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When Everybody Called Me Gabe-bines,

Teachings from Paul Buffalo

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

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a note on tenses
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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


Talking with the Old-Timers:
Recollections and Predictions

Men portaging a canoe, ca. 1880.

Men portaging a canoe, ca. 1880.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1880
  Collections Online
  Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD2.42 p13 Negative No. 12914

I had grandfolks by the name of "Second John Smith." That's some sort of a son of Old John Smith.(1)

My grandpa -- John S. Smith -- is related to Old John Smith. Old John was our cousin -- I guess -- not our real grandpa -- although we always called Old John "Grandpa" -- mI-su-mIss. He was our cousin somewhere in there closely. But there were a lot of John Smiths those days.

"Second John Smith's" Indian name was . . . oh . . . oh what the heck? . . . saan-zway. And when they say zaan-zway that means "the whole works" -- in deep Indian language.(2) zaanz-way.

Mrs. "Second John Smith" was one of my grandfolks. She and "Second John Smith" were my step‑dad's father and mother. They were Jack Nason's father and mother -- step‑father and mother.(3) Jack Nason was my step-dad and they were his step-father and mother.(4)

At one time, about 1917, 1918, we were sitting and discussing how the Indians were, how they survive, how they went together to find food in the olden days. My Grandma -- Mrs. "Second John Smith" -- told how it was:

"Family and relationship(5) would go up into the river country in four or five boats to look for some place where they could find food. They were searching for food, and Lake Superior had a lot of fish. The streams there also had a lot of fish those days, very nice fish."

She was telling us about the journeys they made up the rivers, and how they would portage into the Mississippi from all these rivers and creeks around Duluth.

"Those days we traveled by canoes. They could pick up their canoes and carry them. One man would carry the small canoe over his shoulders with the two paddles, and the rest of the family would bring their canoe packs behind. Other men would help with the carrying of bigger canoes."

"We went to the Canadian border those days, close to the lines of Canada. Indians could come in from Canada then. They know where the ocean(6) was, and the ocean line in the northern part of this area,(7) and they played(8) the fur there. Fur is what they were after. And you didn't know where you were going to meet the traders. Fur is what they were after more, and we had the best fur in the northern part of this area, at a time."

"We were all dressed in fur, years ago. Animals were fed-up and ready for clothing."

Mixed blood (Indian and French) fur trader, ca. 1870.

Mixed blood (Indian and French) fur trader, ca. 1870.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1870
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD2.3 r7 Negative No. 10222

"The Canuks" are Canadian Indians. Canadian Indians have a different sly.(9) The northern speech is coarse -- short and coarse. The Canadians have different sly in Indian. Like we say ma-ma, they say du-du. See? When we say horse in Indian, we say bay-bay-ju-wa-gi'i. They make it short, miis-tah-dI'n. They're talking about the way their mish-tah-dI'n are built. And when we say bay-bay-ju-wa-gi'i we're talking about their hooves, one by one -- hooves, in Chippewa. And we're quick with our words, where the Canadian Indians have a little sly back at the end. So there's a difference -- a different way of slys. It makes us laugh sometimes.

Indians packing goods, Canada, ca. 1895.

Indians packing goods, Canada, ca. 1895.

Creator: Mathers

Photograph Collection, ca. 1885
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD2.3 p23 Negative No.

"It's along the coast that we traveled. By waters up streams, up in this area. That's where we meet Canadian Indians. We were a little scared of them. Canadian Indians more or less believe their own ways.(10) That's where the O-jib-way got some of their ways of doing things.(11) We learn from them too."

So I asked them, I asked the grandmother, I said, "Grandma, how did they travel by canoe on the Great Lakes?"

"They used to have big canoes those days because they came along the shores of Lake Superior. When it was calm a little they were able to ride a little ways from the shore, and they paddled their way along Lake Superior, along this seashore. They traveled pretty close to the seashore, pretty close. But it all depends on the depth of the water. But they had big canoes them days. They were sturdy too, and built strong."

On Lake Superior, 1876.

On Lake Superior, 1876.

From: Hudson Bay / Robert M. Ballantyne. 4th edition, page 291.

Art Collection, 1876
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD2.42 p9 Negative No. 6103

"When they got in the Duluth harbor they found some Indians camping all along the harbor there. They were camping there for the summer, living on fish, waiting for the harvest season.(12) Traders used to come in there to trade with them. Hudson Bay came there with his men, and there was another fur buyer and another trader that came in there too."

Ruins of the Hudson Bay Trading Post, Fond du LacRuins of the Hudson Bay Trading Post, Fond du Lac, 1797, ca. 1910., ca. 1910.

Ruins of the Hudson Bay Trading Post, Fond du Lac, 1797, ca. 1910.

Photographer: J. W. Russell

Photograph Collection, Postcard, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. HD2.1 r11

"And then they'd load berries on the boats or on the steamboats . . . when there were steamboats and when they had berries. They'd trade with berries, fur, or anything they had, including arts and crafts. They'd bring things to trade with the Canadians. And the Canadians brought things like fur caps, blankets, rugs, mats to make your bed waterproofed, and everything in buckskin clothes to wear."

View of Duluth, At the Head of Lake Superior, 1871.

View of Duluth, At the Head of Lake Superior, 1871.

From: Harper's Weekly, April 29, 1871

Art Collection, Engraving, 1871

  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MS2.9 DU1 p31 Negative No. 3623

"They liked to trade for Canadian wool. It was the warmest. The goods were nice, well made and sturdy. And they stopped along in Canada and picked up beads. The Canadian knew they could trade with the southern Indians. They used to go across Lake Superior in towards Canada and trade, and they'd bring food for the family. They had enough food to trade. . . ."

"Ah, what sort of food did they live on, Grandma?"

"They were great on cornmeal and other ground stuff to make soup. They'd mix that in their fish soup."

"Where did they stop and camp?"

"They were camped right alongside the different Indians. Probably they knew one another, or maybe they knew one another, but still, they were Indians. They learned from one another. And you should have seen those canoes and wiigwaams along that beach where they have the harbor entrance now.(13) And the beach from Superior to Duluth was all sand beach. That was all wiigwaams at one time, son."

"It that right, Grandma?"

"Yes, they were beautiful. And everybody was happy. They had powwows, feasts, gatherings, counciling, visiting. It was just like a city. They were just like a city, as I remember, but I was pretty young too in those days," she said.

She was quite an old lady, you know.

"Grandma," I said, "what did they do after they left there? Where did they go from there?"

"Well they gradually splitted up. One bunch would move up the stream that came in from Wisconsin.(14) They came up that river to Duluth. And some came up La Prairie river. They kept paddling. There was always a scout going before them, maybe two of them. And they'd get up high so they could see a lake."

"If it's close enough to portage, they'll all portage it. They'll blaze a trail. We have some routes in the north now that are still portage trails. They would buy big canoes and paddle their way up streams, around streams and creeks, and portage into lakes. The canoes cost about thirty dollars' worth of valuation, but it depended on the size and hand work of what you had to trade."

"That's how they would travel. They camped along the shores, taking their time. They were looking for berries at the same time too. When it's time for berries they hit the woods along the shores of the lakes and rivers. They'd go into the woods searching for berries and everything they could pick and trade. They'd follow one another."

"And then maybe the other bunch wants to go north on the Great Lakes. So they went along the rocks, and followed the Great Lakes north."

