Stillday’s bear

Since I started work at the Pioneer newspaper in 2000, I have traveled to the Red Lake Nation many times. A couple of times I have seen bears in the distance.

Last week I drove up to Ponemah to pay my respects to Larry Stillday and his family and friends after his unexpected death. I missed the funeral but was able to express my condolences to his widow, Violet, and tell her how it was an honor to know such a wise and compassionate man.

On the way home, driving south on the Indian highway that turns into Beltrami County 15, a bear was sitting in the ditch. I stopped my car and rolled down the window. The bear, a young female, I think, came up out of the ditch to the edge of the road but got shy when I aimed my camera. It’s always a treat to meet a bear, exept when on horseback (making both me and my mount nervous) but meeting a bear after viewing Larry on his way on the Red Road, the bear seemed significant.

Larry was a member of the Bear Clan. Maybe the bear came out to see him on his way and pay its respects, too.

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Sacred journey to Dakota holy sites

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs sings a Dakota morninng song at the Dakota graveyard on Pilot’s Knob

Thirty-nine people, mostly from southern Minnesota, but four of us from Bemidji, traveled to the Twin Cities May 10 for a spiritual tour of three sites sacred to the Dakota people. The trip was a prelude to and preparation for the United Methodist Church’s Act of Repentance for injustices to Native Americans by the majority society. The leader was Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, a Presbyterian minister at Church of All Nations and a member of the Mohican Nation. Bob Klanderud, a Dakota educator, was also expected to take part, but his mother had just died and he couldn’t make it.

Our first stop was Mini Owe Sini (Coldwater Spring). This is a natural spring tucked in Minnesota’s frist national park just east of Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis. In the past, the site was owned by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, which erected several buildings and closed the area to the public, including the Dakota people who had for generations fetched water from the spring for sacred ceremonies.

A Dakota creation story holds that before the beginning of time, people lived in the Underworld and all their needs were supplied to them with no effort on their part. Then the Trickster told the people of the beauty of the world above and convinced one family to venture out of the Underworld. The Trickster spoke the truth about the beauty of the world, but didn’t mention how hard people have to work here to make a living. The entry to the world by the first Dakota family was through the spring, which is part of Bedote, the center of the traditional Dakota territory.

The spring, which produces between 100,000 and 144,000 gallons of water per day, became the water supply for Fort Snelling

Our next stop was Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan at Fort Snelling to put down tobacco and pray at the site of what is now referred to as the concentration camp where 1,700 women, children and old men were kept in a fenced area. After the six-week Dakota-U.S. war in August and September, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged and hundreds of others were imprisoned in federal penitentiaries in Davenport, Iowa, and Leavenworth, Kansas. No one knows exactly how many people died as a result of the war, but the estimate is 400 settlers, 200 soldiers and 200 Dakota men.

When the men were apprehended and imprisoned or hanged, the women, children and old men camped in western Minnesota under a bluff. The settlers’ hatred of the Dakota was so great, that they would perch atop the bluff and shoot randomly into the tepees below. The U.S. government, with the idea of protecting these people, marched them 150 miles to Fort Snelling in November 1862. They were confined to a guarded camp where 300 died during the ensuing winter and about the same number died later of the effects of living in the camp.The next year they were deported by steamboat up the Missouri River to Crow Creek, Dakota Territory. That removal was the order of Gov. Alexander Ramsey who decreed that no Dakotas could reside in Minnesota.

Every other year, Dakota women reenact the march to Fort Snelling setting up stakes every mile with names of those who died during the confinement at Fort Snelling.

The last stop was at Oheyawahi, translated something like “the place where many people visit,” known to the majority culture as Pilot’s Knob above the Mississippi River. River pilots used the hill as a landmark as they approached the city. Gen. Seth Eastman, commander of Fort Snelling starting in 1830 and a recorder of Native American life, wrote of seeing all the “Dakota dead” on Pilot Knob. The Dakota laid their dead on scaffolds for a year before burying the remains. Pilot Knob was, therefore, a large cemetery of unmarked graves.

To obtain fill for building the highway system around Minneapolis, about 25 feet of earth was removed from Pilot’s Knob. The digging unearthed Dakota remains, which were stored in a shed on the site. In 2009, a development company received permits to build condos on Pilot’s Knob. Protests from citizens groups, along with the tanking economy, squelched to project. Pilot Knob’s 23 acres are now protected in a public trust.

Those making these Sacred Journeys were not tourists, but people sincere in learning both history and the emotions attached to various sites by Dakota people.

