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Flying Bird Image


When Everybody Called Me Gabe-bines,
"Forever-Flying-Bird":

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

50

"Dying"

Grave of Bez Hike -- Chief of the Chippewas, Madeline Island.

Grave of Bez Hike -- Chief of the Chippewas, Madeline Island.

Pezeke

b. ca. 1759 - d. September 2, 1855

Photographer: Monroe P. Killy

Photograph Collection 9/25/1970
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. Collection I.69.284

 

When you die you go to a different earth . . . a different playground . . . a different place that in Indian sounds like "planet" -- gií-ĝii‑gó. That's heaven. 

Heaven. . . .

You might as well say that you go to a different planet.

That's the word there . . . gií-ĝii‑gó. That's light -- light up above . . . in the sky. When you get there, you made 'er. It's just a road that you go on -- that you’re spirit goes on.  When you get to that road your spirit goes down it.

But sometimes your spirit carries you back to earth. If you're in the ground -- if you’re body’s in the ground -- you still have a spirit that goes.  The life of your spirit never dies.  When your spirit goes it leaves the body behind. Your body will deteriorate sooner or later but your spirit lives on.

And most often it returns. . . . but just for a short while.

A while back, about 1910 -- somewhere in there -- they had a wake up on Leech River. My grandfather and grandfolks used to have a plantation up there. They called it “John Smith's place.”(1) Quite a few of us Nasons and Lyons -- Old John Lyons' folks -- were still living up there at that time. There was an old lady up there that died. It was Old John's -- John S. Smith's -- mother. Oh, she was about ninety when she died.

She died, and we had a wake. We had a wake and there were a lot of them who came way out there, about twenty miles from no town. They had to come over about twenty‑five miles of bad road. It was pretty hard to get there. It was a long way to get in there with a team of horses.

Indian funeral at White Earth or Cass Lake, ca. 1929-1929.

Indian funeral at White Earth or Cass Lake, ca. 1920 -1929.

Photograph Collection ca. 1920-1929
Location no. E97.36 r62
Minnesota Historical Society
Negative no. 98561

During the wake they'd be singing those Indian Catholic Church songs.(2) This was a church society that was meeting for the wake and it was nice to hear them singing. They had pretty good singers when they had a wake. After a while it was a break time . . . time to get up and be excused. A lot of them wanted to have a drink of coffee, so they took a break. Some of them went for coffee; some of them went in to the kitchen area for a sandwich.

Before they all started off for coffee or a sandwich a few of the lady folks were going towards the front door to go outside. They were going out for a nature call. Nobody lived across the river for fifteen or twenty miles, because it's all bog across it. Anyway, right at the door these women stopped sudden. Everybody was listening and looking up toward the eastern part of the sky. They could hear some women singing. I didn't believe there were any radios them days, you know; that was quite a while ago. When I got to the door I got a kind of funny feeling. "Well,” I said, "maybe I should stay in."

When they heard those women singing those lady folks that were heading out all came back in the room looking at one another very surprisingly. They couldn't figure out what this singing would be. The head man of the St. Joseph's society which was meeting said, "That's a blessing that we're getting. Those are angels about, singing with us."

So the door shut, and we all had to say a prayer for that. The next time they went out they didn't hear anything more.

I re‑collected that in my mind very well today when we went to church and I heard that minister -- that priest -- saying that each and every one has a spirit and that each and every one should believe in that spirit and a spirit of life. A spirit of life works with you because you believe in it. You're empowered with your spirit, and the spirit of life when you believe in it. The great God -- the Manidoo -- with the spirit of His life, is yours too.

I was thinking about that today, but I didn't say anything about this in church when we were invited to say something about the spiritual life and who is the Lord and how we believe in Him.

You have a spirit too, a good spirit, but your spirit can have bad spots. You can use your power(3) one way or the other, but if you're working more on bad spots of the spirit your power will drift away from you. The good spirit will always get close to you, and if there's any hard feelings he'll always cheer you up.

There are some people that believe pretty strong in these things for some reasons -- because they've seen something unusual before them . . . like what they heard up at Old John Smith's place.(4) I think what they called "angels" up there at Old John’s mother’s wake were what the Great Spirit sent down to help us: they were spirits, spirits that had a great advisory post.(5) And the spirits from the graveyard up there joined them. See? They were spirits. They came back to go to their graves, but they didn't get to the graves. The spirits of the people that lived there before came back to the old plantation. Those are the ones I thought would answer the songs of the women singing.

See, there are spirits around all the time, but you never seen them. The Great says you'll not see the spiritual world in this world. He says, "You'll never see Me until the last day." And that means one for all. That don't mean only one, that means all of us.

When the last day comes you'll see the Great Master. The Great Manidoo calls you when your time is up. He calls your soul. When you are called your body goes to the ground and eventually your body is nothing but a pile of dirt. After you're dead and buried your body goes back to earth but your soul, your spirit, shall not be under the ground. It shall be on earth -- one way or the other -- and it might stay on this earth for a while, but just for a short time; and when the spirit of God takes your spirit out of this life and in to the next world then you can see the Manidoo and you can see the other spirits too. And from there on the spirit of yours is your god.

Your own spirit is jichaag. That's your spirit -- your very own spirit of God. Your jichaag is a mind of your own. And when you're "dead and gone" he leaves your body.

At first he goes to . . . he goes for the judge‑ment for you. You carried him. You obeyed him. And he'll tell you he has done all he can to save you. Right after you die your jichaag goes to a judge‑ment.

How does he get there?

There’s a river across to the next world and when you go across the river your jichaag goes with you. When you're done here on this earth then you're going to cross the river. And that's why in church they sing, "There's One Wide River to Cross." You know that song in English. I remember that song. You might have to go across a bridge, and if the bridge sinks when you go across you're not going to make it. If it sinks you're not fit to cross there. But when a bridge holds up you get across and then you're sure of yourself; you're sure that you could be on that other side with them. Nothing happens to the bridge after you go across; if it sinks a little when you're crossing it just comes right back up. The bridge is made of wood, so naturally it comes back up -- like a waterlogged deadhead. When anything that's wood sinks it's bound to come to the surface.

The village that you are going to, up in the sky, is called gii‑ĝii‑gõ$ng. That's where the good souls go. Gii‑ĝii‑gõng is heaven . . . the next world. That gii‑ĝii‑gõ’$ng is everlasting peace and everlasting life. Getting there is the last work you have to do and that's where you live in peace forever. Your spirit is there. When you get there you've made the good life that you promised. That promise was just like a treaty was put before you and you signed it saying that you're going to live a good life. And that treaty read are you going to live to believe in God? Are you going to live to do what's right? Are you going to live as a Christian -- if that's the path you're walking down?

But the devil is always saying the same thing to the Judge: "I'm gonna get more people than you will." The devil says that. See, they're contest‑ing just like living persons.

And God says, "I don't think you will."

When you see a bad person, he's often well-dressed and his clothes are nothing but silk . . . nothing but silk. They're sateen and he has a nice hat. He's clean cut. "My friend," he'll say, "you wear common clothes."

"What do you want to hear?" you might ask him.

"Let's you and I go and have a wild party, where there's a lot of women." And this person says, "I'm looking for a woman."

"I'm looking for internal happiness(6) for my last days," you tell him . . . if you're staying on the good‑life path.

"Well, I can't talk to you then?"

"No."

"I might as well go away."



How long it takes your spirit to reach its destination all depends on what life you had. If you had a good life, you go quick. If you had a bad life, you have a long trail and it'd take time, maybe. It all depends on how big of a sinner you are. If you're not pure‑ified -- if you're a sinner -- it may take quite a while. The longest times for a spirit to get there would be if he had committed a big crime. And that takes fifteen years, maybe. It depends on how long he lived and continued this sin. It depends on whether he committed venial sin, or he committed a mortal sin.(7) It takes less time with a venial sin. There are venial sins and mortal sins. A mortal sin is one that you committed pretty heavy continually and intentionally. If you intentionally continue on mortal sin, you don't care for the last day of yours on earth. But if you're not intentionally having to do this, that's a venial sin. Venial sin can be overlooked by confessing -- confessing to the Manidoo that you didn't mean it.(8) Tell Him that you didn't mean to make a mistake, which is a venial sin. Church‑goers can also appear before a priest and ask him to pray to clear‑ify the sin.

There's a judge‑ment in every lay of life, dead or alive. We have judge‑ments on earth too. There are judge‑ments from the Great Spirit here on earth that we don't see. The Judge will decide whether you're fit to continue this way. He'll decide whether you're fit to continue that way. And sooner or later He'll decide whether you're fit to continue to the next world to live in with other people.

If you weren't so good on this earth I suppose you'd run into many jams. You'd run into many troubles. You wouldn't live a happy life on earth. You wouldn't live a happy life because you'd live in guilt. But if you’ve lived a good life, or tried to live a good life, you're healthy. If you can't live a good life, you give up all hopes and you don't believe in anything. Naturally, if you don't believe in anything, you don't ever get well. If you don't believe in anything how do you know you've lived? How do you know how to live for what you receive from day to day? If you don't believe in anything you don't figure ahead. If you don't figure ahead on earth, you don't figure ahead for after you're gone.

That's the way they used to tell us.

If you're a good person, you just go right straight. But even then, after you die it would still take you . . . oh, three days to reach your destination anyhow. Everything is three. Thirty; three. It takes at least three days, but it's up to the power of your judge‑ment. Your Judge will decide that. The Judge is the one that can put you there quick, or later on. The longer it takes, the worse you've been. If it takes a long time you're not fit. The way you live, and the way you left this earth, will determine how long it takes. If you had problems, say you did something wrong which was a great thing, He'll exercise you and make you take side roads until you're cleared up to be judged.

When you finally get there, you'll see the Big Judge. The Judge is the Big Spirit, the Gitchi Manidoo.

He's the Big One.

He's just like a person. He is up there, but He cannot be seen until you get there. He hears you when we do anything wrong. He's just like gold. He's just like flowers. He's just like the earth. There are many many people there with Him -- all spirits. Their group stretches back behind a bright light like the sun for many many miles.

