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Flying Bird Image

When Everybody Called Me Gabe-bines,

Teachings from Paul Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs (Ed.)
University of Minnesota Duluth

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"This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society."

"This publication was made  possible in  part by the  people of  Minnesota  through  a grant funded by an appropriation  to  the  Minnesota  Historical Society  from the  Minnesota  Arts and Cultural  Heritage  Fund. Any views,  findings,  opinions,  conclusions  or recommendations expressed in this publication  are those  of  the authors  and  do not necessarily represent those of the State of  Minnesota, the  Minnesota  Historical Society, or the  Minnesota  Historic Resources Advisory Committee."

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Buffalo Image


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

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. The ponies ran wild, but he went and got them when he wanted them.

Indian children, Deer River, 1939.

Indian children, Deer River, 1939.

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. 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 -- 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.

Leech Lake Map.
Leech Lake.
Source: Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

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 of 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.

Flemming's Store, Bena, Minnesota.

Flemming's Lake Winnibigoshish Tourist Camp, Bena, ca. 1925.
[Flemming's Store, Bena, Minnesota.]

Photograph Collection, Postcard, ca. 1925
  Collections Online
  Minnesota Historical Society
Accession No. AV1997.50.73 Negative No. 101679

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 it 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; some of them got forty.(4)

Man standing in forest near Wilkinson Station, west shore of Leech Lake, on ceded Indian reservation land, 1900.

Man standing in forest near Wilkinson Station, west shore of Leech Lake, on ceded Indian reservation land, 1900.

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 in the Indian Office to go along for the best.

Whenever it would get too tough in the winter they'd form a council.(5) 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 apiece. One time I remember they got a hundred dollars apiece, 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.

Indians in a horse drawn wagon, Nett Lake Indian Reservation, 1928.

Indians in a horse drawn wagon, Nett Lake Indian Reservation, 1928.

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 sometimes asked Flemming, "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. 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.(6)

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. They say the land is still in his name at Bena.

And then on a top of that, those that didn't get any money from the timber or from the allotments were given a hand when 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."

Indian ration day, White Earth, 1898.

Indian ration day, White Earth, 1898.

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 they delivered the rations right to the door for some of them. They delivered the food and stuff to some that needed it -- 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 early on. 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. So we always had home-made bread. There was more of that then. And 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."(7) 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" flour started coming in heavy, but we had some bleached flour in 1914. But the dark flour was rich; it was en‑riched. We used lots of that. And we used corn meal, years ago. That was all there in the rations.

Issuing flour to Ojibway women at June festival, White Earth Reservation, 1896.

Issuing flour to Ojibway women at June festival, White Earth Reservation, 1896.

Photograph Collection, 1896
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.52 p3 Negative No. 34860
and 34860 YR1910.22

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?"


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?"


"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 -- white 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 us much salt. They had everything for us, where they could.

But before we got salt from the government you know what we did?

We went to the logging camps. We found a lot of that salt -- rock salt -- in the barrels where they had their pork. That's the same "salt-pork" they later on rationed to the Indians. We dipped that brine out and put it in a kettle by the heat, to dry it out. When it was all dried out we put it in a sack and hammered that down. We'd process it into a fine salt. That made good salt, very good salt.

A guy said to me once, "Didn't you use salt in those days?"

"Sure we did," I said, "before nineteen seven, eight, we all knew what to do."

"What did you do?"

"Years ago we got salt from the pork barrels in lumber camps. They used to ship pork in on the rails, in barrels, and it was well-salted.  And when you poured that salt-juice out of the barrels you got fresh pork . . . well . . . it was pretty close to just the same as fresh pork.  If you washed that, you could make a bacon out of that by the campfire."

"Oh, how did they fix that salt?"

"Heck, they just put that salt juice from the barrel pork in a metal kettle and got it hot. They made salt water out of the juice from the barrel. They poured cold water on that juice then dried it up. That salt water was boiled, refined, and smashed up.  After it was dried up they took and shook it in a sack to get it tender. They then put it into a wooden keg or something -- there were a lot of kegs laying around those days -- and then took a rock or something and pounded that brittle dried-up salt into a refinement. So they got salt that way, and that's the salt they used -- really good salt. It was washed and everything. We took enough salt to use for all summer. From the logging camps they'd get a whole barrelful. There were barrels of it. When the camps closed just one family would sometimes get a whole barrelful -- sometimes a sackful -- and they'd take it home.