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One memory of Doug Peterson

Doug Peterson died last week and was laid to rest on Monday. I shared with a few people a fond, funny memory I have of him when he was mayor and I was covering Bemidji City Council as a reporter for the Pioneer.
Doug was a salesman for the Little Falls Granite Company, a gravestone manufacturer. Our beloved Lab Hank had died and I asked if Little Falls Granite could carve the dog’s name on a granite boulder from our pasture. Doug said sure and offered the price of $5 per letter – $20 for a memorial stone to a dog. I brought the pink granite boulder, about the size of a basketball, to City Council and Doug put it in his car. He returned the stone with nice lettering a couple of weeks later. However, he didn’t give it to me directly.
One of the councilmen at that time was Hank Moel. He always arrive at City Hall a few minutes late because he didn’t get off work early. The day Doug returned with the carved dog memorial, he placed it on Concilman Moen’s desk with the lettering facing his chair. Moen came in, sat down looked at the gravestone with his name on it and said in a worried voice, “What’s this about?”

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Spring cleaning

Today, April 23, Doug and I cleaned out the chicken house – I shoveled and Doug wheeled the litter to the current compost pile in six cartloads. First, I lured the chickens out with cut up chunks of withered winter squash, Yum, they said. In fact, they’re so used to getting treats, they get excited every time I come out on the back deck. Then we shut their ramp door and began shoveling. We use a deep litter method of chicken bedding. We lay down about six inches of shavings after the October cleaning and keep adding shavings all winter long. The result is about two feet of bedding, a dry surface for the chickies to walk on and no smell. In winter, I also open their ramp door when the weather is in the upper teens – not often enough this winter – and let them out to play. They won’t walk on snow, but I spread straw on top of each additional snowfall. So, the insulation means there is still a solid ice layer under the straw. I have a heater inside to keep the water thawed and the eggs from freezing, but I have to crack a window a few inches so the humidity doesn’t make the birds feel damp.
But now the bedding is lovely and fresh. The tub in the chicken yard is their dust bowl for bathing. I’ve never had parasites because the chickens dust themselves with diatomacious earth.

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Beilieve in spring

Although the snowdrift on the driveway garden is still about 4 feet tall, look closely and you can see a tiny rhubarb leaf inching out of a plant breaking dormancy. The snow drift developed as we snowblew and neighbors plowed the driveway, depositing the excess accumulations on the garden. The snow is mostly melted off the open areas, but its sticking around in the woods and on the north sides of buildings. I hope this is the end of winter. I have cole crops and basil started under lights. They’ll want to go outside in a week or two. I have a plastic cold frame for them and then into the gardens.

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Family circuit

A A trip to the south is a good way to shorten winter for us northern Minnesotans. Doug and I took off the first couple of weeks of February, but not to Arizona or Texas. We started the trip with an overnight at Phoebe and Dave’s home in Mora, Minn. to drop off the dog, Spirit.
That leg of the trip was fraught with problems. Two days before, I hung the van up on a snowdrift and had to call our local towman to pull it out. He didn’t have good enough traction with the tow truck, so he had to winch the vehicle to the road. I detected a different noise immediately upon rescue, but decided it was minor. On the way to Mora, at about Big Sandy Lake, the noise became more pronounced and was accompanied by a bad vibration. By McGregor, it had turned into a loud grating sound along with a howl. We called AAA whose dispatcher said the truck would be coming from Finlayson and arrive in about one hour. I took a stroll around Mark’s Bar parking lot where we had holed up. Within a few minutes Dave, the tower, showed up asking if I were Molly. Turns out, he was returning from another tow and had stopped at the McGregor Dairy Queen – a block or so from Mark’s – for ice cream. Dave loaded the van up on his truck and delivered us to Lenny’s Service (closed early on Friday afternoon) in Mora. The positive side of this late arrival was an after-ski-race nap for Phoebe and Dave. Lenny determined the problem as a bad wheel bearing. I called Click and Clack to ask if there was any connection with pulling the van out of the snow drift, but they’re on encore programming and don’t answer the phone.
On Saturday, we met our Minneapolis hosts, Paul and Cam Rogers, at the GREAT Theater in St. Cloud where Joel was performing as the prosecutor in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” We took the Rogerses, Aimee, Joel, Adelaide and Henry to an early supper after the play. Another positive to no car was that I didn’t have to drive in the dark into Minneapolis.
Overnight at Paul and Cam’s, then Amtrak Empire Builder (late as usual) to Chicago where we just made our connection on the Lakeshore Limited by a bare 15 minutes.
Josh picked us up at the Boston train station (late) and we spent a week visiting with Josh and Stephanie and their 2-year-old daughter, Billie Rose. Stephanie is French and they speak French at home so Billie will grow up bilingual. Billie’s language skills are impressive already, says Mamy, the proud grandmother. Doug is Papy.
We spent a day in Boston touring the USS Constitution, but the rest of the time, we stayed at Stephanie and Josh’s playing with Billie.
The trip home was uneventful (but late) and Paul had to drive us the next day to Mora to pick up the now repaired van. We and the dog headed home to Pinesol. Neighbors had tended to the horses and chickens while we were away.