That's what it's like. It's beautiful!

The Great Judge . . . the Great Manidoo . . . Gitchi Manidoo . . . the Great God . . . the Great Spirit -- is right there close on the other side of the floating bridge. God doesn't have to travel. He's standing right there on that different earth where your spirit goes. See, He's up in the air. That Great Spirit is right there with your jichaag.

And your jichaag is right there helping you. That’s why there is this jichaag that's in your head and mind and body. That's your spirit . . . spirit of individual. It works together with your head and mind and body. Your jichaag is the great master that you follow. And that's just what you believe in then. From then on you believe in your own spirit, that spirit, jichaag, and then you follow that. You think that jichaag is a living person, and he is. You cannot see him, but he's there. That jichaag means to guide your brain to guide your personal way.(9) That's the jichaag, and he's there helping you.

When you get up there your jichaag'll magnetize you, and he'll tell you what to do. Ya. Your jichaag meets lots of other jichaags up in there. Each individual who dies has a soul that leaves the body. And each one of their souls is jichaag. The place where the jichaags are, that's the re‑judge‑ment place. The place where they live -- that whole bunch of them -- is called maa‑mo‑wáy manidoo‑gaa‑mÍg in Indian. Ya. Maamawi‑way -- altogether. It’s God's home; you might as well say it's the village of the Manidoo.

And all this time the one that died also has the jichaags of others, and his dodaim,(10) and his animal messengers,(11) and the Medicine Man’s words(12) all pullin’ for him. The messengers are great, and they have lots of things to think about.

His messengers are the spirits and ‘lectric in the air. That’s the messengers. His messengers could be thunder, signals, stars, birds -- you don’t know. And even a man can be a messenger . . . when you don’t know the man; he could be, sure; he’d do it. You’ll see a messenger in the form of a man sometimes. We see him around, in person, as a person.(13) The old people see him big. The old people especially know what messengers are and what they are there for.

The white man says it isn't easy to see the Divine. That's the same way it is with the Indian when we're on this earth, and that's why we have messengers and spirits to help us out. We have spirits of birds and animals to help us in addition. Those birds and animals go by spirit relations -- just like people. They're some kind of spiritual relations which are like what we call dodaim.

Dodaim is a relative‑ly degree for us. Dodaim is our relative‑ly animal. The spirits of the dodaims tell our folks -- our relations, "You be good on earth, and you'll be well placed in the next world." Dodaims help us on our way to the next world just like our jichaag -- and the dodaim works for the relations' as a group. And when you go to the next world the dodaim relations here on earth will say, "He's up there in the next world; his spirit is up there in the next world helping us."

And when that big judge‑ment day comes then we say that's gi‑wii‑áah‑ku‑náh . . . well, that's "home judge‑ment," back to heaven . . . the next world . . . where you belong. That's another pronounce‑i‑ation of what He's trying to put out. . . . Gi‑wii‑aáh‑ku‑nah is i‑tu‑báa‑kwa‑nah, and there's wi‑tu‑báa‑kwa‑nah. There are three words. So when you're passed away then you're going before the Great Judge.

There at your judge‑ment the Great Manidoo classifies you. Don't try to hide, because He knows what you've done in the past. Tell the truth. You're classified good or bad. That's the judge‑ment. Then, if it needs to be, you're pure‑ified. You suffer before you go on to that final place!; yes; and that counts in the judge‑ment.

And day‑báa‑ku‑nah -- if you went through the judge‑ment and the judge‑ment finds you not guilty then you're released. And when St. Peter or some other messenger OKs it, then you leave for the village of the Manidoo. When you get up there to that final place it's nothing but flowers.

But if you're not ready, you might be pure‑ified by fire. Fire is a pure‑ification to your soul. Your soul is pure‑ified by heat. By the heat of the judge‑ment He'll question you, "Did you do that? Did you do this?"

If you're going to purgatory, all right, that's wiping off your bad spots, burning them off. Gi‑báas‑gaás‑sii‑yá kay‑da‑wÍn -- that's wiping off your soul. Purgatory in Indian is gaá‑sii‑a‑kíi‑zo‑wÍn. That's "wipe‑off‑the‑sin -- wipe-off-sickness." And when you're burned off, scalded off, that pure‑ifies you. If He calls you to go to purgatory you stay in there the number of years decided, to burn the sin out. It's the same way with other religions. You suffer on earth, you do penance, for your internal happiness.

The messengers that worked hard pulling for you to go through the judge‑ment may go with you to a certain place while you are being pure‑ified. There's a road through there to bring you home after you are there a while. While you are there you go through penance; ya; then you're free to go home. Oh, it would take, sometimes it would take -- they say it could take -- fifteen or twenty years to get through. A penance is a big penance to the Judge. And the Judge is not saying you'll get to the next world in fifteen minutes. No! You die in fifteen minutes!! You die in fifteen minutes on earth. But there -- when you get there -- from when you were born to sixty‑five on earth is just like fifteen minutes. When you are on earth between forty and all the years after that go quick; a lot of them go quick. Well, those years in pure‑ification are just like fifteen minutes on earth. But look out -- it still is many years up there when you're doing penance. And there you really do penance.

The older children get pure‑ified too because they were old enough to understand, but they've neglected the Great. And maybe they even didn't believe that there was God. You can't blame the young children but the older ones could help themselves. They understand that so they might have to stay in purgatory so long too. They may stay there a number of years, maybe.

Newly-born babies are excused up until at a certain point, but starting from seven to eight they should understand. If they start working on it when they're young it's easier for them to know who the Creator is. By seven or eight they should understand and they should practice their belief. They should take interest in life. You can blame them when they're seven, eight, nine, but not when they're young. And maybe they knew enough to understand the mother and father, but the mother and father didn't help these kids. OK. So do what's right to teach them. Ask them, “What are you living for? Are you living for just a good time on earth? You're going to be worn out with just a good time!”

You can't forget children. You have to bring them up with the knowledge of what is good in the near future and the future to come. That's your duty. "I give you blood; I give you an increase in this country, in the true way." Until they're twenty-one -- or until they leave to go out on their own -- you share their faults. After that they can handle their own. They pick their own way to live after that. By then they could understand the word of God, the Creator of heaven and earth. They understand how the world is made. They understand why it's made for them. They know it's made for all of us to live in. They know that if you use your life right you'll get the truth; you'll get to the next world.

You can also find that in the Catholic book or in the book of any church.

When you get old it's much easier for you. You can't commit any sin when you're old enough. When you're over sixty‑five or seventy you're not committing a sin. You're pure. You're thinking about God. You're ready for Him. You're ready for internal happiness.

And if you're an old man you may have lost part of your mind. You're not full‑strength of body and blood. You're weakening in your mind and the older you get the more weakened you become. Then God, the Creator, blesses you and you are pure‑ified in that way.



In the old Indian way when they had a wake -- in our Indian way -- they used to sit and give the Great Spirit an offering. They believe a pretty strong belief in the Spirit. We all do! My people all believe there's a Spirit. We believe we all work for the one principle, the Great.

Chippewa Mourners, 1923.

Chippewa Mourners, 1923.

Painter: Cameron Booth (1892-1980)

Art Collection, Oil 1923
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. AV1988.45.393 Negative no. 15369


A traditional Indian funeral is something great. Friends, relatives, family, the Medicine Men, would all come to a wake . . . when we had them. The Medicine Men give lectures, just like a priest. They draw maps showing how the spirit of this body's going to the next world. And by their very words they direct this spirit -- the spirit of this body -- when they give the last words to him. Well, it's the same thing as they’re saying: "We have worked. You have worked. You are leaving. You are now leaving this body when you're cooled off. . . ."

"You are cooled off, your body, and your spirit leaves."

The Indian burial minister describes about death. Mah-Yah-i-way is guy that sends 'em up -- the guy that sends him off . . . the one that lets the spirit go from earth. He sends him off. He'll preach a sermon that asks that the departed may live forever, in spirit. The spirits cannot be seen by those remaining here on earth, and they rest with god up there in the village of the Manidoo. The Indian minister tells about life and death and it sounds very, very, wonderful. It makes you wonder. It's wonder‑ous.

They hold a good service.

The burial minister tells that spirit of the dead one, "Don't look sideways. Don't look back. Go forwards. You have left us. There's nothing you could do here anymore. You're done. Look forward, you have plenty to do well up above. You have done your share of life here on earth. You have done good, and maybe you have done wrong, but go . . . look forward there. You got another judge‑ment up there. That's the last opportunity. Don't look sideways. Don't stop. Keep a‑going." The Indian minister says, “Never look back! You shall look forward until you reach your destination. Then you are able to look back. Then when you look back you're able to help us."

"We give the last offer to you, as you have done work in this world for all. Now you have gone to rest. Your body turns to dirt, but your spirit is taking you to be with the Great. We ask of you . . . when you get with the Great, help us too. Don't leave us entirely. We know you'll be there. Or you're there already. But your body has been the hull of your spirit, and your body has come back into dirt."

"Into the air the spirit leaves, the spirit of you. Each and everyone's got a spirit. That spirit cannot be seen."

If the dead one had problems in his life or he hates to go because of the family that he is used to, he might want to take longer to leave. But this Medicine Man says, "You better go. You have left this life. Try and get there as quick as you can so that you may be able to help us all, and help your family. You'll feel better if you do. We look forward to a quick journey, but we never know how long you will be on your journey or how quick your Judge will take you. We leave it to your Judge. He may take you right now. You may already be there looking at us now."

The Medicine Man will tell the ones gathered, “Everybody that dies and makes it onto the long straight road eventually reaches that destination. We're all made equals in Indian. We're all the same. We're here to work for the earth. We're here to use the nature-stored things of this earth. When the road home begins, you follow it. We all get to go there some day. Until you get to the Great Spirit you’ll never will know what He does or what He looks like. He's the manager. You'll get there to that destination, and then you'll know.”

