"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.
A BIOGRAPHY OF PETER GRAVES
BORN: May 20, 1872 DIED:
March 14, 1957
By ERWIN F. MITTELHOLTZ
"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
"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
"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."