Pete Seeger

During the summer of 1963, I had a job in Little Compton, Rhode Island as nanny to four children 10 and younger and housekeeper for a rich family, heirs to the Brooks Brothers men’s clothing franchise. (They owned a big house in Little Compton, as well as a New York City apartment and a farm near our home in Sandy Hook, Conn.) I received $25 per week plus room and board with Thursdays off. I also took Sunday mornings off to go to the Episcopal church a 10-minute walk from the house. The family went to Mass in the next town. One Sunday, there was an announcement that Pete Seeger would lead a singalong that night following a pot luck supper. He was to perform at the Newport Folk Festival that week and was staying mwith some other summer residents in Little Compton. I asked my employers if I could have the night off for the event and they agreed. I got the kids bathed and ready for bed and took off across lots for the church. After supper, Pete Seeger led the singing in the church basement. He sang a few songs accompanying himself on the banjo. Then he divided us into six groups – low bass to high soprano – and led the songs. I remember “Wimoweh” especially, but we sang for at least an hour. I was amazed how good we were harmonizing. Seeger would sing each group’s part and each group would try it out.
Now, at 94, Seeger has died. I’ll never forget how he just assumed everyone wanted to sing with him.


Polar Vortex

Maritime Canada map

The extreme cold this winter makes morning, afternoon and evening dog walks not eagerly anticipated, except by the dog. But we bundle up and put on the Mad Bomber helmet. (It’s lined with rabbit fur and smells a little gamey when frosted by my breath.) The windchill warnings make the weather sound even colder. However, the most interesting radio weather and road reports we’ve experienced were when we lived in New Brunswick, Canada. The radio announcer would offer “snowpacked and slippery from Fredericton to Miramichi (accent on last syllable)” or “free wheeling from Kouchibouguac to Tabusintac.” But the really scary report was the freezing spray warning. In the subzero cold, sea water can splash up onto ship riggings, freeze in thick coating and make the vessels top heavy and likely to turn over. That warning was for all the fisherfolks who supplied our haddock , halibut and founder.

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Extended Christmas

In reverse order:

Dave grooms the trail
Phoebe makes turkey dressing
Henry tries his first skis
Spirit and Dave skijoring
Adelaide on her first skis
Auntie Phoebe and Adelaide the Munchkin on the opening nihjt of “The Wizard of Oz”

Two thirds of the Mirons gathered for Christmas weekend at Phoebe and Dave’s new house in rural Mora. Dave (nurse anesthetist) was on call for Christmas. Joel and Aimee and their young’uns, Adelaide, 7, and Henry, 4, arrived on the Saturday for the celebration. Joel (pathologist at St. Cloud Hospital) was also o call during Christmas. We opened presents with Adelaide, a good reader, as Santa’s helper. Supper was a homegrown Tom turkey (18.25 pounds) from Kelly Larson’s Northern Flights flock. I’d picked him and his smaller brother out before Thanksgiving. They were Royal Palms, very beautiful white spangled with black feather tips.
Before supper and the main present opening, while there was still daylight, we all went out and skied, Henry and Adelaide for the first time on their Christmas skis. Spirit has skijored before, but she was too distracted by Riley, Phoebe and Dave’s Lab mix puppy, and Ophelia, Joel and Aimee’s Great Pyrenees, to do a good job. The visiting partiers left on Sunday.
Then on Jan. 10, we returned to the Mora folks’ place to travel to St. Joe where the GREAT theater company is performing “The Wizard of Oz” in St. Ben’s Escher Auditorium. Adelaide had tried out for a Mumchkin part and told me at Thanksgiving “I’m in.” There were 77 Munchkins. The play is impressive as the company had rented the costumes, sets and special efects (including smoke, fog and pyrotechnics) of the New York City production. Wow! It runs through next weekend. After the last curtain, Adelaide joined the rest of the cast in the autograph line.
Super extended holiday.

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No time for TV

We haven’t owned a television since we moved to Minnesota in 2000. However, we used to watch football and Masterpiece Theatre on a 26-inch 30-year-old computer monitor hooked up a an FM tuner and Hifi speaker attached to a length of wire (read antenna). This contraption was Doug’s doing. We haven’t used it since broadcasts went digital. We don’t seem to have time for TV.
The equipment used to sit harmlessly downstairs in the basement (which in this old farmhouse is really a cellar.) But we cleaned out the cellar this summer and moved the “entertainment center” upstairs. Quite a haul as the computer monitor weighed 85 pounds and has nothing to hold onto.
It’s been sitting in the window seat blocking the view, so last week we decided to get rid of it.
It works, but is inconvenient. Our frist stop was Good Will. No thanks, the intake person said. So we tried Restore. Rejected again. But the volunteer suggested trying ARC United Thrift Store. The manager there accepted it and seemed to understand how to hook it up. Success. I was thinking the next stop would Waste Management.
This isn’t the first time recyclers have refused to take our giveaways. We ended taking a perfectly good recliner chair, with just a few mended seams to the transfer station because nobody wanted it.
I hope someone who needs a TV takes it off ARC’s hands.

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