That's the way the Indian preaches at the wake.

We take everything to the Indian doctor. After it's dead we even take the body to him. You know that prayer that you say to the Great Spirit, the Great God? . . . that helps. The Old Testament reads, "It's not very easy to get to heaven,” or to the next world. The Indian says, ". . . to the next world." All you can do -- all anyone can do -- is to make the last offer for the departed with all your power. If the offer is good, if this area is good where we live and where the dead one left, that's great power. But if they go there to the wake and make an offer just to put on a big show, that's no good. If they go there and make an offer, the last offer for him, and it's from very good people, the Judge will say, "Yes, I'll take it." He's the Judge.

There must be something to that.

You can't go there only then -- at the wake -- just to make an offer for him. You can't. The Judge'll tell you, "Why didn't you remember me before something happened? Why didn't you offer when you were feeling well?"

That's their last service, their funeral service, and it's interesting to hear their lectures. That's the same method the priest uses. It's the same way with the Indian . . . when you're living, you have to prepare.



When you lose someone you can't eat; you get lonely. But if you're occupied then you're not lonely. It is true. We bring that up in wakes too. We have folks that lose their relatives, maybe a son, a daughter or something. When we have a wake we give a lecture to this party that's lonely. After the burial service everybody bids one another goodbye. "Take care. Hold firm. Be solid. Be brave," they say.
"That's one of these things we see as the earth goes around and around.”

“Thank you."

And then we say, the leavers say, "My friend, everyone has to go through this. Remember, and wait." In talking to the lonely -- they're the ones that lost that friend or relative -- we say, "This here is a hard feeling, but we all have to go through the same thing. And some have humbled themself too far down and then they got sick from it. But never do that. When you feel bad and you miss the party you lost -- a big loss, you know -- don't start to wonder. Don't start! Get up. Go grab a rake and start raking, or sweep the floor. Be occupied. That's better for you! You feel good then. See? So you occupy your mind with something else. If you're just going to humble yourself and think about this loss and don't do a thing, it's going to get you sick! Your heart is aching. And when your heart is aching you don't have the functions to your body that it needs to keep healthy.”

“But when you move and are exercising and doing the work that should be done your heart functions right and your whole system improves and you're satisfied. You have done wonderful for your body by acting with your mind.”

"That's a big thing to remember."

"That loneliness and humbling, that's a worse thing than an ailment to your body. When you start to get lonely that body goes astray and that will take you quick. When you start worrying, start feeling lonely, it's acting on your heart that's ticking like a clock. You have to keep that active. Don't worry. Get exercise for your body. Your whole body's starving from the de‑regulation of your heart if you quit working. When you exercise you move a little bit, then your body's satisfied and your whole mind is satisfied. That's life. When you have a little exercise to do for your body then your whole heart pumps and your mind works good. Maybe you can eat a little meal. Then you're satisfied. Then you have done something for yourself. But just quitting altogether doesn’t do anything, and then your body's starving, your mind is starving, your stomach's starving, the whole works is starving. You're gonna die."

That's the way we talk on earth. If you have a spirit in your life, and you know you have a spirit in your life, then you're proud! You take of that spirit, and your spirit works with you. It works on your mind.

That's the way they're talking at the wake . . . to the spirit and to the lonely ones. That's the same thing I do here. The last offer is made as an offering so that the people that’s here can look forward to their departed’s spirit coming back to us and working through their spirit for our spirit. We feel good that we have made the last offer and asked the last question to him.



In those days, you know, we had some of the wakes just overnight, because we didn't have any way of embalming. If it was cold weather, well, we kept the body maybe two days . . . a couple days at the most. In the winter we had snow to work with up north here, and we had ice. I've seen ice used in burying to keep the bodies cool, but we never had anybody embalmed like we do now-a-days. Bodies keep a little better now-a-days, but in those days we knew that we couldn't take that blood out. We'd never try to take that blood out because we figured we'd let the spirit leave the body just the way it'd go natural, by itself. See? And we always believed by nature the body’ll be destroyed fast enough and the body is going to go back where it belongs. And the spirit leaves natural‑ly. It's better, and it looks better that way. You feel better about it. Natural‑ly everything seems better.

You know in those days we didn't go to funerals much. When somebody died they most generally put him away the next day. We most often didn't know who died in those days. They just buried them right in along‑the‑lakeshore graveyards. Ya. People were buried all along the river. I've seen dead people sticking out of the banks of the river. The logs floating down the rivers during the spring logging drives caught the banks of the river and caved them in. The big pine logs caved it in, caved it in, caved it in day after day.(14) Pretty soon this one dead person that I remember like I'm still lookin' at her was hanging down out of the grave. Her hair was hanging down and there was a little baby under her arm. That was right above the Leech and Mississippi Forks.(15) We used to point at that as we'd go by. Sometimes we'd just sit there and watch it.

Indian burial place on Deer Creek, 1868.

Indian burial place on Deer Creek, near Fort Laramie, WY, 1868.

Photographer: Alexander Gardner

[near Fort Laramie, WY.]
Photograph Collection 1868
Location no. Collection IV.3.28
Minnesota Historical Society
Negative no. 14470

One time when we were on our way to the sugar bush -- not too far from where that woman and baby were sticking out of the river bank -- my mother and I went to visit a place where somebody was buried up in a tree. There was nothing unusual about that, them days; that's just the way it was -- they buried the people up in the trees them days. It was so warm that this new dead who was put up there not too long before we came had snakes crawling all over him. A snake can crawl up a tree, you know. My mother stopped and looked. She watched a snake crawl under a bark. There was a body wrapped up in the bark, and when she looked at that bark, there it was, a snake. "Come on. Let's go," she said.

From that time on she was a speaker of that in the councils: "We don't like to see any more of that. Bury them out of sight."

So that's when they started burying the people out of sight.

I wouldn't know the name of the one up in the tree. I was pretty small, see. My mother is not living or she would know about that. She would know I've seen it. Oh I didn't see -- really see -- many people buried in the trees, but I knew they did that. I've only seen just a few in the trees. But they used to do that lots and I suppose it happened to quite a few of them; I don't know; I couldn’t say for sure.

The last time I saw that was about 1926 or '28. Once in a while you'd still see dead people in trees in 1928. I don't know exactly why they did that but they probably buried them up there because they thought the Spirit would come at night and take the spirit of their life away. The next morning the body was still there, but the spirit of that body might have gone. So they were satisfied with that.

You know, we could ask a lot of things to others around here, but you'd have the same answer as I have given. You'd have the same answer. You would know the facts of the history. You would know what the people tried to do to preserve the dead body. We tried every way. The wooden box is the best. We should use a wooden box instead of a cast‑stone casket. Some people pay five hundred dollars for a stone casket. That's out of range. This spirit is gone! The spirit is off in the field.(16) When you're dead your spirit doesn't care about how your body is buried or where he is. The spirit is well taken care of already. We believe in that.

Years ago we would make a food offering to the spirit of the dead about once or twice a year, in the spring and summer. That's the last sacrament of their life too. We’d make a movement to offer food and everything to the dead, and they'd always eat it.

"Chippewa Burial Ground," Leech Lake Indian Reservation, 1936.

Chippewa Burial Ground, Leech Lake, 1936.

Cameron Booth (1892-1980)


Exhibition: The Color of Winter, James J. Hill House.
Art Collection, Oil, 1936
  Collections Online
 Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. AV1988.45.346 Negative No. 15367


I'll tell you something about that. . . .

One time some Indian women were leaving the sugar bush on Sugar Point of Leech Lake. It rained hard that day. There was a lumberjack, Doc Tibbetts, who crawled under one of those wooden boxes that they used to put over the graves. He didn't want to get wet. And there he fell asleep. It was dry under that box. They're water preserved, so the sand inside is dry.(17) Those Indian women came there and when the lumberjack woke up he heard somebody talking. The women looked at that peek‑hole, on the platform there -- a hole and platform like a birdhouse -- and began to put their food out. There was an old lady who left cake‑sugar, taffy, maple sugar, and wild rice. She said, "We leave you this for your lunch for the summer. We'll be back to give you some more. There's wild rice you could eat with your maple cakes."

Just as she was saying that Tibbetts reached his hand out and said, "Miigwech." And that old lady turned right around, raised her dress, and ran down the road. She wasn't shy with her dress no more!! She took right off and all the women moved out of there with her.

Here there was a lumberjack under there!

That's true.

That was Doc Tibbetts. That's Ben Tibbetts' brother. Oh he was full of heck. He'd do anything.

"Spirit House" at Townsite, Ball Club, MN, 1965.

"Spirit House" at Townsite, Ball Club, MN, Leech Lake, 1965.

Photographer: Timothy G. Roufs


You know what else they done?

We had a funeral, a wake, one time. He came along, opened that rough‑box, and he got in there. Frank Michaud was along with him too. I think it was Frank . . . it was a Michaud anyway. He got in there too. It was dark outside. They laid in there, and when somebody came out with a light to go to the can or something, they started to kick that box.

"Huh!"

Everybody ran!

They opened that box and found these guys in the rough‑box. And they laughed.

That's how crazy they were years ago.

Nobody would do that now.

Well they didn't care then, but they didn't last long either. That's why you have to be careful about what you do, what you say, what you practice on. They left us. They were about thirty‑two when they died. And they were husky guys.



Our belief, our Indian belief -- the belief of our Indians -- is that by the time you get old you have worked enough on this earth. When you work decent you have had hard work to keep everything together as you've gone along. Maybe you have a family. Maybe you have friends. They all respect you. They're all looking at you.

Sooner or later you get tired out of age, and you know that you're done. Then you're going on a journey, a real journey, after you're done living and working. Indians generally believe they've lived a life when they see the younger generation coming behind.

If the old age want to work with their spirits, they'll feel good. Everybody's got a spirit. And that's the one that tells you, "Do not. Don't. You're going to go wrong. You'll suffer. If you do right, you'll feel good." That's why they’re there. The spirit cannot be seen, but it's there.