"There would be about six or seven canoes; ya; sometimes five or six! There were fifteen or twenty people in all, but, they were small. Most them weren't full grown, see? They were mostly children. The adults would be two brothers and their wives, and maybe there would be some other ones attached to the brother's sisters. At first the girl's man would travel with his in-laws. There were brother-in-laws and in-laws traveling together. The whole tribe that was related moved together."(15)

"There were boats coming in with all different kinds of white settlers. They were mostly French, at first . . . in that part of the country. The French were first, and then the Swedes, and then the Norwegians, and then the Germans came. Of course, you see, in fact, the German people were more or less jealous of us because they were at one time, a short while ago,(16) they were going to take over the country without signing any agreement. But we didn't allow that. So if they wanted to walk in here they had to get approved by the federal government and by the chiefs. OK. So that's why the Germans don't like Indians much."

"Cruisers,(17) surveyors, people on government boats, were all coming into the area. On their way home Indians would sell what they picked in the woods to all of these people. They sold blueberries or cranberries or anything. They used cranberries as a fruit, for sauce. The whites would buy these things and just take them home. They were just buying, it seems like, to help the Indian. But when the white people bought these then they didn't have to go out picking berries, and they liked that because they were more busy on the farms."

"And sometimes they'd just tell the Indian what they wanted and we'd go collect it for them. But they were more for buying moccasins."

"And we sold moccasins, and rugs, and buckskin chaps too, and jackets with buckskin trim and things, and that's the way we got by."

Ojibwe embroidered moccasins, not later than 1920.

Beaded moccasins, not later than 1900.

3D OBjects: not later than 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No.Negative No. 8034.8.A,B

Ojibwe beaded belt, ca. 1890-1917.

Ojibwe beaded belt, ca. 1890-1917.

38-1/4 X 62 X (including tassels) 3-5/8 inches

Collected at the White Earth Reservation, Minnesota, by Byron Franklin Carr, who worked on the reservation as a government cruiser, ca. 1900.

3D Objects: Approximately 1890 - Approximately 1917
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD2.3 p23 Negative No. 1995.46.10

"We'd come to a little village, or something starting to be a town(18) along these rivers or creeks, like Cloquet, and we'd camp there for a while. There'd usually be a trader of these places that traded for art and crafts, beads, and all that. The Indians would stop and trade for a while, and from there on they'd move along."

"They'd come up these streams, and then move on to some other streams, and then they'd find a place where they would harbor for another season. They'd find a place where there was plenty of wood, mostly hardwood. At the same time they were looking for a place in the sugarbushes. That would be quite a place if they could have two, three, seasons of all-around seasonal work there."

"They made canoes and roofing from birch bark.(19) They'd roll that bark up for use at their camps. Some of the families had two or three canoes. Their sons and daughters who were of age had a canoe, and the old people'd paddle a canoe. They'd travel in groups, one canoe behind the other, and that's the way they get along for the olden days."

Ojibwe family by their canoe, ca. 1900.

Ojibwe family by their canoe, ca. 1900.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.35 p2 Negative No. 31679

"They had to get along and help one another. They'd have campfires along the river. They'd eat fish, blueberries. They always had a little cornmeal flour, and when they used to make sugar, maple sugar was pretty handy to them too. They'd run wild rice too. Somebody always had a handful of wild rice to feed you and to help some of these old‑timers along the rivers."

"They had wild rice and fish. They'd fix up a big plate‑full of food and they'd set it in the middle of the newcomers. They cooked it and they helped the newcomers passing by."

"Grandma," I said, "do you think those were hard days?"

"We never realized, son, that it was hard. We enjoyed the view of the countryside, of the rivers, and everything. We always wondered what we were going to see around the next bend of the river. So that's the best part of it. It's just like looking over the country, and seeing how beautiful it is. As we'd paddle the stream we'd see something new all the time. Up to Pokegama Lake there was quite a set of camper-Indians(20) that we used to stop and visit. All the Pokegama Indians would portage from one river or stream to another lake."

"They were always capable of finding the portage trails. The portage trail was a great thing they looked for. And most generally they always had a sign by a tree or a pole, telling you where you were supposed to portage. They had a flash of a tree. The tree was blazed.(21) The tree was knocked down and the limbs were marked. It was a trimmed tree. They trimmed bark and everything. They also had a stick there, a stick leaning toward where to enter."

"And all these rivers joined the Mississippi, and when people came, they generally came along the Mississippi. We'd camp all along the Mississippi, anywhere the campsite was suitable."

Mississippi River at or near Grand Rapids, ca. 1905.

Mississippi River at or near Grand Rapids, ca. 1905.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1905
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MI8.1 p1 Negative No.

"We always had a net and we'd throw it in by our campsite for fish. We'd get the nets through trading with Canada,(22) or we'd build our own nets. And when you saw cedar, that was good, because we split cedar and made floaters for nets. It didn't take them long to make floaters. We weren't idle. There wasn't an idle moment those olden days, because we were always occupied."

Ojibwe wood fish net floats, Not later than 1930.

Ojibwe wood fish net floats, Not later than 1930.

18-1/2 X 1 inch

Collected by: Densmore, Frances Theresa
3D Objects: Not later than 1930
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. 6874.43.D

Mary Razer (Papagine) drying fish nets. White Earth, ca. 1910.

Mary Razer (Papagine) drying fish nets. White Earth, ca. 1910.

Photographer: Frances Densmore

Photograph Collection, ca.1910
Content: 1910 - 1918
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.34 p14 Negative No. 13202

"Good, Grandma. That's something. That's something to remember."

"Oh, yea. Son, it was something. Sometimes it took us a long time to get to our destination. And as we were going along we heard the news about what was happening at Leech Lake and all that, and the further we went, the more we heard."(23)

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

"By the time we got to Leech Lake it was time to harvest rice. As we traveled we'd be picking blueberries along the road and eating what other food we found along the journey. We'd get up to the Leech Lake area, where the Leech Lake Ojibwa chiefs were stationed, and they would help us to make ourselves feel at home. And when we made ourselves feel at home, then we joined them for the harvesting of wild rice. There were many, many, camps of people there from all directions to take wild rice."

Indians harvesting wild rice near Brainerd, 1905

Indians harvesting wild rice near Brainerd, ca. 1905.

Photograph Collection, Postcard, ca.1905
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.32W r9 Negative No. 38616

"And there were beautiful crops of rice, well taken care of, well ruled and regulated by the chiefs. We obeyed the chiefs. We did not dare to go against their rules and regulations, because if we did, we'd have trouble. So we'd have to obey. There were camps around these wild rice fields, and it was surprising to see all the wiigwaams, tipis, and canoes all along the shoreline. Children were playing along the waters, along the shores of the wild rice field, and the smoke of the camps could be seen from far away."

"There was plenty of venison, plenty of something to eat in the camps. When you were a newcomer in the village or the camping ground, some people would always want to find out where you came from. If you came on a long journey the first thing they'd say was, 'Here's food to eat.' That's the way they welcomed newcomers, because they were stationed there quite a number of weeks, maybe a month."(24)

"So they'd just keep moving that way into Leech River, into Leech Lake, in through the area, and all along the shoreline where the fish were plentiful. It was a beautiful country beforehand," Grandma told me.

"'I believe it. I saw some of it,' I said. 'I have seen some of this which you speak of Grandma.'"

"So that's the way you travel by groups, in two, three boats and canoes."

Ojibway Indian camp with birch bark canoe, ca. 1870.

Ojibway Indian camp with birch bark canoe, ca. 1870.

