The child believed, "who died?"

Mr. LaBelle talks about his experiences growing up.

Audio Chapters

DL: Did your family celebrate the holidays? EL: Yes we did. Yes we did because of my father. I still do. I keep my Christmas cards up all year. I get new ones and put those away and put the other ones up. I’m between Christianity and Dakota spirituality. I think they’re similar, they’re very much similar. We all believe in the same God. It’s a higher power and it’s good. As we say, “waste,” or “good” or “lila waste,”very good indeed. DL: Who taught you the most about being Dakota? EL: I guess I taught myself, with all the reading I did. When I was younger, I did speak to my grandfather but he didn’t [speak] too much English. I’d have to listen real hard and try to figure out what he was talking about. My grandfather Baptiste, he was a… I would say he was more of a progressive type of person. He never went to school. He never had an education but at one time he had a lot of money. He was a farmer. He raised his own horses. He raised his own crops. I think at one time he had the first threshing machine in Roberts County. We had a crew of probably 20 or 30 guys and he would travel around with these Indians and this threshing machine. It had a boiler that they had to take with them that they would feed wood in to keep the threshing machine running. He’d go to different counties and I think probably he did go all the way up into Canada to do this to help the farmers thresh their wheat. That was another thing. Back then wheat farmers during the harvest… DL: We’re back after a short break. Ed’s wife Shirley returned home. Ed was talking about farmers during the harvest when we left off. Now he just mentioned that his father was in the First World War but why don’t we talk about farmers first. EL: Well like I said my grandfather had that threshing machine and he did make some money doing that. Then his first wife passed away in 1905 and he married a woman named Katherine LaCroix. As a matter of fact, she attended Carlisle Indian Boarding School. She was pretty well educated in [Carlisle], Pennsylvania. That was one of the first boarding schools created after the Civil War. The brought children from all over the country there from different tribes. I have mixed feelings about boarding schools. It was the right thing to do. It introduced natives to civilization and things of that sort. It taught them how to read, how to act in public, but it took away spirituality. And the way they did it. They took young children 8, 9, 10 year olds away from the home for nine months of the year. Culturally, that was a bad thing to do with children because of the [cohesiveness] of the family. In our culture, family is everything. It’s called Tiospaye, extended family or immediate family. To take a child out of a family and put it in a boarding school and expect them to learn something. They were culturally not prepared to do [that]. It was a very hard thing to do. A lot of the children died in these boarding schools from disease, home sickness. One of the first things they did when they arrived at these boarding schools was they cut the hair of the little children. They went up, the child started crying; give them a piece of candy. Indian children never had candy. They didn’t know what it was but it was sweet. It pacified them. But cutting the hair in our culture is a sign that someone in the family had died. We never cut our hair unless someone dies. The child believed, who died? Was it my mother, my father, my sister? That made it even more difficult for these children to explain. Like I said, boarding schools were good to an extent but

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. The child believed, "who died?" August 20, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/2198

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