If you have any ailment as you go along, and if you say to your spirit, "You're with me. I'm broke down. My body's broke down. Will you come? Come, close to me. I need you," you'll get better. It'll straighten out. He'll give you another chance, but don't ask too much of that. It'll never go if you ask for too much too often. He'll give you a chance; he'll give you a try‑out. Remember that way he gives you . . . if you give 'er a try‑out . . . and pretty soon you're up on your feet as you go back to work. See, that's life. That's the way we believe.

Then, when you pass away, you're gone; you're done. Your body's going to the sand. You've done your work. You're not afraid. You're at rest. When you're at rest, there's a bigger light that you'll see, a brighter one than is on earth. And it's a different picture. The spirit of your life -- the spirit of your body -- has seen a bigger light. And that light draws for the good, if you were good. But if you were bad, you don't see any light. You still want to go where there's light, but you're not going to get there. If you've been bad you'll never see light like that after you're gone! You'll be in the dark. Your spirit will be in the dark. It can never see light. Forever.

Nobody here on this earth can put you to heaven. You put yourself in heaven. Nobody can put you in the next world, for the better world. You put yourself there with your own ears, eyes, and the life you lead -- guided by your own spirit. That's the way it is. You feel good when you do that. You earned your way. You took care of that. When you take care of your future, in life, you're going to see a better light than the light in this world.

How wonderful it is.

It'll prove someday, when you're gone, when your body is left but your spirit is in the next world. That's a big world up there. That's bigger yet than this world. And then, it's everlasting. And in the everlasting, when you get up there, if you want to see this and that, you can. If you were good enough on earth you're good enough to get to the everlasting and you can have your way. You're done on earth.



What happens from here on?

Well, our teaching is there that when you're leaving, your spirit is still here if your breath is active and your body is still warm. When your body's cool -- cooled off -- and your heart is stopped, then your spirit is getting ready to go. When you're just getting cooled off, with your heart stopped, your spirit is ready to go, then you continue to get cooled off because the circulation isn't there and your heart isn't functioning. When you're cooled off completely you're really gone. The spirit is gone. Your body is laid down to earth.

When I finally lay me down to sleep my body goes back to earth. See? It's natural. The vegetation builds up tier by tier every year. Vegetation builds up like that and that's the same thing with a body. The body's just the same as vegetation, the leaves and everything. They lay down, tier by tier, every year, and build up. And people do the same. There's no way out of it.

That's the truth of life.

Truth of life in Indian is bay‑buu‑wan, bay‑buu‑wáy‑g^‑gii‑kwáy‑wÍn. That’s the “truth‑preaching‑to‑all.” The Indian burial minister talks about the road of truth of life. And sometimes he’ll draw out that road of life. That whole map he draws is called in Indian miikana, just “road” -- miikana -- but everyone knows what it means. That’s a road! It's a road of truth of life. If you complete that road then you made it to the next world, and truthful internal happiness should be there.

I’ve also heard them talk about the “homeward road of the souls." The nearest I could tell is that there are two words to that. There's one, dibaakonan -- “judging,” and there's another one, wi‑tu‑báa‑kwa‑nah, see, "he's going to the judge‑ment." Then when you go to the judge‑ment -- when you're between the earth and the next world -- never look back when you're on this road. There's a road you're following -- a straight road -- and when you go on that road it means you live a straight life.

You have to be perfect to get on a straight road and some of them that's past on couldn't make it. There's some roads that have a "Y" in them and some of them that died couldn't get up there to the next world because they took a wrong turn at a "Y". And some of them have a place on their road that looks kind‑a like a "U". So they have to stay there on that road so long. If they live there for so long and think about this Spirit they realize it is going to be a heck of a time to go on the straight road to the next world.(18)

And if you did something serious, you're done altogether! That left‑hand road is a wrong turn in your life. The right‑hand road means a straight life, and if you're on it then as you pass your friend he probably says, "You were good enough to go straight, to go right straight through. Hi. Hi." It's just the same as if the ones who had to wait up were saying, "Hi; help us."

When you get up where the betterment is in the next world, you’ll turn back -- at that point. As far as you could see you'll see these on the right‑hand side that had to wait -- on the right‑hand side when you're looking back. See, they had to wait. You passed, but they have to wait. Maybe you can help them from up there. You can help those on the right from up there. But with those that went left, you have no chance of helping. They're done.

Everything's got to be right! That's the good book. And we're all living for the good book. And we all live for the good life. We all live for the Great, Great, Great. The Great is there the day when we're done. That's the greatest thing of all.

Your road is direct for you. At some point on the way up there to the next world you may have to go in a "Y", but only for so long do you stay there on that "Y". Finally, maybe, there's a cut-off there that'll get you back on the straight road again. I don't know how many years it will take you to get there. But when you do, then you'll look back at those you left. It's a big thing.

We don't worry about the next life, but still we want to get there. We can never find out how to master this world. Our time is limited, that's all. We have to go through a life. We're not through here on earth until we go through that life, then we'll see what's the next world. In Indian, we know that. And we know to never look back until we’re with the Great Spirit. When they send off the dead in their burial, a Medicine Man tells the spirit, "GO! Look ahead; don't look back. Don't look sideways; just go."

I heard that lots.

Maybe we understand the meaning of that better in Indian. . . . Ya.

If you look back, why do you do it? Because you have done something back there that bothers you. You did something bad; you did something wrong. And if you didn't do anything wrong, you might do something wrong when you're looking back. You're wasting time looking back; look forward all the time. And once you're there, you're there.

And once you're there you can't come back and talk to people on earth.

No!

You're done.

We let the Judge do that. But the Judge lets you do the talking from right there where you are in the next world. And He collects that and sees that it gets passed along . . . if you believe in God; if you believe in the Creator. He doesn't leave you without anything to say.

That's the last supper up there in the next world; that's the way we look at it. The way the Indian looks at it the Creator put everything up there, but there's no way for anybody to come back and tell you how it is. They can't tell you how it is; no; you aren't supposed to know. But while you're on this earth you're supposed to do what you can; you're supposed to do the best you know how from your jichaag. You should build your own way to the next world while you're here on earth.

I heard that some people died and went and came back from the next world but I don't believe it. It's a dream. I heard that from a guy one time about ten or fifteen years ago -- that he died for a night, went to the next world, and came back. But it's a dream that he was talking about. He might come back in a dream; ya. In his dream he saw the Great Spirit come in before a cloud. And he dreamt somebody hollered, "The end of the world!" And the Great Spirit came over and all He said was, "Do what's right."

Right is right and left is left. You go to the right road when you do right . . . even if you have to be pure‑ified. If you go to the left road, you're done.

Once you’re up there you can’t come back. . . .

You're dead.

The truth of life is that when you're done, you're completely done. You have no excuse at that point. You made 'er. . . . Or you didn't.



You'll see and hear a lot of things at an Indian wake. The Medicine Man at a wake can show you a lot of things. You shut your eyes and you'll see something that you have never seen before -- by him pointing the road of life. If you can understand -- understand what he's saying in Indian -- it'll come clearer. And when he's done you could understand clear, very clear, what he's talking about. You couldn't say that he was telling you the truth if he was wrong.

It's interesting to hear him. That's the same method the priest uses. When you're living, you have to prepare. And a wake -- your funeral service -- is your last service and the last chance for you to prepare for the judge‑ment.

I got to thinking at a wake not long ago, "It's in me. The power's in me."

And I got to thinking again about my mother. I'm glad to say my mother was eighty‑four years old when she last talked to me: "You're the oldest son and I leave the very words to you, son. Tell your brothers and sisters if they're wrong."

I was setting right there, just setting on the bed listening. Gee, she looked good, just like nothing was wrong.

"You're the oldest son . . . tell the rest of your brothers and sisters where to get on there, on 'the road.'"

"OK."

"When they do wrong, I mean."

"Yes."

"When your brothers and sisters do wrong, help 'em! Tell ‘em."

"If they’ll listen, Mother. But I think they will. I'll do it."

At that time some of them were the wrong brand! But not me. I'm not bragging.

Right before my mother's death they had a big gathering over at my mother's house -- a big picnic . . . a feast. They had a big feast. I happened to not be there, but the rest of my brothers and sisters were at the feast. My mother had a lot of children. I have a lot of brothers and sisters and they were all there.

I came down to the house in the evening.

"We had a good time today," my mother told me. "We had a big dinner, a nice feast. I enjoyed the gathering. All of my children were there except you, Paul."

We were talking Indian.

"I couldn't get down here. I had a trip to make. I'm glad, Mother, you had a good time."

"Oh, I had a lovely time, Paul."

"All right, Ma"

"I had a very, very, good time, son. Yes, I did," she said. "It was a nice gathering. We had a big picnic, and boy did I ever eat! I ate a good meal.”

“Son," she said, "I'm telling you, you're the oldest. Whenever you see those brothers and sisters of yours, will you talk to them and tell them what's right?"

"All right, Mother, I'll do that."

"And you too; watch!” she said. "Your brothers and sisters get along good; you too. Make the best of it. Remember the way I brought you up, taught you. I told you about things all my life. Any chance I got I told you what was the best in your life."

"OK, Mother."

I said to her, "You feel all right, Ma? The way you talk, it seems like you're not feeling so good."

She just kept on talking, "You're next. You're next."

"What do you mean, ‘next’?"

"Talk to your brothers and sisters. You're the oldest son."

"You take over," she said, "I may be done talking to them."

See how she announced?

I said, "How do you feel, Ma? Do you feel all right?"

"Oh, I feel good. I feel all right. I'm fine."

She wasn't sick. "I had a lovely time," she said. But she continued on, "I lived a good life, so I don't care now. I'm ready. I think I lived a life. I worked hard. My old man left me.(19) I'm all alone here. So what else can I do? I have nothing else to do."

I looked up at her, "Mother!"

"I leave you everything, Paul. I'm done."

I looked at her. She was sitting right there, on the bed.

"I'm done, Paul."

"What happened Mother?"