"Boy . . . " that guy sitting there said. "Have you seen that?"

"Why I know how it was because I was one of those who helped take the barrels off the sleds and wagons. If a barrel was too heavy, we'd just dump half of the salt liquid off. A lot of barrel pork came in this country and the salt juice was just dumped after the pork was carried to the campground. That's what made good salt liquid. They left the barrels right out there in the camps and we used the barrels too. We took the barrels home by boats, or by ponies."

That's why the government didn't give us much salt. The government didn't give much sugar either. Oh, they gave us about six pounds of white sugar 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. And just naturally we had a lot of maple sugar.(8)

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(9) 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 -- 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.

Teacher and young boys posed for photograph, Indian boarding school, location unknown, ca. 1900.

Teacher and young boys posed for photograph, Indian boarding school, location unknown, ca. 1900.

Photograph Collection, ca. 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.

Bill Matrious, ca. 1908.

Bill Matrious, ca. 1908.

Photograph Collection, ca. 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 too.

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

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

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.(10)

So that's the way we survived.

That was a good deal.

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

Dwelling and Indians at Vineland, ca. 1925.

Dwelling and Indians at Vineland, ca. 1925.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1925
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. E97.31 r143 Negative no. 37915

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

Chippewa family at Grand Portage, 1930.

Chippewa family at Grand Portage, 1930.

Photographer: Frances Densmore

Photograph Collection, 1930
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.31 p64 Negative No. 30575

By then we had commercial buildings with stores for builders -- where people wanting to build something could get supplies. Flemming was the one that supplied our tar paper in Bena, although sometimes they just gave us the tar paper. If we wanted it, they'd 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 some of the Indians. 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 when you can learn from one another.

Tar paper house, Cass County, ca. 1910.

Tar paper house, Cass County, ca. 1910.

Photograph Collection, ca.1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. MC3.3 p8 Negative no. 74193

I think the government did pretty good. They gave us beans, black tea that was good, and sugar -- to help a 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 very 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(11) 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.

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 a powwow at Portage Lake -- that's out of Bena, south of Ryan's Village. Portage Lake had a big powwow and that's where my mother met Jack Nason.

I don't know exactly how we got there, but it was by pony and wagon. Those days -- when they weren't traveling by canoes -- the Indians most generally came by wagon and by horses. There was a good road on the high land. They came to Portage Lake from all over -- south, north, west. I think some party took us there -- some nearest relatives, some good people. That's called "Portage Lake," I know, but we didn't portage. We went by wagon road.

Horse drawn wagon on road through forest of Norway pine, Elbow Lake, White Earth Reservation, 1901.

Horse drawn wagon on road through forest of Norway pine, Elbow Lake, White Earth Reservation, 1901.

Photograph Collection, 1901
Forms part of C. C. Andrews photograph collection, I.99.
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. AV1993.208.66 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. 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 in the evenings you ought to see the Indians! Some Cass Lakers even had tents set up.

The powwow, Walker, ca. 1920.

The powwow, Walker, ca. 1920.

Photograph Collection, Postcard, ca. 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 that way. They invited one 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!(12)

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 with Mother.(13) 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 we could find.

"Hello Jack."

"Hello John."

"Hello Joe."


It didn't matter what his real name was.(14) No! Heck no! And that's the best way they use one another. Some names we used quite often, even if it wasn't the same name the whites used, because the easiest words 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. But they called him "Jack" . . . in English.

He danced with Mother, then he sat down.

The chief got up and talked of this great land and about our Creator. He'd thank the singers and dancers and on-lookers and asked for another song.

You know what?

My dad -- my step-dad, Jack Nason -- was the best singer they could get. He sang like Raymond Robinson.(15) 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."(16)

I don't like it. . . .

Anyway, the ones giving gifts got up and got ready to dance. They were passing clothes to one another, as gifts. And then he sang. Jack Nason 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.

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 -- 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 Mennonite in him -- white people. His hair wasn't black. He wasn't dark. He was very light. He looked like a white man. Jack Nason's step-dad was "Second John Smith."(17) Second John Smith was his step-dad. Jack Nason was a good, good step-dad. He was good to my folks.(18) He was good to all of us.

