My name is Paul Bullock and I’m 71 years old. I was born in 1931 in Fall River, MA. Although my parents lived in Bristol, RI, the most convenient hospital facility was in Fall River, where the hospital was located on the trolley line. Bristol, RI is my hometown and that’s where I grew up. At that time I think many children were born at home with a midwife or a neighbor to accompany the birth. The family story has always been that it was an extremely long and difficult labor and delivery. My mother and I were in the hospital for 2 weeks, so things were a little different than they are now.
My mother was born in South Bristol, Maine in 1900 and moved to Bristol, R.I. very early on, probably when she was 3 or 4. She didn’t really remember living in Maine; she was brought up in Bristol, RI. I believe that her father, who was a carpenter, moved to Rhode Island seeking work as a ship builder. He died in the early 1900’s and I don’t think that my mother remembered him. My maternal grandmother raised 7 children by herself. They were Clara, Myrtle, Nell, Nan, Charles, Pauline (my mother), and Helen. Another boy, Percy, was drowned in Maine at the age of 17 before the family moved to Rhode Island. It was very difficult in those days to be a widow raising a large family. In later years, my mother told many stories about their early poverty. Even such things as chocolates were a real luxury to this family. On rare occasions when receiving a chocolate she would make it last longer by removing the top layer of chocolate and eating the filling with the head of a common pin to make it last longer.
My father was born on Lafayette St. in Attleboro, Massachusetts in 1897. Lafayette St. is only a few blocks from where I now live. While still living in Attleboro he was a paperboy for the local newspaper. At that time papers were sold on street corners rather than by home delivery –– his corner was in the center of the community at Park Street and Railroad Avenue. He often told about buying his newspapers for two cents for three newspapers. He in turn would sell the three papers at one cent each. He would never leave his corner until he had sold all of his papers. One snowy evening his father, in an effort to get him to come home, bought his final newspaper. This dedication to work and determination to complete the job was evidenced throughout his entire life.
His family moved to Bristol, Rhode Island about 1910 probably because there was work in the textile mills. My grandfather was employed in textiles for the remainder of his working career. I didn’t remember a great deal about my grandparents but as I continue this narrative, more and more details come to mind. We lived next door to my paternal grandparents in Bristol when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My grandmother was not well –– she suffered from diabetes. She passed away in 1939. It was to this house we always went when we wanted a snack. W’’d just go in there and help ourselves to anything that was in the refrigerator, except when the radio program David Harim was on. My grandmother would listen to that faithfully. When you went into the house and David Harim was on, you had to be very quiet and you wouldn’t get any conversation. My grandfather, as I said before, worked in textiles in the mills. He worked long after his wife died. This household was maintained by my unmarried Aunt Doris, and her unmarried brother, Uncle Eddy.
My father started working when he was 14 years old. In those days many youngsters had to leave school and go to work. Bristol was a textile town and my father went to work for a company called Collins and Aikman and worked for this company for 42 years. In the 1950’s the northern textile community suffered a very poor economy. Many New England textile companies went out of business or moved their operation south in order to take advantage of cheaper labor. Foreign competition, too, became a factor in this economy. So after 42 years of faithful service they decided that my father “didn’t have enough experience”, and they let him go. At that time there were no accrued benefits available to those who were dismissed in this fashion. So after all those years of service he had no medical insurance, no vested pension, no life insurance and, of course, no job. There were very few opportunities available for men in their fifties who had spent their entire working years in the textile industry which had now moved south. Fortunately, my brother, Bob, who with his family was living in the Connecticut area, was able to assist my father in locating a position in a piano factory in eastern Connecticut. My father was a very talented woodworker –– this was the ideal opportunity to utilize these talents.
My mother and father enjoyed more than fifty years of married life. Although my father suffered with prostate cancer for fourteen years prior to his death in 1971, my parents had many happy times. They had a wide circle of friends and had many pleasant times between the flair ups of this disease. They were able to return to Bristol, Rhode Island where they spent the last few years of their lives.
Even though these early times were depression years, I was too young to realize the enormity of the situation. My father always had work and we did not experience the extreme difficulties which many families did. I don’t think my father lost any working time during the depression, although I believe that he had to accept pay cuts during this time. The normal work week was six days and he maintained this schedule until the very late 1930s.
For the most part Bristol was a textile manufacturing community and most of these companies operated 24 hours a day. My father was an overseer. They didn’t call them foremen or managers at that time –– the term was overseer. He supervised about 100 people (most of them women) and had management responsibilities for all of them during the 24 hour work day.