"Nothing!"

"I'm afraid, Ma," I said.

She looked at me. . . .

Just looked.

Then she leaned over, towards me, and said in her soft voice, "Be brave, son."

"Are you all right Mother? Do you feel alright?"

"I feel fine! I'm just ready to go; that's all."

"Are you sick? Feel any ailments?"

"I feel all right. Nothing is wrong with me. I feel well! I had a good time today. We all gathered. I don't know why we all gathered, but we had a big feast,” she said. "I enjoyed to watch them eat. I feel good. We had a nice visit."

That night she said, "It's peaceable."

But towards the end she added, "I was happy. I had nine children. I was happy. I enjoyed that. I liked my children, and I was glad to teach my children. My . . . this is a life," she said. "I did my share in this earth, by my mouth and words and hard work. So you're the oldest son, continue that."

"OK, Mother. I'll take what you say, and I'll see you in the morning."

"OK. Good bye, son."

"Well, Ma," I said, "I'm glad for all this visiting you got. I will go to bed. We'll see you tomorrow."

I walked out that door. I looked back, "Good night, Ma."

"Good night, son. I'll get ready and go to bed."

Gee, mother sat there like a perfect woman.

I closed the door. . . .

I walked home.

I lived about a block up from my mother's house, on the hill. I was living on the top of the hill then, behind Joe Barnes' place, and my brother was staying with my mother.

On the way home I remembered that word she said to me, and I was thinking to myself. "Why? She talked so nice. She looked so good. I know my mother might go along another few years, why does she talk to me like this?"

I had a feeling about that talk.

At four o'clock that morning, or five or six o'clock in the morning, or around that -- early anyhow -- I heard somebody crying. I said, "Now what happened?"

I'd listen again, and heard, "Paul!!"

It was my brother, Joe Nason. I heard my youngest brother crying, crying just like a kid, at four or five o'clock in the morning. And every time he'd bawl, he'd holler, "Paul!!!" my name.

My brother hollered, "Paul!! Paul!!!"

I jumped up out-a bed and put on my slippers. I got up and opened the door and looked down the road. I ran outside. There was my brother who was staying with my mother.

"What's the matter, Joe?"

My youngest brother was crying.

"What's the matter, Joe?"

"Mother is dead!"

It hit me. . . .

He said, "Paul!! Mother is dead!!!!"

"What?" I said, "What?? I just talked to her. She felt good‑like."

"Yes!!" he said, "she's dead in bed."

"Mother is dead; gone," he said. "Mother is gone!"

"What do you mean, 'gone'?"

"I think she's dead."

Well, I went down and some of my other brothers were standing there. By that time they already called all of the family. Two or three of them younger‑est boys were already there.

What's the matter?"

“She passed. . . . Never woke up out of that bed."

"Ya. . . . Ya. . . . She told me she was tired. She talked to me last night. That's what she was getting ready for. I will keep those words and I'll be brave."

She said to be brave, and I feel it. I think I never harmed my mother, but she lectured to me anyway, “Be brave, son.”

'Course my brothers said to me, "What are you gonna do about it?"

"What are you doing about it?" I said, "You called the undertaker?"

"Ya, they called him."

One of my other brothers said, "The undertaker's coming. We called him already. We want the coroner to come."

By the time I got down there they already called the undertaker.

The other brothers came and they called the coroner. Somebody ran over to the neighbor’s to call him. The undertaker came; the coroner was coming.

"Yup; she passed."



My other brother, Fred Nason, pronounced, "It was her heart."

Fred was crying. Joe, my youngest brother, was crying. Oh, he couldn't get over it because they were together all the time.

I said I felt pretty bad, and I went in and looked at her.

"Yea, it's just like she's asleep."

“Her heart stopped.”

“So, well, that's it.”

The ambulance came and they took her on the stretcher.

I think her heart just quit, you know. She was old. Before she died it was just like nothing happened to her. She had no ailment. The night before I said, "Are you feeling good? You feel all right, Ma?"

"Oh, I feel good. Nothing's wrong with me. I feel awful good."

By gosh, the next morning they found her dead asleep. It was the sleep of the dead.

Just think, eh, how she left that place.

That's my life. That's what I had to go through. Then we had a wake in her house.

It's just one of those things that happens when you get old like that. Her heart stopped. It stopped. But she must'a felt it was coming. She must'a been ready to go. See? She must'a had her mind thinking, "I'm all ready."

Well, there's no fooling around. When you're ready, you're ready. That's the teaching of that. They give up. They want to go rest.

Why?

Because times and times again, before that day, she said, "The way things are going, I think I wouldn't like to see what is going to happen anymore."

It was going too fast, you know.

"Everything is all different. Even what you eat is different," she’d say

And there may be something in what you're overeating that affects you. Just before my mother died they had a good feast. Meat is heavy you know. My mom was taking medicine too. Probably she shouldn't have eaten too much.

She liked wild game food, and boiled stuff.

"That food you buy in the store,” she’d tell us, “I don't think I feel very good to eat that. I like that wild game. But now you can't have it.(20) It just breaks my heart. You have to compete with the law. We don’t have a chance to go out there and get it. I'm starving for some wild game. I was brought up with that, ya. I'll eat a woodchuck, a porcupine, or anything, just so it's wild game."

That's how she felt.

"Duck! That's what I need. I was brought up with that."

Hoo geeze, she was standard!(21)

I said, "I'll go get ham and nice lunch meat."

"I don't want that," she said, "that don't do any good. That canned stuff and that cured stuff," she said, "it isn’t good for you. That's what's taking the life of people. Too much of that dries up your system. I want boiled food, boiled, the old way. I'll cook it myself. Then, after it sets a while, dish it out. It's good."

Gee, well, she was standard. Everybody liked her too. She had a lot of friends. She was a doctor. A lot of Indian people came and asked her to help them with their troubles. She talked to them. And that's why I told that stuff.(22)

So I had good folks, you know. That's why I feel good. They were wonderful folks. I'll never forget them. My neighbors and friends will never forget my mother and father. They were well known, and I'm proud to say it. And that's why I stand pat. My folks always said, "Be brave! Do not be afraid to tell what's good."

That's a big word . . . "Be brave! Don't be afraid to tell what's good."

That's what my mother told me right up to the end . . . "Be brave, son."

So after my mother died I get along good with my brothers and sisters. I have lots of sisters and I have a lot of brothers. They all want me to go stay with them. But I took over the place I live in. It’s my mother's house; that's why I got it. I'm still living here. She had power, and that's where I live. I like my house.

"No, I'm all right here," I said when my brothers asked me to stay with them. "I'll come and visit you."

I owe a lot of them a visit. I have a lot of nephews and aunts too. I'm proud of a good family, a good mother, a good dad.

My step‑dad was good; he was wonderful.(23) If there were any doings in church, and doings in the Christian life, they always did their share. They always did their share of what was for the good of the people. Ask anybody that!

They went anywhere they could do good; ya. They went and helped people. They had a lot of friends. I think today that that's what the people look to me for. They look upon me because of my folks. Ask all over town what kind of mother I had! She was wonderful. Every time I used to go anywhere when my folks were living people would ask, "How's your mother?"

"Good."

"How's your dad?"

"Fine."

"What's Jack doing?"

"Oh, he's still gardening and cutting hay."

Everybody wants to know about them. "How's your mother?"

"Good."

I had a wonderful mother!

I don't think I'll forget, ever forget, my mother! The older I get, the more I think about her. The older you get the more you'll think. That's what you're going to go through. You're going to go through the hurt of losing your folks.

Listen to their words. They mean it. Your folks expect you to carry yourself. Someday they won't be here. You have to be brave then. If you listen to them, if you don't hurt your father and mother, when they leave this earth, when they leave you, you won't cry. You'll tear; you'll have tears all right, but you won't take it hard.

Why?

Because you listened to them.

They put you on foot and they told you to be brave. If they don't tell you by those words they tell you just as well by their actions. So you're brave . . . if there's nothing you did to them, and if you took their good words. You have it in you. All you want is the good words that they left, and that memory will keep you up.

The memory of those words they left you will build you. That's why most of them said, "Be brave. Go out." They left that here. My mother's words are in my mind. I take it all. My old man's words are in my mind. Whenever I saw my dad and the men folks talking long talks, I listened in . . . the same as with my mother. I'd set there and not say a word. I'd just listen. When they got through talking we got up and went about. We got up and never said anything.

Then I started thinking, "Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Ma."

If I did something wrong I got it. I got it when I did what I shouldn’t do. They weren’t afraid to tell me neither. I wasn't a perfect kid. I wasn't a good kid all the time. My life was rough, you know.



Now, at this time of my life, I'm getting ready to be called. That's most generally what old‑age folks are doing. So I'm getting ready for my day to be called. You can't say you're going to get your cap or coat when the Great Spirit calls you. This Creator up there is the Master of all. That's the truth of life.

You never can tell what it’s going to be like up there! It'll be daylight, sure, but maybe He'll put you in a different world. When you die your spirit, your jichaag, goes to some place that sounds like a different planet. And those planets have different lights of different stars.

And there's the light of the moon too. The moon is way off, but it’s not the next world. That's where they tried to get to heaven one time, the same as the tower they made.(24) Ya, but they couldn't make it to heaven by going to the moon. They tried hard to get up there, to the moon, to get to heaven that way, but when they finally got there they didn't find anything but a crust left over from the pure‑ifying of the air of this earth. There was nothing but crust up there, and light. The light of the moon and the sun beside it is there collecting all the germs from the air of this earth we live on. The moon's crust is supposed to be from the gravity of that pure‑ification.(25) It is. And that’s all they found when they made it up there.

Heaven -- the next world -- is different than that. I’ll tell you about heaven. I’ve been there. Twice now.

You have to have a little secret in your heart; that's religion. A little secret in your heart is the secret that's given to you to use. The secret of your life and of the other people's lifes are for you to use. You don't know what their secret is. And furthermore, your secret of life is there that you may know what may help the others. But the secret will come out some way or another, sooner or later. Until then you can keep it. And when you feel like passing it out -- passing out what you know about secrets -- you may do that, but a secret is a thing that you aren't supposed to open until the fruit is ripe.