Creator: Benjamin Franklin Upton

Photograph Collection, Carte-de-visite, ca. 1870
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.31 r146 Negative No. 36762

"Yes, she was a great country. We were free ourselves. We were free, contented. And we went out into the other places surroundings us. Our daughters, our young people, joined one another. They married. And when they married some of them had quite a session in their weddings."

"Those days had a style of asking the folks if they could marry a certain guy. And the folks would test the guy by talking to him. They'd ask him what he had to count on to marry the daughter, and they'd ask her if she'd work hard with him. If he was capable, capable of supporting the wife, the agreement was made. Then they approved the marriage by ceremonial doings, by the ceremonial services of the Indians. And at those doings there were feasts and lectures and moccasin games, and different games that the menfolks were playing."

Playing moccasin game, ca. 1880.

Playing moccasin game, ca. 1880.

Photographer: J. H. Hamilton

Photograph Collection, Stereograph, 1880
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E99.38 r6 Negative No. 52399

"At the rice camps and sugar camps there were plenty of boys . . . plenty of men, plenty of ladies, all from different directions. And that's where young folks often met. They were all Ojibways of Minnesota . . . mostly."

"So that's the way the life of the old-timers went by, and I think we got along pretty good that way."

It was wonderful talking to my Grandma. It was wonderful talking to Old John Smith, and hearing about what he had seen in his day, and in his boyhood days. I kept all that in my head because I saw part of it. And I tied it up in my head.(25) My Grandma told me she lived a life. She said, "I'm telling you the truth. Some day you're going to use this, if you get old enough."

"I am old enough now to understand you, Grandma."

She kept right on telling me things.

I asked her about the river, about their journey, and about how the Indians got across their portages. I saw it. I knew what they were talking about because I had already seen some of it at my age of eighteen. And I know that what they were telling me must have been a better, clearer picture in those days that they were telling about.

Oh, how contented they were.

One time, in my experience in life -- and I'm talking about what I've seen(26) -- I was propelling a canoe by paddling from behind.(27) I had my cousin in the front, with her mother, the old lady grandma -- Grandma Buffalo. ChI-no-dIn, "Big Wind," was her Indian name. ChI-no-dIn is "Big Breeze." That's the biggest wind there is, ChI-no-dIn-. man-day-moi-ya, "Old Lady." m^n-day-moi-ya ChI-no-dIn MIn-day-moY-ya, "Old Lady Big Wind"; ChI-no-dIn; ya.

We were paddling up the Leech River, past Mud Lake. That's the time the dredge went through Mud Lake and straightened the river out. The federal government dredge was working there and it had a high boom to it. Those flatboats were all named by Indian names. This one was called aa-nI-mI-kii, "Thunderbird." They burned coal.(28)

The piles of sod and mud were all lined up, and it looked to be a big operation. It was. Every time we watched that shovel drop into the meadow it would take about ten feet squared of sod and all that stuff, and then come out of the water.


They were making a straight cut of five or six miles going around.(29) We made that. That's called the "Mud Lake Cut" -- in Indian it's "Mud Lake-Leech River are cut."

United States Dredge "Manito" and fleet, including quarterboats, at Cohasset, 14 May 1915.

U. S. Dredge "Manito" and fleet, including quarterboats, at Cohasset, 14 May 1915.

Photograph Collection, 1914-1915
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD6.3 p54 Negative No. 328-B

But anyhow, when we got close to the dredge that thing looked so fierce that the old grandma pred'near jumped out of the canoe.

"Whooow," she says, "the Great Manidoo is here.(30) The Great Manidoo is here. Ohh."

She hung on to the canoe aside her!

"Sit still, Grandma. We're here to help."

She was concerned then that if we tipped over we may not be found, because that mud was pretty wet and dirty.

She squatted down.

The operator of that shovel stopped, just to let us by. I had to wave at him a "Thank you." After we went by we looked back at it just to see the way it worked. It sounded like thunder. "Whhheewww." That shovel went down in the sod and then it would come up with another load, piling it up alongside the channel. It was just like ditching.

That was Mrs. Henry Buffalo of Bena. Mrs. Henry Buffalo, gI-chi-no-dain. That's a big storm, "Big Storm Wind." We were taking her to Federal Dam. From Federal Dam she was going to get a canoe to go home on Leech Lake. That's the only means of traveling we had.

Five generation portrait: Dorothy Veronica Hodder, Mrs. Henry Buffalo, Mrs. John Rabbit, Nadine Hodder Chase, and Elsie R. Beaulieu, 1943.

Five generation portrait: Dorothy Veronica Hodder, Mrs. Henry Buffalo, Mrs. John Rabbit, Nadine Hodder Chase, and Elsie R. Beaulieu, 1943.

Five generation portrait: Dorothy Veronica Hodder, Mrs. Henry Buffalo, Mrs. John Rabbit, Nadine Hodder Chase, and Elsie R. Beaulieu, 1943.


Photograph Collection, 1943
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.1R p3 Negative No. 19129

Grandma Buffalo was ninety when she died -- ninety-five, near a hundred maybe. So she was an old woman. She got excited to see that great big operation. She said, "That's God. That's Manidoo."


We were scared of everything in those days.

Oohh!! She lived a life!! She could make anything: beadwork and canoes and everything . . . everything!!

The old man just took it easy. He was older. The old lady did the cooking and everything. They had a nice home too. They had a horse -- a pony -- they had a cow that they bought, and they had chickens. They were doing pretty good.

I used to go up there and stay with them a while, so they wouldn't be too lonesome. When they saw that I went to school a little bit, when they saw who I was, or when they saw the same with some of their own boys, they felt good. I'd go there to keep company with them, and to tell them what's new in sight and what's new in our area. And they'd think, "Oh, they must be working."

One time when I was up there they asked me what was new.

"We're gonna have a car go through here."



I heard about the car from the predictions of some of the older folks.

When I was a little boy they didn't have any railroads in our area. They had launches on the Mississippi, but they didn't have the railroad or the roads.(31)
Steamboat Mud Hen, at Lake Winnibigoshish Dam, 20 May 1904.

Steamboat Mud Hen, at Lake Winnibigoshish Dam, 20 May 1904.

Photograph Collection, 1904
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE5.11M r33 Negative No. 7537-A

The road was built through Deer River about 1904, but a trail was built up to Deer River or around there sometime about 1889.(32) I remember when they were building that road across from Deer River to Ball Club, later on . . . about 1918. That must-a been about 1918 -- in there somewhere -- when they were brushing(33) the road from Deer River to Ball Club. They brushed it, then graded it about the '20s somewhere.(34) About '26 -- '25-'26 -- they put gravel on it then they put the oil on top of that gravel road. They put gravel first, and later on they put the oil. They'd grade it and grade it, and roll it and roll it, and press it and press it. And when they put the first layers of tar(35) on that road it was about the '30s . . . somewhere in the '30s. Ya.

Walking horses past the auto.

Grading trunk highway # 35, Aurora, 1933.

Photograph Collection, 1933
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.81 p10 Negative No. 48810

Walking horses past the auto, ca. 1905.

Walking horses past the auto, ca. 1905.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1905
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.8 p2 Negative No. 979

Road construction near Aitkin, ca. 1915.

Road construction near Aitkin, ca. 1915.

Photographer: Aitkin Independent Age

Photograph Collection, ca. 1915
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.81 r33 Negative No.