One time -- after that powwow when I first took notice of him -- 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 and he followed our beautiful big team of horses that we already had hitched to 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 other horses. A horse is a horse. They talk to one another.

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

So we asked them when we got to the village, "You got any fur?"

"No, but the 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,(19) 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 Harriet Brothers, a department store outfit with a grocery supply store in Deer River. I don't know how many hides we ended up buying. I didn't pay any attention to that.

That Indian village was at Sugar Point.(20) That was at Sugar Point on Leech Lake -- south of Federal Dam -- a place where lots of people sugar-camped.(21) I was about . . . about nine when I went out to Sugar Point with Jack Nason.

At that time my mom, my sister Mary and I were staying with some nearest relative in Bena. But they were strict to Mother, and worked her too hard. So her boyfriend told her, "Go stay with your nearest folks that you can find at Sugar Point. That's where the logging drive will be going.(22) I'm just going to cross the pond.(23) 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. After a drive I'll know where to look for you. Go to Sugar Point, then I'll be there."

Lumberjack working with floating logs, ca. 1905.

Lumberjack working with floating logs, ca. 1905.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1905
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.41 r16 Negative No. 9485

So my mom went to stay for a while with her folks by Sugar Point.(24)

After that 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.(25)

Nasons were there and that's why we 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.

And from that part of the Leech River they later on moved down the Leech River toward Mud Lake. They moved sometime after I left for Tower school.(26) 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. Old Fred Crow was my grandpa.(27) And that was "Fred Crow and Buffalo Landing." Fred Crow used to have a logging camp there many years ago -- I think it was there before 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. Maybe it was six; it could be six miles south of Federal Dam.(28) On the Leech River.

By the time I got home from Tower School(29) 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. My sister Mary and I joined up with him in that marriage.

Jack Nason 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. They had lectures from the priest. He gave points on the way to live with a marriage, and 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 Indian 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 west side of Leech River.(30) 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 river‑side. So we all moved to that little log cabin on the Leech-Mississippi Forks south and east of Bena, south of Ball Club.

Indian man and woman by their log home, Deer River, 1930-1939.

Indian man and woman by their log home, Deer River, 1930-1939.

Photograph Collection, 1930-1939
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 thought that all my step-dad had was that team of horses that I saw at the Portage Lake powwow, 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 comes out of 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 around. They always wanted to be where the old man was. They were only in the way, but anyhow we took them along.

Cattle on farm, ca. 1915.

Cattle on farm, ca. 1915.

Photographer: Charles J. Hibbard

Photograph Collection, ca. 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, but 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 when he was talking. Mother didn't butt-in.(31)

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 -- even 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 most generally 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," I would tell my brothers about my view of it.

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

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

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 our folks gave us lectures, they'd tell us that the time is coming that you may not be educated enough: "You have to have a way to make 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(32): 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." But that's a good point there, you know.

My step-dad was a good provider.

That's the way we live in that area I live in, and that's far up north. Most of us learned how to get along up here.

Where did we get it?

We had settlers come in, 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.(33) We are proud of those children we grew up with. And we hear those voices of our folks yet today.

I still have cousins at Sugar Point, up the Leech River at Leech Lake. 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. . . . 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.(34) 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.(35) 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 my head to be in the clear. I met my friends that I went to school with at Red Lake. They shook hands with me. I have relations up there that I never met before; they 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(36) 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.


1. Paul's narrative in this chapter suggests the following chart:

Paul Buffalo's kinship chart as suggested by the narrative in Chapter 36.
Paul's father, Jim Buffalo, died when Paul was a small boy, "when I was about a year old."

Jack Nason's first wife, Rose, drowned in a boating accident on the Mississippi.

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, or to cut over a given area. Other loggers worked for an hourly, daily, or monthly wage.

4. Cf., Ch. 45, "Treaties, Allotments, and Self-Government."

5. Cf., Ch. 5, "Chiefs and Councils."

6. Cf., Ch. 37, "Finns, 'The Sweatbath-Men,'" Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks," and Ch. 43, "Cattle, Horses, 'Siouxs.'"

7. As late as 1914 the matter of bleaching of wheat flour was still being argued by the Supreme Court of the United States.

