. There are lots of them here too that are the same to me as my aunt: Bellanger, Ballengers. I have lots of relations on my father's side and mother's side. Pret'd-near all of them are related to me somehow. I think that's why I get along good. Jack Nason and my mother's relations from Leech Lake, and all these other Leech Lake Sugar Point people get along good. That's why I like visiting them. You know, when I was on the microphone at the powwow in Ball Club they were happy to see me. They laughed. "That old Paul still dances." I think I was the happiest one around there 'cause I was happy to see them all. They're all my friends. I listen to them. I listen to them; I talk to them. They listen to me. They give me good points. Fine, that's all I want. I had a good time. I have a good time every year I meet them, all of them. They tried to offer me a treat.(27) I said, "No, I feel good enough. My head is clear."

You know why I did that? Because I was so happy to meet my friends I wanted to be in the clear. I met my friends at Red Lake that I went to school with. They shook hands with me. I have relations up there, that I never met before, who were dancing in costume at the Ball Club powwow. One of them said, "You belong in our family."

"How is that?"

"'Cause your uncle got married up here, and that's my grandfather, your uncle."

That was Stately. That's a big area name. Stately is a big area family up there at Red Lake. My mother used to say "Stately's up there." They were brother and sister. That's a big outfit too. When they met me here I never knew them. Joe Nason(28) brought them to me. So we stood and talked. I have to go up there and see them too sometime.

Gee, that musta-been something in the old days.

My father and my mother must have it.


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Footnotes

1.

2. See Ch. 2, "Bena Childhood." Betsy Crow's father is Fred Crow, the one who owned the hotel that Paul Buffalo's mother worked in. Fred Crow was also some relation to Paul Buffalo: "I think Fred Crow was also related to my grandmother on my mother's side, but you couldn't see any Indian in him. He was a white man. . . ." Fred Crow was Paul Buffalo's grandfather on his father's side.

3. Loggers who would have contracts to cut a certain amount of timber.

4. When the federal government's administration changed.

5. I once asked Paul Buffalo if they always returned to the same place for the winter camp, as they did with maple sugaring and wild ricing (Cf., Ch. 6, "Spring Move to the Sugar Bush," Ch. 7, "Skayy-go-mI-zi-gáy-wIn, Maple Sugar Time," and Ch. 14, "Mah-no-min-i-kayGii-siss, Wild Ricing Moon.") His response, "Don't you White guys know anything? Just think about it." I thought about it, then, when he realized that I hadn't figured it out, he explained that every winter they moved to a different place (but close-by) so as to be close to a new supply of dry wood. They moved to the wood, he explained, rather than hauling the wood long distances to a seasonally-permanent house.

6. Wild rice harvesting. See Ch. 14, "Mah-no-min-i-kayGii-siss, Wild Ricing Moon."

7. The bells on the costumes were ringing as people danced with the beat of the drum.

8. This is "dancing" in the Indian style, in the sense that Paul Buffalo's mother answered an "invite" to dance, which would most frequently be the man dancing in front of a woman looking at her. She then would proceed to begin to dance also. Occasionally, during XXX dances, they might hold hands, although in 1965 this type of dance was said by the old-timers to be a newly arrived custom from The Plains. Cf. Rynkiewitch XXX.

9. For years Paul Buffalo often called me "Dave," particularly when he was tired. Sometimes he called me "John."

10. A traditional singer from Ball Club, Minnesota. This is a high compliment.

11. See XXX for comments on the use of the word "squaw."

12. John S. Smith. "Old John Smith" is "Wrinkle-Meat" (Cf., Ch. 41, "John Smith Wrinkle Meat.")

13. Relatives.

14. Muskrat.

15. On Leech Lake.

16. See Ch. 14, "Mah-no-min-i-kayGii-siss, Wild Ricing Moon."

17. A logging "drive." Cf., Ch. 39, "Timber Days"

18. Leech Lake. People often refer to the biggest bodies of water as "The Pond."

19. Sugar Point is close to Federal Dam. Paul's mother had folks and in-laws throughout the area. Josh Drumbeater, for example, lived at Federal Dam (Cf., Ch. 1, "Early Life at Leech Lake"). She also had relatives on Leech Lake itself, at Sugar Point, and by Onigum village.

20. This is probably at or near John S. Smith's place ("Second John Smith") as John S. Smith was Jack Nason's step father. Cf., Ch. 1, "Early Life at Leech Lake", page xxx: "In those days Peterson Homestead and John S. Smith's place were the only places on the Leech River. Those were the only two who lived on that river year 'round. Years ago my father [Jim Buffalo] and my grandpa [Fred Crow] moved in there too, but they didn't stay. I think my father's buried there, along the Leech River." Paul Buffalo's mother moves from Bena, to Sugar Point on Leech Lake, to John S. Smith's place on the Leech River, to the Crow-Buffalo Landing on the Leech River, to the Fork of the Leech and Mississippi River. Basically she's working her way from Sugar Point down the Leech River to the Mississippi. In canoe days (Cf., Ch. 3, "Canoe Days.") moving around like this was normal and natural. Cf., map page xxx. This all happened while Paul Buffalo was away at Tower school, so he is not aware of many of the details. Whatever, when he returned from School his mother had married Jack Nason and they were living in a log cabin at the Leech-Mississippi Forks.

21. 1909.

22. Jim Buffalo's dad.

23. Spring of 1912.

24. The Leech River bends at Mud Lake, so earlier on, Paul's mother was living on the north side of the river, then they lived on the west side. Both locations were on the same side of the river. See map, page xxx.

25. This would be a fairly common trait for females, it was not necessarily because of Jack Nason himself.

26. You have to put up wood, food, etc. for the winter.

27. A drink.

28. Joe "Sky" Nason, Paul's half brother.

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