1924 Ford traveling on an early back road.

1924 Ford traveling on an early back road, ca. 1924.

Photographer: Kenneth Melvin Wright

Photograph Collection, ca. 1924
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.8 r6 Negative No. 1827-A

Anyway, I went to a meeting and they were saying, "We're gonna let 'em through the reservation with the highway."(36) And that chief said -- Chief Ed Wilson said -- "You'll both have car; your man and your wife will both have a car. And later on the children will have a car, too. Each family will have two, three cars."

And I didn't believe that. But now I saw it.

They called Ed Wilson "Lone Eagle" in English. But in Indian it is naa-shi-kay-bi-nii; naa-shi-kay-bi-nay-sii, "The-Lone-Eagle-Flies."

Anyway, I didn't believe it when I heard Naa-shi-kay-bi-nay-sii tell us we would have cars. But my dad, step-dad, Jack Nason, told me that too. The old man would say, "You'll see big, big roads. You'll see cars. You'll probably own one."

Oh, geeze I felt good when I heard my dad say that, and I said, "Me, own a car? When they're about four or five hundred dollars apiece?(37) And me to drive a car? What would I know about a car? You have to be a mechanic to fix that motor."

"Oh, yes," he'd say, "you'll fix your own motor with the carburetor. If the gas don't go in, you'll have to see that the gas goes in."

"Well then, I'll be a professional mechanic."

Ha! Then I'd laugh, and I'd tell him, "It'll never happen."

But that was predicted.

And that happened.

Car on unpaved St. Louis County road, ca. 1930.

Car on unpaved St. Louis County road, ca. 1930.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1930
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE3.8 p32 Negative No.

Now, I've been owning cars, and I know what the old-timers meant. It's a big thing, you know. I didn't believe it, but now I do believe it because it's proven to me. Each and every one of us that didn't believe anything about that has seen that it's been proven out to us. We are now in the stage of what they predicted way back, "Yes, you'll own the car. You'll be travelling on the roads. If you wanna go to town, instead of gettin' on the passenger train or freight train to get to that town," they were speaking a little later on, when we had trains, "you'll go to town from Ball Club to Grand Rapids and Deer River in a couple hours, and an hour later you'll be back, in a car. You'll be back here in an hour doing your work at the farm or at the house. You'll be back wherever you live doing your home work."

That's what the old-timer predicted.

There were no roads then. In my time there was just a sand road. There was only a rut-road all the way down to Deer River. It was soft and you'd usually have trouble with your car, or even with a horse and wagon. It would take pred'near all day to go to Deer River in a car, in them olden days.

Buggy on badly rutted road, ca. 1900.

Buggy on badly rutted road, ca. 1900.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE2.2 r106 Negative No. 69075

So I'd say to the old-timer, "It takes pretty near all day to get to Deer River. How am I going to get back here in two hours? There are no roads. Just look at the ruts. . . ."

But even when there was no road they predicted you'd have a car. They predicted, "in a few minutes you'll go to town, and in a few minutes you'll be back here at home doing your home work. That's how fast the life will be."

I couldn't figure it out. "Me, drive a car? Imagine myself driving a car!"

I often think of that now when I'm going to Deer River: "Ya; here I am. Here's what I've been predicted. I own this truck. That is mine. I was a young fella when that was predicted. When they predicted that, I never believed it. Here I am, able to drive one as my own. How did they know that? That's something."

And eventually there were trains. But there was no "passenger"(38) as good as the cars. There was no other "passenger" that could take the people as handy as the cars. You'd get on a train and go, 'though not everybody liked to ride a train them days. At that time we thought that nothing could compete with that "passenger," but the cars got the train beat by improving the highway and the cars. And these cars would take me to town(39) in an hour.

In them old days when we'd go to Duluth on the "passenger" we had to stay overnight, and the next day or two we had to come back on the "passenger." Now they go to Duluth and come back the same evening.

Passenger train, ca. 1900.

Passenger train, ca. 1900.

Photographer: Minneapolis Journal

Photograph Collection, 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE6.2 p11 Negative No. 59933

A year or two ago, Joe Barnes and I took a load of scrap iron down to Duluth. We unloaded in the morning and were back eating dinner in Deer River at twelve o'clock noon. That's how fast life is going. What a big change that is.

I'd never believe that could happen when I was young, talking to my Grandma and to the other old folks. I thought you could never do that in the years of my time. If early on we wanted to haul any scrap iron or anything of that type to Duluth we had to get a railroad flatcar. We'd have to get a flatcar and ship it down. And before we'd get the returns on that(40) it took time, maybe a week or ten days.

But now everything's so fast that you just do your business right now, and it's settled right now. That's a great improvement.

That's what makes you wonder. That's what makes you think. . . . "What is it going to be like in the next twenty years?"

We asked questions of John Smith and other old people. Another lady -- my aunt, my uncle's wife -- was old, and I used to look at her. She'd say, "I'm gonna tell you, you're not gonna live here alone, as a reservation, later on in years."


"This is all reservation, our country. It belongs to the natives, but the whites coming in are gonna take so much. You don't care for the swampland now, but the swampland is valued. It has posts and cedar poles and everything. You're gonna forget that swampland in order to let it go for ten cents an acre. But you're gonna get a job there cutting posts. You're going to enjoy that. That's going to be part of your living."

"How come you figure that? We don't have the tools."

"There is gonna be tools. The blacksmiths from the old country, from across the ocean, are coming in boats. They're coming to a new country."

And she said, "How do you figure that about the boats . . .?"

She just asked that about the boats and went right on talking: "There'll be people here, ohoooooooo . . . " and she used to go like that, snapping her fingers in the air. "They'll be like mosquitos here."

I see it now. I went down to Lake Winnibigoshish. The people were just like mosquitoes, with motorboats and everything. And everybody had their fishhook. And I thought of my aunt's story lots. Ya. "That's how many people are coming in this new country. Ohoooo, there'll be thousands, just like mosquitoes," she said.

Cars at boat landing, Lake Winnibigoshish, ca. 1930.

Cars at boat landing, Lake Winnibigoshish, ca. 1930.

Photograph Collection, ca.1930
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MC3.1W r8 Negative No.

Just look. Just look. . . .

First log cabin in Cass Lake, ca. 1900.

First log cabin in Cass Lake, ca. 1900.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. MC3.9 CL3.2 p1 Negative no. 11438

That's the biggest change I can remember. The biggest change is the population. When I was a boy the population was very light and the towns were very small. The towns were very small. The people were very, very few. I would say in Ball Club there were about a hundred, IF they got together.(41) There was quite a number of the family groupings around Ball Club. They got together in the harvesting season, for berry picking. During berry picking you'd find a number of camps just like cities -- little cities on the camping grounds.

Our towns were very thin then. There were white people, but they did not say much or discuss much because they were all busy trying to keep things a-going. They all had timber work; most generally they had lumber work. That's what they had.

A general view of Deer River, 1903.

A general view of Deer River, 1903.

Photograph Collection, 1903
  Collections Online
  Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MI8.9 DR r13 Negative No.

Ya, the biggest change that I've seen was in population. I always predicted on that, and the old people used to say, "This is nothing, Paul. This is nothing, son." The old man would say, "The next twenty, thirty years -- in your time anyway -- the population will be so thick that whenever you turn you'll see a house. You'll see educational communities and you'll feel like you're not the only one on the land."

Church and School, Deer River, 1903.

Church and School, Deer River, 1903.