8. Cf., Ch. 5, "Skigamizigewin, Maple Sugar Time."

9. When the federal government's administration changed.

10. I once asked Paul Buffalo if they always returned to the same place for the winter camp, as they did with maple sugaring camp and wild ricing camp during those two seasons (Cf., Ch. 6, "Spring Move to the Sugar Bush," Ch. 7, "Skigamizigewin, Maple Sugar Time," and Ch. 13, "Manoominike-Giizis, 'Wild Ricing Moon'"). His very friendly teasing response was, "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-semi-permanent house.

11. Wild rice harvesting would come. See Ch. 13, "Manoominike-Giizis, 'Wild Ricing Moon.'"

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

13. This is "dancing" in an Indian style, in the sense that Paul Buffalo's mother answered an "invite" to dance, which at that time 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 dances, they might hold hands, although in 1965 this type of dance (with one man and one woman holding hands) was said by the old-timers to be a newly arrived custom from The Plains. Cf. Rynkiewich (1980).

14. Paul Buffalo occasionally called me "Dave," particularly when he was tired. Sometimes he called me "John."

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

16. For comments on the use of the word "squaw" see Ch. 23, "Niimi'idiwin: 'Come and Dance, Come and Sing--Living and Spirits Alike.'" Ch. 23 also discusses powwow celebrations and festivities in general.

17. "Second John Smith" is John S. Smith. "Old John Smith" is "Wrinkle-Meat." (Cf., Ch. 40, "John Smith 'Wrinkle Meat.'")

18. Jack Nason was good to all of Paul's relatives.

19. Muskrat.

20. Sugar Point on Leech Lake is close to Federal Dam, southwest. 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. "The Battle of Sugar Point," which took place on 5 October 1898, is sometimes referred to as "The Last Indian Uprising in the United States." It is also known as "The Battle of Leech Lake." Cf., Roddis (1919/1920), and Wold (1943).

21. See Ch. 6, "Spring Move to the Sugar Bush," and Ch. 7, "Skigamizigewin, Maple Sugar Time."

22. A logging "drive" where loggers float logs down the river to a sawmill. Cf., Ch. 38, "Timber Days."

23. People sometimes refer to bigger bodies of water as "The Pond."

24. Sugar Point on Leech Lake. Cf. footnote #20 above.

25. 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": "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. Much of this happened while Paul Buffalo was away at Tower school, so he is not aware of many of the details. When Paul returned from Tower Indian School in 1912 (at the end of the 1911-1912 school year) his mother had married Jack Nason and they were living in a log cabin at the Leech-Mississippi Forks. Cf. also, Ch. 35, "Boarding School Days," and Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

26. Paul left for the Tower Indian Boarding School in 1909 (for the 1909-1910 school year).

27. Jim Buffalo's dad. For more information on Fred Crow see Ch. 2, "Bena Childhood," and footnote #1.

28. When Paul says, "six miles south of Federal Dam" on the Leech [Lake] River that means six miles "below" or downstream from of Federal Dam -- which is basically six miles east of Federal Dam.

29. By the spring of 1912, at the end of the 1911-1912 school year.

30. The Leech Lake 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. Cf. footnote #25 above.

31. This would be a fairly common trait or custom; it was not necessarily because of Jack Nason himself.

32. You have to put up wood, food, and all of the basic necessities for the winter.

33. It is Joe Barnes' funeral sermon that begins this work in Ch. 1, "Early Life at Leech Lake." Joe and Paul, life-long best of friends, grew up with one another, with the Mat Barnes family living on one side of the Leech Lake River, and the Jack Nason family living across the river on the point near the "Leech-Mississippi Forks," "Nason Point." And before Paul's mother married Jack Nason and moved to "Nason Point," she and Paul and Paul's sister, Mary, lived seasonally at various locations upstream on the Leech Lake River and in and around Sugar Point and Bena. Mud Lake, right next to where the Nasons and Barnes lived has traditionally been a major meeting point for harvesting wild rice. When Paul talks about any Barnes he is talking about Joe's family. See also Ch. 13, "Manoominike-Giizis, 'Wild Ricing Moon,'" Ch. 16, "River Life and Fishing," Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks," Ch. 41, "Talking with the Old Folks: Recollections and Predictions," and Ch. 43, "Cattle, Horses, 'Siouxs.'"

34. Cf., Ch. 23, "Niimi'idiwin: 'Come and Dance, Come and Sing--Living and Spirits Alike.'"

35. A drink.

36. Joe "Sky" Nason, Paul's half-brother.

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