You can pass it out when you get old, when you get to old age. Until then you practice to be an expert to it. And when you're an expert to it you know that you have learned the way of life of the other creatures. A secret means you aren't supposed to say anything out until you do know and do see it. Then the secret is ready to come before you.

Pictographs, Spirit or Drum Island, Nett Lake, 1964.

Pictographs, Spirit or Drum Island, Nett Lake, 1964.

Photographer: Monroe P. Killy

Forms part of Monroe P. Killy slide collection, I.69
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. Collection Collection I.69.19
AV1988.49.19

Now I’ll tell you my secret.

I dreamt about the next world. And my spirit went to that place I dreamed of. I would call it “up in the next world.” In Indian it's Ish‑pÍ‑mIng, "upwards," Manidoo, "Creator." Ish‑pI‑mÍng Manidoo wa‑wa‑móáa. Ísh‑pI‑mÍng means up above -- and this one is so high that no living others can get there.

To get there on that dream I fell asleep. And I was dreaming. My dream began -- ba‑wa‑zi‑g^‑n^s dream. When my dream began I thought, "I'm in a different place." I knew I was in a different place! "This is more beautiful than my country! My country is well put up, but this is better." I dream about God, the Manidoo, standing before me opening his hands.

I saw the Great Power of the Creator of this earth. He stands there judging. I saw Him two or three times, standing there judging good or bad. He said He would do that, in his good book: "When I come back to see you I shall judge the way you live."

The bad people, He just discards them. He tells them, "take the other road."

We don't know where that other road goes, but it's not a very good road. It's a short road. People that go down the short road really pass away. They pass away because they don’t believe in the power of the great will of God. They disappear. Ya; they disappear. The guys on the bad road just disappear. You don't know where they go in the next world. That’s the next world. I’d call it “the next world.” This is another world I'm talking about. Another world which will clear‑ify the memory of your dream.

We don't know where they go on that short road but we know the long road is a good way of life. After the Great Manidoo judges, a big gathering goes before the ones now standing there and those already gathered put the new ones away.

I saw a Master there judging, a leader -- and that's the Great Spirit that I shall never see again until the end of my life on this earth. That's the Creator, the God, the Manidoo. He stands there, and He doesn't say anything. He just takes the one and indicates to him, "you take that road," or "you take this road" -- good or bad . . . right, or left. He casts them off in judge‑ment. Some would go this way; some would go that way. Some disappear on the short road; some go on down the long road with the big gathering. Lots of them are on the good road; lots of them are on the bad road. So, He’s judging at the end of the road -- that's the end of the world that we know.

That was the end of the world that I was watching. I was dreaming about the judge‑ment day.

And there was another pure‑ifier up there. Beforehand I dreamt about a guy who came in with the clouds, a messenger.(26) The clouds were rolling around him and there were angels beside him with their horns.(27) The angels stood on each side of the messenger. Just like you see in pictures, they had round faces, and nice and curly hair. It was curly, and they had long hair. Even their long hair was curly. Very well! And they were dressed in pure white . . . pure, pure. They look like women, with golden hair just shining. They wore gowns up to their necks. They were calling the dead -- that's what I figure.

Well, the Great arrived and stopped over my head; that's the Manidoo I’m talking about right now. You could see Him coming from far away. Some people were marching on one side of the Manidoo, and another bunch was marching on the other side. "I come to see you. I come to see you. The earth is coming to the end. The people you see are coming to the end of the world.” He said, "You shall see something." The Great wasn’t talking, but I knew just what he was saying anyway, without Him saying it.

And the earth was rocking this way and rocking that way.

If you're on the long road you're going the right way to get to the next world. When you're still going on the long road the more you go -- and the further you go in a dream -- the closer you'll get to seeing the beautiful flowers!!, and the beautiful place that we call the next world. In Indian we call that Is’h‑pI‑mÍng man‑i‑dú sh/\‑wáy‑nI‑míig. Sh/\‑wáy‑nI‑mÍg . . . and it looks good to you.

The end of that long road is beautiful heaven!! You can also put it way‑kwá‑k /\‑n/\h. That means the end of the road -- and the end of your world. You're done! You made it! It's the next world -- heaven above. It's full of flowers, full of life. It's a beautiful thing. And when you look aside there's nothing but flowers and vegetation that grows. It's a sweet smell. It smells like, well, like roses and different flowers. You can go to find any flowers and they're there. They're beautiful.

Anything that grows on earth is there. Whatever grows on earth is there. Everything that you could see here from the earth went there, into another world and gathered there. It's the same there as here, although I didn't notice any trees. And I never noticed a river either, but I know there was something there like that that they enjoy. All I noticed were the flowers and shrubs, in little bunches here and there. It's beautiful up there!! It's a beautiful world above. You don't have anything with you, anything. And you're just happy.

All the people in the next world are happy!, and they know you. They seem to know you, in my dream. I didn't see many people I knew. They were all dressed the same; ya. They're dressed in white. They're dressed in pure clothing and they're clean, clean with life. I could see people in the whole group dressed in silk, and I imagine it was crochet stuff. And it was beautiful. They knew me. Sure they knew me! But I didn't know them; well, I knew very few of them. They were happy to see me. There were over a thousand people anyhow! And they're all just standing, having a good time. They’re standing around in a bunch and gathering; they were just having a jolly old time!! Ya.

All those people are happy. And they're enjoying their life, probably enjoying it more than the enjoyment in this life. But they aren’t smoking; they're just pure. But some are dancing. Some are singing and dancing. Some were even waltzing. Maybe they’re gathering and having a little feast of food.

They eat fruit up there. But with anything that's growing, it's up to you to pick your fruit. You have to pick it for life, to build your life. Use that and it becomes active before you. They eat fruit, and bread. The bread is the body of what the Creator lived in. "This is my body," He said.

I couldn't say if they go hunting out at the very end of the road. I couldn't see that far. I couldn’t see whether they go hunting or not. What I saw was a bunch, gathering, with a happy life. And they're happy because they're above. They were just standing there having a good time, and they were talking to one another. They were jolly and cheerful. They were in the whole group, a gathering, a crowd. It was a gathering of people and of horses and of animals.

I couldn't see anything on the other side of where this group was. There were so many people that as far as you could see there were people. I didn't go any further than to see that. But I remember one thing: I saw three horses. I didn't like the looks of those horses amongst the people. Horses are a good servant to the people. Horses work hard too. But those horses were just amongst the people. And they're black horses, with one white horse. And they were going back on the road. The horses were going back, it seemed like. And the white horse, he went too. And it seems as though they took the road I was intending to come back on. I remembered that the Great said, "You shall see something." And sure enough, there were the black horses amongst the people.

That was a judge‑ment day. I think I'm going to see it again . . . the end of the world; the judge‑ment day!! I feel it coming. I may be dead too when it happens again. You never can tell, but that's what I’ve seen in my dream . . . twice!

I’ve seen it. My spirit was there. I went to that place, way‑kwá‑k /\‑n/\h. My spirit went to that place. I didn't say anything while I was there, but I just wondered how you get up there. I turned around, and I said, "It's up to me now to get here." To myself, I thought that. I turned around, and then I began to go back. It seemed like I was going low, like it was down. It was like going down a slope. I woke up. I woke up when I got to the gate.

I dreamt that a couple of times. I was eighteen years old when I saw the first one.(28) Then I saw the second one a year ago . . . two years ago. It was the same thing.

That's the dream.

Why?

“Because,” I thought to myself, "I was thinking of that all the time.” And that's why I'm trying to live the best I could, so I could receive the blessing of the Creator. "Oh!, it is true," I began to think, "there is a God that has a better place than we live in now! But we have to earn it by following the truth of life.”

It was just like real. It wasn’t a long dream. It isn’t a long dream. It’s a short dream. A short dream is more to think about, and you can remember all the things that you dream about. If you get too big of a dream -- a long dream -- there’s only spots that you remember.

And when I woke up I laid there. I thought about it.

"Thank you," I said.

Later on I told the people of my dream that the horses were amongst the people. And they were black horses, so I told a friend, "They were black horses; it isn't good."

The black horse means that there is a warning before you. And that means that I have to change for a stronger will power to believe in the Great Spirit.

I wanted to stay up in that next world, but I was unfinished here. The great willpower of my spirit takes care of me to tell the message, to tell what I dream about, to tell how great it is above in the next world. And that's why I tell this about my dreams. No one told me that I should come back and tell this. No, I turned around myself. But I knew when I turned around that I didn't finish telling about my way of life. It came natural to me to know in that way, just by the way I live on earth. I felt the people up there were telling me, “He shall let you live in a good life. He shall let you see the whole length of your life. He shall let you live a good life until you get old.” They didn’t talk like that but I felt that’s what they were telling me. It comes natural to me to understand like that. And it seems as though the Great Power Himself was saying, "You know you are to go back." He didn't say that, but I knew I wasn't done. He didn't "say" much else.

That was about two years ago.

I have to do a lot of things. I have to preach to others the good will of the Great Spirit. I have to preach about what He has done for you. He gave you the land and water to live on, and your body movement. And your health is a great movement to work with.

When my work is done I go to another place and it’s all the same as what I have seen. When my work is done here I’ll try to walk on into that group of people that my spirit visited. But to do that I'll have to live a good way. I don't know what they'll say when I get there. That remains to be seen again. I think, I think I'll get repaid. They'll pay for what good you do. It's a beautiful place.

But maybe there's something that holds you back. When there’s something that holds you back, you're not done. You have to get clear‑i‑fied to get into the next world. If you're weak, you are suffering as a punishment. When you're punished you suffer so long, and that pure‑ifies you. And if you have to go to clear‑ify your spirit some more they have to heat you up.(29) I believe in the Judge heating you up. He'll pure‑ify you that way. He heats you up with fire. Fire is not good to dream about neither. But with fire you’re pure‑ified. And then He takes you -- when you're pure‑ified.