Photograph Collection, 1903
  Collections Online
  Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. MI8.9 DR r14

The older class predicted that stuff. "Sooner or later you'll be looking and you'll see white people everywhere. Later on in years, in your times, you'll be looking," they told me when I was a little boy in 1908, '09, "and everywhere you look along the river, along the lakeshore, everywhere, and in each town you go to . . . and there'll be small towns . . . you'll see nothing but white people! Once in a while you'll see an Indian. That's how fast they'll come in."

Deer River, ca. 1910.

Deer River, ca. 1910.

Photograph Collection, Postcard, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. MI8.9 DR r21 Negative No. 28831

Now I see that. I was glad to hear that, and I'm glad to be with them.

"And they'll intermarry."

Mas-kah-wah-un-Kwnd -- "Strong Cloud" -- from Bena, Mississippi Band, was talking -- about 1917-1918. When he got up there and made a speech, he got up and made a speech. When the chief got up and made a speech, he'd talk about the generations, and about the whites and Indians. He used to predict that we're going to slowly vanish. When I mean vanish, I mean later on in years.

"There won't be no Indians," he'd tell us.

He'd try to bring it out slowly and gradually. He used to tell that it would be because of intermarriage in the blood. He would say, "There's so many whites coming in that pressure from the whites will outnumber the Indians. The white blood'll flow into our tribe more. We're gonna lose to the whites' better education. And when we have better education we won't have our custom of Indian life. I'm afraid we may lose our way of life if we don't take care of it and respect it. This drum is our joy; this is our stimulation in life; this is our rhythm to life. To hear the drum pound makes us feel good and meditates us. Let's not lose that."

"Why? Will we lose our life?"

"You'll be so white and you'll wanna change in your life. Our younger people, our younger Indians, these children wanna change. Then the older people will have to change too because their children will change. They'll wanna follow their children because their children'll have an education. And that education will flash you light. There's a lot of proof in what they've already predicted here. So this drum, this pow-wow, will kind-a drift along the way."

"Sooner or later they'll forget the Indian ways because the flowage of the white was coming in too fast," he used to say. "You can expect this. It's coming, natural." And he said, "Intermarriage does that. They'll be whites married to our girls and our girls will marry white men. White men will marry our girls. It's bound to be that way because of the pressure you will be in."

Chippewa wigwam and family, Leech Lake, ca. 1900.

Chippewa wigwam and family, Leech Lake, ca. 1900.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. E97.31 p14 Negative no. 34367 and 34367 sepia

Oh, we didn't believe that years ago. But we see it now. Yes, there were times we used to hear that. In the olden days we were interested in gathering and listening to sounds -- lectures -- from the older people.(42) You'd come and listen to that. Now, later on in years, many won't even go near these kinds of talks.

I've heard them talk like that many-a time. But I didn't believe that what they predicted. We were so many Indians, how could they pressure us out? What white fellow wants to marry an Indian? And, ah, what Indian girl would marry a white man?

We would tell an Indian girl in the old days, "Cham-uk-a-man!"(43)

She would say, "No."

Then the beer and the liquor was thrown open and then they got brave and they mixed. First thing you know, there it is. Look at now. . . .

How did that Indian predict that this was going to happen?

He used to say, "When it comes, it'll come fast."

How they talked!

In old days the old-timers in council predicted that: "Our children are going to be intermarriaged to whites and by whites. And we'll have white women; our boys will have white women coming in, and our girls'll marry white men."

So, it's now coming to that.

Later on they said, "It can't be helped; this is life. We're friends with everybody, and friends makes friends. They have a right to visit one another as long as they can understand one another. Talking English helped us wake them up to live a better way of life. The white man shows us how to live, and they work. So follow in suit."

The Indian boy got anxious when he had a white wife and he started to work. He had to work because he had something to take care of, his wife. That's the way it goes.

The Indians didn't mind that at all. They didn't pay attention to that(44); they predicted that. See?

So, we see it now-a-days. Lots of Indians are mixed blood. Lots of Indians are marrying whites. You don't know who is Indian now-a-days. Even when they don't look like Indians they're on the tribal roll.(45) If they have so much degrees of Indian blood they can be on the roll.(46) With the whites they have better education, better understanding. The white man could understand the mixed blood and talk to him better.

Well, I often thought of it, and I often talked about it. I've thought about how being mixed blood has to do with the way you act. With a mixed blood half of them wants to go one way, half is going the other way, and that gets them into trouble lots of times. If you take an animal, a certain breed, and you crossed the animal, what he has is in the blood. He's probably a cocker spaniel, but he might be some other sort of dog. Maybe he's just a common dog, but he will develop that blood. And naturally, naturally, the animal might become a retriever, maybe. Maybe it might become a hound -- a deer hound, or a fox hound, or some other kind of hound. They cross, you know.

We look at people and commence to size that up with the people too. With some people the blood is a mixture. And when the blood is a mixture they feel they're white and they feel that they're Indian. So who are they? Where are they going to go? Which one are they going to take? So when they feel they're white, they feel that they have been refused among the Indians. They're not welcome, just as the white feels he isn't welcome amongst the Indians. The Indian feels that way, sometimes, because they're white. It's a natural feeling, because they are white. There's a difference, you know; they have a different way of living. Now-a-days, generally, the white doesn't want to live the Indian way of life. So, they become white as they intermarried. They became educated too. They would rather go for the education than for the Indian way of life. But sometimes that feeling, that mixture, gets together in people and it disturbs the minds of some of the people of this area.(47)

But when the intermixture has so far gone, it begins to purify again, later on. After a while you become white or you become Indian, whichever you want to be, and then things become normal again. But too much mixture makes it harder.(48) Most everybody has a little French, German, or Norwegian in him. Like they say, "I got a little Norwegian in me. I got a little French in there." Everybody's proud of their blood. Each and every one is proud of their blood, and so they want to have some part of their life with their blood that they can be proud of somehow. But sometimes the mixture affects the body. Sometimes it causes a weakness or an ailment in the mind. Sometimes the heart wants to go this way and the blood wants to go some other way and the mixtures don't jibe. Sometimes there's poor resistance in there -- one way or the other -- I think. But now-a-days it's getting purified and heavy towards the white blood. They see that, with education and medical services coming in.(49)

That's the way we generally sized it up. That's the way we talked about it too, in the olden days.

A big change is the railroad that came through. Transportation's a big change. And the air is changing because we see people in the air that are traveling, which we never saw before. Now the people are traveling in the air. Now we see people in transport by plane. People are traveling from coast to coast by air. That is a big thing, and you wonder about it.

If they'd see a plane in the olden days the old-timers'd wonder what that is, and they'd go and hide somewhere. Oh, they'd think about it a minute, then they'd run for the woods -- if they'd see a plane go over them. They'd think that it was a Big Spirit's doing. They'd say, "That's a big bird up there." They'd start to pound the Medicine Drum, to try to make it come down.(50)

Fred Lund piloting plane, ca. 1920.

Fred Lund piloting plane, ca. 1920.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1920
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE1.21 p28
Negative No. 13067

"Chu-muk-a-man-ish," they'd say. Chu-muk-a-man-ish, "that old white man worth nothing." It's the same thing, that word, in Indian: "White man's worth nothing." They say ah-pah-na-ii, lah-pah-ni-nii; la-pah-di-nii! -- "good for nothing." "Useless." "Worthless."

Now-a-days they say you can talk to planes from the ground, which we would have never believed before. We told one another that years ago. If we said that we'd talk the Indian language to planes at least the old-timers would say, "You're talkin' through your hat. How kin you talk to anybody up in a plane?"

