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When Everybody Called Me Gabe-bines,

Teachings from Paul Buffalo

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

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"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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Peter Graves

20 May 1872 - 14 March 1957

Peter Graves, Red Lake Band of Chippewas Tribal Chief.
Photograph Collection 1950
Visual Resources Database
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. E97.1G p2 Negative no. 12258

Geneology of Peter Shahgaunaush Nahzhuckkegwonab GRAVES


Red Lake Indian Reservation
Red Lake Nation

Paul Buffalo, Ch. 50, "New White World . . ."

Historical Review of the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
Bemidji, MN:  General Council of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the Beltrami County Historical Society,  1957.
Beltrami County Historical Society

"A Biography of Peter Graves," follows, from Mittelholtz, 1957, pp. 110-111. Erwin F. Mittelholtz was Supervisor-Counselor of the Red Lake Public Schools, Redlake, Minnesota, and also President of the Beltrami County Historical Society.


BORN: May 20, 1872             DIED: March 14, 1957


"Peter Graves (sometimes called 'Chief') was perhaps one of the greatest leaders and spokesmen that the Chippewas of the Red Lake Indian Reservation will ever know or remember. He ruled firmly, sometimes with an iron hand, yet he was a statesman and guardian for the rights and protection of the Red Lake Chippewa Indians for more than half a century. In all, he gave over 65 years of rewarding service to the cause and betterment of the Minnesota Chippewas through his leadership and guidance."

"Born at Red Lake, Minnesota on May 20, 1872, [another source says May 10, 1870] he spent much of his early life there and attended the Boarding school built in 1877 to get some of his early elementary education. Completing grade school, he worked on a farm and then in 1884, at the age of 13, he was sent to Jubille College (secretarial school) in Dubee County close to Peoria, Illinois. After a short stay there of about 10 months, he was transferred to Philadelphia where he attended the Lincoln Institute and graduated with the class of 1889. For some time he played professional baseball with the Old Middle States League in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. He was offered a chance to attend Princeton but he turned it down when he found that they wanted him chiefly for baseball. Rounding out his education, he learned to do carpentry and also cigar making."

"Returning to Red Lake, Peter spent some time working in the logging camps that were beginning to operate in the 1890's. There was some cutting of 'dead and down' timber on the reservation as well as some pine off the reservation. Most of this timber was boomed and towed across Red Lake and sent down the Red Lake river to St. Hilaire and Crookston. Steam boats and tugs were operating on Red Lake in the 1890's."

"When the old Boarding school was in operation in the 1890's some employees were hired. Peter became the janitor and disciplinarian about the year 1896 to 1898. It was a conmmon practice in those days to have a disciplinarian to handle the problems of the Indian Boarding school children in their adjustment and the more serious problems of those that wanted to run away."

"In 1899, Peter Graves was sent to Washington with a delegation of Red Lake Indians. He was not only a delegate but also acted as the interpreter. He had been appointed interpreter for the Red Lake Agency by Captain Mercer of the Leech Lake Agency, thus, a government employee."

"In the early 1900's, Peter Graves was appointed Chief of Police for Red Lake. In 1901 he was appointed postmaster on April 30 and continued for a few years."

"As Chief of Police, Peter had a difficult time suppressing the liquor traffic on the reservation and in preserving law and order. He had been opposed to liquor entering the reservation or 'Indian Country' and had to put many in jail. He would often remark in disgust, 'All our trouble comes from this liquor.'"

"After being in the Indian service at Red Lake for some time, he was appointed assistant clerk at Onigum, a branch of the Leech Lake Agency. He remained here for several years. He resigned in 1918 from the Indian Service unselfishly to devote all his time and energy to help the Red Lake Indians in opposing the claims of the Minnesota Chippewas against the Red Lake bands as a lawsuit was pending at that time in Congress. Through his leadership, he helped the Red Lake Indians to save some ten million dollars on the diminished Red Lake Indian Reservation and also helped to preserve the reservation solely for the Red Lake Indians by not permitting allotments to be taken. The reservation is now held in trust for all Red Lake Indians so long as the Tribal Council wishes it to be kept that way. 'We want this Reservation protected for our children and our grandchildren,' Peter would often say in a firm tone."

"On April 13, 1918, Peter Graves successfully organized the General Council of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and was its first treasurer. From 1920 until his death, he held the position of secretary-treasurer. In 1929, he was elected secretary and a director of the Red Lake Fisheries Association at Redby. From 1936 to 1943, he served as appointed Judge of the Court of Indian Offences and was known widely for his justice, fairness, and judgment in all cases coming before the court."

"Because of his leadership and accomplishments among the Indian people that he served, he was awarded the 1940 Indian Achievement Medal of the Indian Council Fire at Chicago, Illinois."

"In 1891, Peter Graves married Mary Fairbanks. She was born in Red Lake on March 10, 1875 and died in 1912. Four children surviving are Joseph, Isabelle (Strong), Alice (Mrs. Charles P. Beaulieu), and Rose Graves. In 1915, Peter married Susan Wright and the children are Clyde, Amy (Mrs. Alvin Oliver), Mildred (Mrs. Richard Auginash), Doris (Mrs. Carl Carlson), Mary (Mrs. Fred Petite), and Maude (Mrs. Francis Duhaime). At the time of Peter's death, there were 51 grandchildren and 76 great grandchildren."

"Peter Graves passed away about 7 P.M. on March 14, 1957 and is buried in the Red Lake Episcopal Cemetery beneath a row of sheltering pines. He has vowed to preserve the heritage of the Red Lake Indians even after death."

"Joseph Graves has been chosen by the Indian people of Red Lake and by the Council to succeed Peter Graves. He will act as chairman of the Tribal Council and Rose Graves as secretary-treasurer."

Source: Mittelholtz, Erwin F. (Ed.) Historical Review of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, Redlake, Minnesota: a History of its People and Progress. Rose Graves, tribal editor. Bemidji, MN: General Council of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the Beltrami County Historical Society, 1957. Accessed 12 November 2018.

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