When you're all done it will be signified; maybe it's a weakness and it's a sickness that might set in before that. And that maybe part of the pure‑ifying. And maybe if I'm too sick to live, I'll decide it. I'll tell God to take me. I'll tell God, “I think I’m ready.”

A lot of people suffer so much they want to die.

Why?

I know they could see a better place to be with their ailment than to suffer on earth. Some of them give up. Some of them do that; ya!

And some of them suffer on account of the pollution that's coming in with the newcomers. All these comers have a different idea about the land and the water and the air we breathe. They all come from a different country with their own belief. And they come to this country and interfere with our own belief, with the Great who gave us this and who pure‑ified this state and union.

Now-a-days they ask me about leisure homes.(30) Leisure homes aren't very good. Oh!! I don't like leisure homes because . . . you know why? You hear so many points against the rules and regulations. Maybe you hear so much about rules and you get tired. Maybe you hear so much about regulations. Then that worries your body movement and it worries your spirit. You hear so much stuff about rules and regulations that you are willing to go on to the next world.

If somebody put me in the leisure home I'd want to go before the judge of the leisure. I'd want to talk to him. "Are you going to make my life better?" That's the big question I'm going to ask. "Or are you going to put me down and keep my mouth shut, until you are ready to feed me food and everything?"

I wouldn't do anything. I'd rather just talk to him and ask him why he wants to have me in that home.

I often thought of it, about what would happen if I go in the leisure home. I have some more to do because I am able. Now I'm earning my food myself. It's there if I hunt it. The country is full of fruit and meat and everything, but it's up to me to get it. And that's the way a lot of people who went ahead before did it.

But if I'm not able, I might have to stay there in the leisure home. Well, if I’m not able, then I'm not able; and I'll be getting there. Most everybody else will get there too . . . sooner or later.

There is nothing against that leisure home, but I believe so strong that the willpower of my Great Spirit will help me that I really don’t concern myself too much about it . . . at this time. Either way He'll help me, help me to stay there and rest, or help me to stay out and do some more work.

You hear about old people trying to walk on . . . on their own, but I never really thought about that -- about taking my life on my own hands; I'm waiting until my Creator takes me on His own. But to tell you the truth, when my time is up I would rather walk out and sit in the middle of the woods than finish off by resting up in the leisure home. You see, I know one Indian who ran away from a leisure home in my area. He’s my brother-in-law. He’s a full-blood Indian. And he's a real Indian.(31) I said, "What did you run away from Grand Rapids for? That's a good home."

They searched all over, but they couldn't find him. You know Jim Mitchell. When they found him he was sitting by the highway on the big log. He had a little stick and he was signing those Indian songs . . . slowly, you know. You know how they sing like that.(32)

He’d sing and then he'd look around. He'd look at the vegetation and the timber and everything.

"Oh, what great country," he’d say.

But he was getting old. He was ready to go. I don't know why, but he gave up himself. I said, "Why did you give up yourself, Jim? Why? Why did you give up?"

"Educational are coming in. They don't want to hear the Indian."

What Jim was talking about was that in this country, the way it is, a lot of people don't believe in anything. They don't believe in words. They don’t believe in the Great Spirit and they don’t even believe in their own jichaag. They don't take time to study things. Now life is too fast, too high speed, with high power, high life. It's too fast, too high stream. There's too much elevation,(33) regulation, dictation.

At that time, when he was talking, I felt like the Indian was going to be discriminated -- and we are now, in places. The educational don't want to hear about our country because we're so slow to learn here.(34) But we know how to live here.

The Creator put us here and told us the way we should live. Don't step over the Creator. Don't think that you know better with your educational meaning of a way of life, because it might start the revolution, a revolution against one another. They've tried time and again to change the Indian, but the Indian was always at home in his own country.

We don't look around for trouble, but the trouble is here. If we can clarify our own trouble, then we're doing a good job. We should clarify the good points and the bad points. When the good points are clarified, the bad points of view are the ones you should speak about. But do not speak about them direct to any one person; no; but let him hear what you have to say, so he'll understand that you have lived a life.



So where am I going from here, at my age?

At my age I'm looking forward to another land. I am. A lot of people will be thinking of my words and they'll start to feel that it's so.

It's so.

We live in this world, for a long time, or maybe for a short period.

What happens if we live in a short period?

If our life is short we didn't do what's right, and there's a judge‑ment on that. There's a limit to the bad one can do. When you do not try to understand, there's a weakness. And your life is shortened.

But there's a very, very long‑range program to study if you want to take that road. But take it slow. That's why I often say, "Stop. Look. And listen; LISTEN!" You'll see it. This world is just like a. . . . The way I'll put it is. . . .

I was a young fellow and I lived a long, long life. Everything went along good. I thank the Great Spirit that I think I have it in me . . . power.(35) I carried it in me. It was in me. And I know it was by me. Whenever I looked, things looked good.

But I know hardship too. I saw some rough spots; yes. They were very rough. I heard of rough stories, and sometimes I cast my will with the rough stories. But I learned, by watching and by listening, and now I share, with my will, with my Great Spirit. I share my spirit onto them that's having hardship. I hope my spirit will help.

I say to my spirit, "Go onto them. Help them."

That's a big thing!

That’s a big thing when I send my spirit to help.

There are a lot of things we have to understand in this world. And this is a big world. . . .

I'm going a little too far with the points, but this is a big world.

At my age . . . at my age . . . I'm preparing. I'm preparing to leave something for the next generation, the younger class. I'm leaving something that they could read upon. Maybe someday the younger class will do it better than I did. I didn't have a chance for a better education. My eyes bothered me. I could have been better educated now if my eyes were true. But in those days I was reckless with my eyes.(36) That's my fault of that.

This is all true. That's why I'm here sitting here with you telling you this. Something has to be done to make it clear to the younger class that we don't want them to be overthrowed. There's things they have to look upon. They have to listen to their father and mother, and grand folks. Then they have to weed out and keep the best of what they hear. When you weed out and keep the best then you have something in your hand for the next world.

It's like picking flowers, pretty flowers. And the flower is a good word that my folks left, that I pass on. And the best flowers are going to be with you in the next world, in your hand.

Ya, in your hand.



While the priest was talking at my friend Joe’s funeral,(37) I was thinking about my mother. And about her words, and about how wonderful they are. . . . And I was also thinking that it is time to pass them on.

Now . . . I’m done.

Father Anthanase gave Joe a wonderful send-off sermon at the funeral. . . . That’s what I’m told.(38)


Indian graves, Cass Lake, Leech Lake Reservation, ca. 1920.

Indian graves, Cass Lake, Leech Lake Reservation, ca. 1920.

Photograph Collection, Postcard ca. 1920
  Collections Online
  Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. E97.37 r118


Footnotes



1. Cf., Ch. 16, “River Life and Fishing,” Ch. 36, “Jack Nason, My Dad, My Step-Dad,” and Ch. 39, “Leech and Mississippi Forks.”

2. Church hymns translated into the Ojibwe language have been around for a long time. Cf., Densmore 1910 and 1913, and Hulbert, 1846.

3. Cf., Ch. 27, “Power.”

4. Cf., Ch. 33, “Messengers and Unusual Events,” and Ch. 34, "Fireballs, and the 'Black-Shadow-Man.'"

5. Advisors to leaders and advisors in councils, often called "advisory Indians," are traditionally a very important part of all aspects of life. Advisory Indians, for example, in addition to being advisors, are highly sought after to be namesakes to children. An advisory Indian is "one who is recognized as a good, powerful, important, well-respected person in the community, one to whom people turn for advice and counsel." Male advisory Indians all "had proven themselves as advisors when they were scouts." And old people in general "are good advisory." As Paul says in Ch. 46, "good advisory is another wonderful thing." In the spiritual realm certain spirits can have "a great advisory post" in the same sense that they inform and direct and guide what other spirits do, including both the spirits of people on earth and the spirits of those in the next world -- even including the Great Spirit Himself. Cf. Ch. 2, "Bena Childhood," Ch. 5, "Chiefs and Councils," and Ch. 11, "Campfire Talks."

6. Paul prefers the phrase "internal happiness" to "eternal happiness." His perception is that "internal happiness" is automatically "eternal," given his conception of "the next world" and his understanding of "happiness," and that one essentially cannot have "eternal happiness" without first having "internal happiness." Paul would likely consider a phrase like "eternal internal happiness" to be redundant.

7. "Venial sin" and "mortal sin" are concepts popular in the Roman Catholic Church. Much has been written about these matters there. In essence, "mortal sin" is a grave offense leading one to eternal damnation if left unrepented. "Venial" sin is a lesser, albeit serious, offense.

8. In the Roman Catholic Church the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, also known more commonly as "Confession" or "Penance," can be employed by the penitent to "absolve" one's sins. "Confession" is one of seven Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church "in which the faithful obtain absolution for the sins committed against God and neighbor and are reconciled with the community of the Church. . . . By this sacrament Christians believe they are freed from sins committed after Baptism." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1422, §1446.) Penitents "confess" their sins to a priest and, if certain conditions are met, the sins are absolved or "forgiven" (by God, not the priest, as Paul points out). One of the conditions is that the penitent firmly and genuinely resolves not to commit the sin(s) again. Paul had strong feelings about "Confession." He comments, in Ch. 44: "But I don't believe in going to tell a certain man my sins. The Indian believes you can go out alone and confess them sins, and leave them there. You can just say that: 'I'm gonna try for the better.' God says, 'Wherever you believe in Me, I hear you. Anywhere you speak to Me, I'll hear you.' You don't have to go to the next man. You don't have to dress good and have a nice car and a nice hat." And in Ch. 40, Paul notes: "You don't have to go to confession [to another person]. You confess to your own self. You confessed to Him [the Great Spirit], because whoever is the Master is here. That Master's here. Between you and me, He heard every word I said. He knows everything I do. You cannot fool Him. Nobody can. Whatever he says goes. That is the Great Master of all, Manidoo, Manidoo. That's God."