Now they do, see? You can talk to anybody afar off. Now they say you'll be talking to a plane in your house. If you told them that in the old days they'd say you're full of B.S., you're windy. But they have it now.

Elizabeth Wallace talking on the telephone, 1910.

Elizabeth Wallace talking on the telephone, 1910.

Photographer: P. Rounserella

Photograph Collection, 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HC5.3 r16
Negative No. 78656

"Later on in years you'll see these things right in your house," they told us early on. Later on in years one advanced guy -- a well-read-up guy who reads those magazines -- told us, "You'll even sit in your house to talk to somebody someplace else." He was talking about the telephone.

I would say that in fifty years' time it is really going to be different. We have television now. I never even dreamt about television. We changed into the radio times so sudden I never had a chance to dream about radio.

I first saw a radio when I was invited to a "radio party." They called it a "radio party" at that time. When the radios first came out, we all gathered around the radio in some private home. We went over there to listen to radio announcements. Those announcements came from as far away as way down in Louisiana, and way down in other states. This party in Bena -- young McGallen -- bought a radio . . . that is, he built up a radio. He connected wires and told us that we should listen. You could just barely hear people talking when the radios first came out. Once in a while the radio would die down. When it did, the owner of the radio says, "It's on the air, but there's a pocket in-between us. That's what kills it." Then they had to set up a wire aerial for those radios. It was hard to get anything out of it. It was hard to tune in. We had ear phones, well, actually they were just speakers close to the ear. We could hear somebody talking, and then we'd laugh at one another. We thought that was pretty good. He'd say, "I'm speaking from Los Angeles or somewhere way down south." We'd say, "Oh, that's St. Louis." Gee, we could hear people from St. Louis! That's the way we said that. And, gee, we thought that was a great improvement then. We'd hear, "I'm speaking for an announcer down in St. Louis, Missouri," and all that. Then they'd say "California," and we'd say, "That's where they had all them stations."

Miss Gene Gawdy listening to radio, Minneapolis, 1910.

Miss Gene Gawdy listening to radio, Minneapolis, 1923.

Photographer: C. H. Hibbard

Photograph Collection, 1923
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No.
AV1979.73 Negative No. NP 45481

Grounding the wire and improving the connection from the ground through something made out of steel made those early radios work better. They were improving the aerials too. They built up high aerials to catch the announcements, and they improved the connections to the ground, and from the ground to the aerial up in the air. That way the signal circulated better. It would come in either way. One way or the other the programs came in. They came in through the aerial on top of the ground, or from the ground itself. From the ground it works up, and from up it works down. The aerial and the ground meant lots to the improvement of the radio.

So how did they know that?

They practiced. They found a lot of stuff in there. They figured out what's supposed to be done. Now they got it clear. Now they can even put pictures in the air. We didn't believe that the first time we heard it, but before long we saw that even that was true.

After those "radio parties" we'd speak about it. We would be in town.

"Well, where were you last night?"

"Well, we were listening to his radio. We heard guys from St. Louis and Indiana. We heard guys from California. We heard guys from a thousand, thousands of miles away."

Everybody's ask, "How could they do that?"

The old-timer said, "How could they do that? I don't know what's coming into this world."

Later on in years they kept talking about that and repeating that about the radio.

Everything is a wonderful thing. At the time that the prediction is made you don't always listen to it. You just say that guy is talking through his hat or something. "Oh, even he doesn't believe what he says," you'd say. But later on in years you remember what they predicted. By golly, you'll have to ask, "How'd he know that?"

Later on in years I was told that you'd talk to someone in Missouri or Tennessee or St. Louis or the southern part of the state and you'll see him right there in a picture. You'll be talking to him live. You may not be talking to him where he's present, but you'll see him on some kind of a TV. Then, later on, there'll be telephones where you can see the party that you'll be talking to in the telephone. They have that now, I guess. I was told you'll see pictures of the party you're talking to right in the telephone. Way up here I could talk to somebody on the telephone and see them at the same time. I didn't believe that when I first heard it. I thought, "They couldn't make it work." Now they do make it work!

Where'd they get it? Boy that must be great work.

Well, sooner or later I had to almost believe everything that I was promised and predicted. If they predict anything that's coming, I have to believe it now that I've seen those things. They're making that talking, and that telephone, and that radio, and that radar and all that stuff work.

Another big change came with that radar. With that they can predict the weather pretty good. Now they predict the weather! That is a change that can help the people. That's a great help to the people when they predict the weather. That's something that saved a lot of lives, when the weatherman tells the people to beware. Studying weather and studying the nature of weather is a big thing. It's a great improvement in this country.

They're going after the waters now. They're going after water pollution. I think they'll get somewhere with that too. They're bound to. They tried everything else and made a success of it.

But not everything works out for the betterment. Years ago some of them said that after a while you won't even have to cook. They used to predict that too: "You don't have to cook. You don't have to cook to eat. You'll get stuff from cans. All you gotta do is warm it up without any cooking. . . ."

They were right.

Interior, Marcus Nelson grocery store, Tamarack, ca. 1910.

Interior, Marcus Nelson grocery store, Tamarack, ca. 1910.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HF4.6 r84 Negative No. 57246

". . . Then, on top of that, to make it good, they got pills, vitamins.(51) All you have to do is eat them pills and you're right for the next day."


Yes. But if you eat too much of that canned food, then later on there'll be something wrong with you. If you don't eat regular natural food you'll get sick. Broth is the best thing as you get old. Broth is the best thing, with plenty of natural vitamins. Broth and a little dumplings and a little vegetable is good for you. We want everything cooked in one. That goes to the nursery of the bones and blood. If you don't have that regular, you'll get sick. That dry food will dry you off. That canned food is salty, and it will dry your blood out. Boiled is the best. Nothing in cans is good.(52) You're better off without cans. The cans are going to attack you later on, if you get enough of that canned food.

You wonder about that when you're catching a cold, when you're sick and you have poor resistance -- if that's all that a person's getting by on . . . on compressed food. You start to think that maybe you're living too much on compressed food. Maybe those compressed cans are too old. When you let out that canned air and that hits the regular air, then there's something in that -- a formation.(53) Then you have to boil it again, and that steams out the formation.

It's nice to have a freezer.(54) But you have to re‑boil that freezer food too. You have to reheat that to get the frost out. Frostbitten food is the worst kind you can eat. Really.

Everybody had to have a garden them olden days, otherwise you'd be running into town every meal -- which they do now. Now they do that! Whenever they want to eat they run in to town and buy some canned food. And when you buy a can, you have to buy a can opener. When you buy a can opener, you have to make use of that can opener. If you don't make use of the can opener, well then, there's no use buying that can opener -- so you're buying cans all the time. Ya.


But maybe sometimes you're just short of food and you have to eat canned food. That's OK. Or maybe you're eating canned food as a treat, like we used to eat canned peaches at the Dumas Store. That's OK too. But otherwise, too much is too much.

All of this was predicted in my time. This was predicted by my people a lot of times. I didn't believe it, of course. I was young. Ya; I didn't listen to it, but now I see things and they're all one stream.

It was also predicted that I'd be able to speak like this to anybody that's interested. But with that prediction all the while I know there was going to be a time when somebody was going to get interested in what the old life was like.

And now I know too that the university is trying to get the history of the old way of life. It's there, and they go and get that. It's there, and they want it. They get it, and they get it because they are looking for it, and they make it work because they take an interest in their job.

If you're not interested in the job you're doing, you're not going to make 'er. But if you are interested in the job, you can make what you're after work. It will work by your will power. Your will power will show you how to get there.(55) It's true in life. It's will power that does it. If you've got good will power, and you're going along good, you're living a good life. Will power takes a place in the front of you, if you're will power's strong. If you have good will power that's strong, life is easier for you. But you have to have something to think of to have good will power. If you have something to think of you have a power. You have will power that's with you.

Boy, they predicted everything. That is a wonderful thing. It makes you think that they're doing a good job.

It's interesting to study these things, and life is improved by studying them. By studying you pick up a lot of stuff. About 1918 I began to pick up a lot of stuff. I began to realize that I could use those words some day. And what I have seen in my times about what the old-timers predicted proves it. What I have already seen proves their predictions out. It proves it out, and it's doing a wonderful work.

People will want to know how life was. They'll want to know how should we keep it that way. We keep it that way by working together -- by working. We cannot blame you; we cannot blame each and every individual for what has changed. It would be a different country if each and every one of us would blame themselves instead of someone else. It'd maybe be a better system that way. I'll always blame myself because at one time I threw my hands down and gave up. Then I'd get to thinking, "I can never give up." People are looking at me at my age. They ask, "How did he live?"

I wish I'd live more to see the time when people take an interest again in this life. To get along in this life you have to work. You have to think. You gotta eat. You gotta limit yourself. You have to limit the amounts of habits you have -- eating habits, drinking habits, working habits, habits of smoking.

There's a limit to anything. You know there's a limit. You have to balance things in your life. When you balance, you have to take just so much of this, just so much of that. Before you get to a limit you have to balance things out, you have to consider. You have to stop when you get enough of any one thing. Then you have to take some of the others. You'll have to try the others until it's more balanced. Maybe the other'll balance that; maybe they'll work together.

That's what you're made for. You're made for being, as the man would say, a Jack-of-all-trades. In order to get along in the world you have to go out into this world and speak and talk and live -- live right. It doesn't take so much money to do that. Your clothes don't take so much money.(56) You have to take care of your life first.(57) You have to take care of yourself, and take care of others if you can. Of course, you have to take care of those who are with you in your group, so they'll all begin to see that what the old-timers predicted is what we have to work with.


1. Old John Smith didn't have any children in his many marriages, hence "some sort of a son." "Second John Smith" was treated like a son, and it is that social relationship which is important, not the precise biological relationship. Emphasizing behavioral relationships rather than biological relationships was quite common, as was the seeming inability to sometimes trace the actual biological connection (other than through the otherwise obvious biological relationships with the mother and the dodaim [totem] group). Cf. references in Ch. 40, "John Smith 'Wrinkle Meat.'"

2. It is not clear whether "in deep Indian language" means In the sacred Midewiwin language, or whether it means in a very old way of speaking the language. For Paul's comments on the special language used in Midewiwin ceremonies, see Ch. 29, "Midewiwin: Grand Medicine," and Ch. 30, "An Indian Curing Ceremony."

3. In Chapter 36, "Jack Nason, 'My Dad. My Step-Dad'" Paul notes that "Jack Nason's step-dad was 'Second John Smith.' Second John Smith was his step-dad," and Paul's narrative in Chapter 36 suggests the following chart:

xxx add Mrs. "Second John Smith" This figure will be updated before publication. Check with Tim.

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.


4. Cf., Ch. 36, "Jack Nason, 'My Dad. My Step-Dad.'"

5. "Family and relationship" means the dodaim [totem] group ("family") and those married into the dodaim ("relationship"). Included on a temporary or short-term basis would be a new son-in-law, if there happened to be one. The son-in-law would be performing "bride service" (also known as "suitor service") wherein he would help the household of his new bride for a period of time before he and his bride would join his patrilineal group and become part of the new groom's traveling group. As Paul's "grandmother" notes later, "At first the girl's man would travel with his in-laws."

6. In this case, Lake Superior. Anishinabe speakers called Lake Superior (or a sea, or a large lake), gichigami. The term is best known outside of the area through Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha, which begins, "On the shores of Gitche Gumee [gichigami] / Of the shining Big-Sea-Water / Stood Nokomis, the old woman / Pointing with her finger westward / O'er the water pointing westward / To the purple clouds of sunset"; Nokomis [Nookomis] is grandmother; Hiawatha is Wenabozho.

7. "The ocean line in the northern part of this area" refers to the Great Lakes which border Canada, which are all of them except Lake Michigan.

8. "They played the fur there" means that they trapped a wide variety of fur-bearing animals in the area and processed them to sell or barter with the traders. In the very early years fur trading was fiercely competitive throughout the region. Cf., White Oak Society, 2018, and Minnesota History Center, 2018.

9. "Sly" is another term Paul uses for an accent, a slang, a dialect difference.

10. Cf. Ch. 35, "Boarding School Days."

11. Power and traditional religious beliefs like Midewiwin. Cf. Ch. 35, "Boarding School Days," and Ch. 29, "Midewiwin: Grand Medicine." Sometimes the older folks referred to themselves in English as "Ojibwa." In Indian they would use "Anishinabe."

12. Wild rice harvesting season. Cf., Ch. 13, "Manoominike-Giizis, 'Wild Ricing Moon.'"

13. The natural harbor entrance in Duluth, where the St. Louis River flows into Lake Superior, is about seven miles southeast of the current harbor entrance by the famed Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge of Park Point. The current ship canal by the bridge was put through in 1870–71, separating the mainland from the miles-long sand beach of Minnesota Point.

14. This is the Bois Brule River, known locally simply as "the Brule" or "the Brule River." A separate "Brule River" in eastern Wisconsin empties into Lake Michigan.

15. Basically members of a patrilineal clan (dodaim or totem group) and their marriage partners traveled together. It's essentially father-mother, sons and their wives, the grandchildren, unmarried daughters, and maybe the grandfolks (father's parents). As mentioned above, the daughters' husbands travel with the group for a short time as "bride service."

16. Paul's "grandmother" is telling this in 1918 ("At one time, about 1917, 1918. . . ." Paul is relating an event where his "grandmother" was telling a story in about 1918); World War I ended in November of 1918. People generally told stories, and especially certain kinds of stories, in the winter time.

17. Timber cruisers gather basic information on timber to determine the quantity, quality, and value of the potential lumber products of a given area.

18. "At the turn of the century only three villages were incorporated in Itasca County. These were Grand Rapids with a population of 1,428, Deer River with a population of 251, and La Prairie with a population of 88. At the turn of the century -- when the total population was 4,573 -- 4,573 were listed as 'rural dwellers'" (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 25.) "St. Louis county is 63 miles long, 60 miles wide and covers 2844 square miles. It's about twice the size of Rhode Island, half again as big as Delaware and covers one hundredth the area of Texas" (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 1.)

19. Cf., Ch. 8, "Old Gardens and New Bark."

20. Indians who lived in camps, and moved seasonally, but didn't move around as much as some of the others. They more or less stayed put in a small area.

21. They "blazed" a trail to a portage by knocking part of a tree down and peeling it. This practice was still being done in what is now the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area in the 1950s. You can see a newly-peeled tree quite a long distance when you are in a canoe or boat on the water.