Paul was particularly annoyed, as are many people, by individuals going to "Confession" and then "coming right out of the church" and repeating the sin(s) they just confessed. From Ch. 11, Footnote #18: "This statement, You don't have to tell anyone else,' is a reference to a 'sore point' with Paul Buffalo (and many other traditional peoples who practice aspects of 'Indian Religion'), namely the requirement of the Roman Catholic Church to confess one's sins to a priest -- another human being. In other places in Paul's narrative -- and often in real life when talking about the problems he has with the Roman Catholic Church -- Paul brings up the fact that one does not need to -- and should not have to -- confess one's sins to another person. All that is required, according to Paul's belief, is to admit one's faults to oneself and to one's Spirit -- that is, to confess directly to the Divine. But having said that, it is very important that one straightforwardly admits one's faults and shortcomings to one's self and to one's spirit. Paul had on many occasions over the years discussed this point with the various priests assigned to the Ball Club Catholic Mission . . . and, in a nutshell, neither the priests nor Paul changed their respective perspectives on the issue, including the question of who, in the end, could 'forgive sins.' It is interesting to note that this point has also been argued by Church theologians since the third century a.d., with many Church 'fathers' supporting what is essentially Paul's position." Cf., Ch. 11, "Campfire Talks," Ch. 44, "Churches and Missionaries," and Ch. 40, "John Smith 'Wrinkle Meat.'"

9. Your jichaag intends/hopes to guide the way you think in order to guide the way you act and perceive things.

10. Totem groups or dodaim are kin groups, or clans (gens), usually identifying with an ancestral animal protector who also serves as a favorite protective spirit patron. Dodaim members do not hunt, kill, or eat their protective animal. Chippewa consider Dodaim dreams, symbols, tokens, and/or parts most sacred. Early Chippewa legends include five totem groups, but by the middle of the nineteenth century the list of clans identified by a totem had grown to twenty-one. Totems were occasionally non-animals. See Densmore, 1929, pp. 9-10; Jones, 1861, pp. 138-139; Sommer, 1976; Warren, 1885, Ch. 2; and Winchell, 1911, Part 7, Ch. 8.

11. Cf., Ch. 33, "Messengers and Unusual Events."

12. The term “Medicine Man” is not a preferred term, but, as Paul says, “If I don’t use that term the whites will not know what I’m talking about.” Cf., Ch. 32, “Medicine Men / Medicine Women,” and Ch. 29, “Midewiwin: Grand Medicine.”

13. Cf., Ch. 34, "Fireballs, and the 'Black-Shadow-Man.'"

14. Cf., Ch. 38, “Timber Days.”

15. Cf., Ch. 39, “Leech and Mississippi Forks.”

16. "The spirit is off in the field" means that the spirit is off roaming around, visiting here and there, checking on this and that. It does not mean that it is off in a particular field somewhere.

17. The soil is very sandy around that area, hence the references to sand and sandy soil.

18. For more information on interpreting the road of life see Ch. 30, "An Indian Curing Ceremony."

19. Her husband, Jack Nason, died. Cf., Ch. 36, "Jack Nason, 'My Dad. My Step-Dad.'"

20. Until the early 1970s the State of Minnesota set hunting, fishing, and trapping seasons and regulations that it contended applied to Indian peoples living on Indian lands within the borders of the State, and the State enforced those season and possession laws. During the time the State of Minnesota did not recognize the rights of tribal members to hunt and fish on tribal territory individuals felt they needed to be secretive about hunting and fishing "out of season" and when "poaching deer," hence Paul's mother's observations that, "You have to compete with the law. We don’t have a chance to go out there and get it. I'm starving for some wild game." As mentioned in Ch. 45, footnote #28, Paul was once arrested by a State of Minnesota conservation officer for "attempting to fish without a license." The contention by the State of Minnesota that tribal members needed to observe seasons and seasonal rules was officially nullified in 1972: "In 1972 the Leech Lake Band was successful in asserting their right to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice free of state regulation on the Leech Lake Reservation." (Minnesota State Senate. Accessed 1 October 2018. https://www.senate.mn/departments/scr/report/bands/Wildlife.htm.) Hunting methods varied early on "in season," and after 1972. Cf., Ch. 45, "Treaties, Allotments, and Self-Government," and Ch. 42, "Hunting and Snaring."

21. Referring to an elder of those senior generations as "typical" or "standard" is intended to be a great compliment to them, a statement of admiration to them for continuing and maintaining their traditional ways of life. The same is true about saying someone of that generation is a "real Indian" (Cf., Footnote #31 below).

22. Cf., Ch. 32, "Medicine Men / Medicine Women," and "Introduction."

23. Cf., Ch. 36, “Jack Nason, My Dad, My Step-Dad.”

24. Paul is comparing the U.S. Apollo Program which went to the moon (1969-1972) with the biblical story of building the Tower of Babel. He considers both were attempts to try to get to heaven in unorthodox ways.

25. Cf., Ch. 28, “What’s Behind the Sun?: An Indian Sermon.”

26. Cf., Ch. 33, “Messengers and Unusual Events.”

27. Paul is referring to the musical instruments, the trumpets that angels are often depicted playing. The imagery comes from the Seven Trumpets mentioned in the Book of Revelations of the Christian Bible. Cf., angel imagery at the very beginning of this chapter, with the angels joining in singing hymns at "Old John S. Smith's" mother's wake, which Paul concluded were spirits, not angels: "I think what they called 'angels' up there at Old John’s mother’s wake were what the Great Spirit sent down to help us: they were spirits, spirits that had a great advisory post."

28. It is interesting in that the first occurrence of the dream is said to have happened at a time in Paul's life when he really began to pick up an active interest in traditional Indian Religion. These two instances, according to Paul, were almost sixty years apart (ca.1918 and ca.1975).

29. If you need more pure‑ification or clarify‑ing you need to spend more time in Purgatory, where they "heat you up" with fire. Then after you are pure‑ified you are taken on into the next world (heaven). Sickness and weakness could also be a part of the pure‑ification process, and that takes place in this world.

30. Paul prefers the term "leisure home" when he is talking about a nursing home, old age home, rest home, old folks’ home, or independent-living facility.

31. He’s a traditional Indian, who, for example speaks the Indian language as his preferred language, and follows traditional beliefs and practices. Much like "standard" and "typical" (see Footnote #21 above) saying someone of that generation is a "real Indian" is intended to be a great compliment.

32. When people sing traditional songs like that the spirits of those who have gone on to the next world listen up and often come back and join in. This is especially true with singers who have a lot of power and who are walking on a straight road of life. A traditional individual singing these songs, meditating and contemplating, draws spirits in much like the songs sung at a powwow draw spirits in. As Paul mentions in Ch. 23, "At the powwow we sing songs for the life of the spirits of the dead who are gone. And when we sing those songs, they'll be here. These songs bring them back to the circle. And bringing back somebody makes them feel good. To remember -- to remember by casting the memory at the deceased -- makes those who are gone feel good because they realize that they're not forgotten. Those who have lived in the past are not forgotten, and they never will be. Their spirits come back to the powwow when we sing songs for them. You can not see them, but you feel good to know that they are there. The song that you do for them [at a powwow] is called tchi-báy-ni-g^-mo-wI'd. That's a ghost dance, a spirit dance." And in the context of what is sometimes (erroneously) called a "death chant" in English (which is what Paul is talking about here with his brother-in-law, Jim Mitchell), those spirits that come back and join in . . . and feel good because the singer has "cast a memory" at them and they are not forgotten . . . are some of the very same spirits that the singer's spirit seeks (or will seek) to help him journey to the next world. And when the spirits from the next world have thus assembled, the singer's spirit talks to them and, presumably, when it is time, his spirit tells them that he is ready to walk on and would like their help. Cf., "Ch. 23, "Niimi'idiwin: 'Come and Dance, Come and Sing--Living and Spirits Alike,'" Ch. 27, "Power," and the discussions above in this chapter.

33. "Elevation" is putting oneself above others, thinking that in some way you are better than others.

34. It takes such a long time for people to learn, to change, and to “get things done.” This does not relate to the ability to learn but simply to the speed at which things are adopted and done.

35. Cf., Ch. 27, “Power

36. Cf., Ch. 35, “Boarding School Days.”

37. Cf., very beginning of Ch. 1, "Early Life at Leech Lake."

38. Paul's story returns to where it begins . . . and the circle of life continues . . .

Medicine Circle with Four Halves.

Post script: In his last days on this earth Paul spent a peaceful short time at the leisure home in Deer River. Not too long after he recorded the last of his messages while on a visit to Duluth, and announced, "Now I'm done," he returned home and, he told me when I visited there, he turned in his medications to the front desk at the home. He said they made him sign a paper when he did that, but he wasn't sure why. A few days later Paul walked out and walked on, no doubt "talking" in the great, wonderful, beautiful outdoors with jichaag Buffalo, all the while visiting with the trees and animals he loved so long and so well, just two miles from White Oak Point where he was born (the second time).


 Paul Buffalo's grave Marker, Ball Club, MN


Saint Joseph's Cemetery
Ball Club, Itasca County, Minnesota, USA
  Memorial ID 153347633
 Find A Grave

Ojibwe beaded medallion, Blackduck, MN, ca. 1900.

Ojibwe glass-beaded medallion with "black bead," Blackduck, MN, ca. 1900.

3-3/4 X 3-5/8 inches

3D Objects ca. 1900
Collected by: Trebby, Mrs. Mary J
Minnesota Historical Society
9898.6 (Accession Number)
10325986.640x640.jpg

Ojibwe glass-beaded leather drawstring bag with "black bead," ca. 1900.

Ojibwe glass-beaded leather drawstring bag with "black bead," ca. 1900.

4-21/64 X 1-7/8 inches

3D Objects ca. 1900
Minnesota Historical Society
8034.16 (Accession Number)
10322510.640x640.jpg
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