22. Cf., Ch. 10, "Blueberry Time."

23. The further from Duluth and Lake Superior they went, and the closer to Leech Lake they got, the more news they heard about what was happening at Leech Lake. ("Leech Lake" can refer to the Leech Lake itself, the Leech Lake Reservation, the Leech Lake Tribe, or the general area around Leech Lake and the Leech Lake Reservation.)

24. People who had been set up in the camp for a week or two would usually welcome those passing by or those newly arrived.

25. Paul thought about it and made sense out of it by putting things together; it is sort of like "putting two and two together."

26. It's important to differentiate between what you know about because you have personally seen and heard it, and what you know because of what you were told.

27. He was sitting in the stern paddling. In the old days one person paddling alone sometimes paddled the canoe while sitting in the bow, as, for example, when they harvested wild rice.

28. As opposed to wood, which is what the Steamboats on the river used. Cf., Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

29. They were making a straight cut across bends in the river, to straighten out the river and cut off five or six miles of river travel.

30. "God is here!"

31. The "Mississippi River Steamboat Route" which ran right by Paul's home at the Leech-Mississippi Forks is listed in the "Historic Resources Inventory of Itasca County": "Mississippi River Steamboat Route: John and Bill Lyons operated a small steamboat, the Mudhen, between Federal Dam, Grand Rapids, and Winnibigoshish. The Mudhen was built in Stillwater in 1900 and first used on Cass Lake as a pleasure boat. Later it was put into freight and passenger service. The 'steamboat cutoff' is still identified on USGS maps some three miles west of White Oak Lake." (Aguar, Jyring, Whiteman, and Moser, 1968, p. 13.) Cf., Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

32. "In 1907 a road was built from Grand Rapids to Deer River. That, too, was fairly level and fairly solid, in spots. These roads were still primarily for wagons. Automobiles were just beginning to be used. William Nisbett in 1905 owned the first automobile, an Oldsmobile, in Grand Rapids. He could use it comfortably for a few blocks within the town. A watchmaker and jeweler, he was more famous for his travels by dogteam to sell watches to the lumberjacks in the camps in the woods" (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 89). The first contract for road construction in what became Itasca County was let by the pre-county commissioners in 1887 (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 88).

33. Cutting the brush in preparation to make a road.

34. "An amendment to the [Minnesota] state constitution in 1920 had set up the trunk highway system, the state-aid roads, the county roads, the town roads, and had provided for taxation of motor vehicles. . . . In 1931 . . . a contract had been let for a concrete road from Grand Rapids to Deer River. . . . " (Rottsolk, 1960, p.91). "The decade of the twenties, then, as it was throughout the United States, was the decade of building the first roads for automobiles in Itasca County. By 1930 the roads from Keewatin over to Deer River were cement pavements. The other main roads within the county were wide, hard gravel. The smaller roads, sometimes graded and graveled and sometimes not, wound everywhere through the woods and between the lakes. Itasca's road-building naturally made possible quicker transportation throughout the county. More people came to live in Itasca, and more people passed through the county. The logging industry soon changed. Schools were consolidated. More and bigger churches were built. The resort business grew and flourished. And some indirect results were felt in the [iron ore] mining industry. The twenties marked the beginning of a new sort of life in Itasca County" (Rottsolk, 1960, pp. 91-93).

35. The "tar" Paul refers to was probably a thicker asphalt surface. It was common to put "oil" on gravel roads. In the 1940s and 1950s they still did that in parts of my hometown area of Winsted, MN, "to keep the dust down."

36. The village of Deer River sits right at the eastern edge of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. What is now Highway 2 crosses from Deer River to Ball Club to Bena to Schley to Cass Lake. West of Cass Lake the highway leaves the reservation.

37. In 1917 a Maxwell automobile in St. Louis County cost $635 for a "touring car" and $620 for a "roadster" (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 91).

38. Passenger train.

39. Deer River.

40. Money for the items.

41. If everyone living around the area of Ball Club got together, which they more or less did at berry-picking time, or wild ricing time, or maple sugaring time, there would be about a hundred people.

42. Cf., Ch. 11, "Campfire Talks," and Ch. 28, "What's Behind the Sun?: An Indian Sermon."

43. "Whiteman," i.e., "a whiteman's for you."

44. "They didn't pay attention to that" essentially means that while they noted and were aware that Indian-white intermarriages were happening they did not object to them. And in fact, as Paul points out, the old folks early on had even predicted that would happen.

45. The tribal membership roll.

46. Paul is here talking about what is also known as "Blood Quantum," a widely-used term that is "a highly controversial measurement of the amount of 'Indian blood' you have'" (Chow, 2018). Anthropologists avoid such terms, but for many reasons terms like these continue to be used by various publics. For a review of the term and its current and historical usage see Chow 2018 and NPR 2018, and cf., Maher 2018.

47. Paul is saying that sometimes people have a difficult time with their individual identity and it is that mixed identity which "disturbs the mind of the people of this area." He is noting that some of the individuals have a difficult time with that identity in their own personal life.

48. Paul is saying that it's "harder" or more difficult for an individual when the "mixture" is closer to 50% - 50% than if they have a "little" white or Indian "blood."

49. Cf., Ch. 35, "Boarding School Days," and Ch. 48, "White Medicine."

50. Cf., Ch. 22, "Drums," and Ch. 33, "Messengers and Unusual Events," and Ch. 34, "Fireballs, and the 'Black-Shadow-Man.'"

51. Vitamins were first identified in 1912 and became an increasingly popular topic in nutritional discussions throughout the first part of the twentieth century. Although Indian children from this over-all area generally entered boarding schools in good nutritional health, nutrition was poor in Indian Boarding schools through the years Paul attended them. Children would have had better nutrition and nutritional education at home -- from their grandmothers and mothers -- than in government institutions of the day. Paul's mother refused to eat canned foods. Cf. also the discussion of vitamins in Ch. 28, "What's Behind the Sun?: An Indian Sermon."

52. Thomas Vennum, Jr., notes, about Paul Buffalo's mother: "The resultant shift in diet has been frequently cited as a cause of the poor health endemic on reservations by the end of the nineteenth century. One Leech Lake Ojibwa [Paul Buffalo], recalling his mother's remarks as she neared death, observed how changes in diet had been so depressing that she welcomed her impending release from life: 'Everything is all different. Even what you eat is different,' and she liked wild game food, boiled stuff. 'That what you buy in the store,' she says, 'I don't think I feel very good to eat that. I like that wild game, but you can't have it. It just breaks my heart; you have to compete with the law; we ain't got chance to go out there and get it. I'm starving for it; I was brought up with that. I'll eat a woodchuck, anything, porcupine, just so it's wild game.' That's how she felt. . . . '[Canned food and cured hams] I don't want that. . . . It isn't good for you. That's what's taking the life of people. Too much of that, it dries up your system. But I want boiled food, the old way. Cook it myself, and then after it sets while, then dish it out. That's good.'" (1982, p. 25.)

53. A formation is a buildup of germs, or something akin to that.

54. Freezing food is a traditional way of keeping foods. Hence the good will toward the freezer -- with the caveat that you "re‑boil" the frozen food.

55. Cf., Ch. 27, "Power."

56. Your clothes do not need to cost a lot of money; i.e., you shouldn't spend money on fancy clothes.

57. You must take care of the non-material aspects of living a good life, and practice all of the virtues as outlined.

Mrs. Walkatub.

Mrs. Walkatub, Grand Portage Reservation, 1922.

Painter: Dewey Albinson (1898-1971)

Art Collection, Oil, 1922
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. AV1986.98 Negative no. 49769


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