Many families were finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet and people frequently were giving or lending others food, clothing or money to tide them over the difficult time. My folks were able at one point to purchase a ton of coal for less fortunate friends during one harsh winter. Although my parents considered it a gift, the generosity was repaid albeit after a considerable length of time. These proud New England families did not accept charity easily.
I was the youngest of three boys. My brother, Harry, born in 1921 was ten years older than I. Bob was 6 years older than I. Because of this age difference, I don’t remember much about Harry during my early years. I was the baby and the “brat” in the family and he was the teenager. I’m sure Bob also considered me the runt of the gang.
In 1941 when I was ten year old, World War II broke out and Harry immediately enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served and trained in a number of locations in the States, ultimately being stationed in England where he flew many missions over Europe. Meanwhile Bob, who was still in high school, was anxious to join the service, too. In his senior year he tried to enlist in the Navy; however, his youth prevented this. My father would not give his permission. Immediately upon graduation he joined the Navy serving in the Caribbean. At the conclusion of World War II he was in the Pacific Theater on a mine sweeper. They were charged with the job of sweeping mines from the rivers of China following the retreat of the Japanese. I missed my brothers a lot and anxiously awaited their homecoming. To me they were heroes.
During the war my father worked very hard –– all factories switched to defense work and his was no exception. My mother, who had always been a “stay at home” mom, joined the women of the community to take on defense work in a local factory. She worked at a company, which manufactured wire and also participated in various support organizations such as the Red Cross. There was a lot of work and the pay was pretty good during the war. The community thrived.
Just before the war in 1937 or 38 my father purchased his first automobile. This new mobility enabled my family to travel to South Bristol, Maine where Mom had been born and to renew acquaintances with many cousins and other family members. South Bristol is located near Damariscotta just north of Brunswick. It is on the end of one of the many peninsulas in that area. Roads being what they were at that time, it was an eight hour ride which I did not tolerate well. We all enjoyed being in Maine in spite of the long tedious ride to get there.
The first couple of summers we would camp at the home of Grammy Lou and Lifey (Lucinda and Eliflet Gamage). Lucinda was a first cousin of my grandmother. They had a blueberry patch in their side yard where we pitched our tent. Their home was a big old farmhouse with a barn attached. The outhouse was way out in the rear of the barn. This arrangement made it possible to utilize the facilities in the wintertime without going outside. Grammy Lou was a fastidious housekeeper and painted the privy annually usually in bright colors. It was also decorated with old calendars with bright pictures, which may have been ten or fifteen years old! It was wide and it was a “three-holer” – this included a large, a medium and a little size to accommodate every need. It was always a thrill to use the three-holer.
During our winter visits we would stay in the farmhouse with Grammy Lou and Lifey. Lifey was a retired sea captain and seemed to me to be quite elderly and not very active. He was very friendly and I enjoyed listening to his tales of the sea. They had a cold cellar beneath a trap door in the kitchen floor, where they kept their provisions for the winter. The main source of heat for the entire house was a big wood burning kitchen range. There were registers in the ceiling, which were kept closed during the daytime and opened at night. Big pieces of soapstone were heated on the back of the range, wrapped in flannel and brought up to the bedroom a few minutes before bedtime. Once placed under the covers this warmed the blankets and made bedtime a cozy experience.
In the late 1930s my parents bought a very small cottage in South Bristol. It was situated on the top of a hill, had no water supply and was on a very small plot of land. We would journey up and down the hill to Ted Farrin’s well with two buckets –– this was our “water supply”. My parents, over the next few years, added a screened porch, a small kitchen to the south and two additional bed rooms (called bed chambers) on the north side.
They sold that property just after the war ended and bought a large piece of land with an old farmhouse, which was located on the water. They had an artisan well drilled and built a small rustic restaurant in the lower part of the barn. They also built six cabins and my mother operated this business for several years. I spent at least two full summers assisting her. The business, of course, was seasonal and my father remained in Bristol, Rhode Island working at Collins and Aikman while we stayed in Maine. He would drive up to join us weekends and vacations. My main function in this enterprise was being the short order cook in Paul’s Barn Lunch. Along with the usual hot dogs and hamburgers, the blue plate special was fried mackerel. Tourists would come in and order the mackerel, I’d run out the back door and down the hill to the dock, get fresh mackerel out of the barrel, clean them and bring them back up the hill, roll them in corn meal and cook them. There was always a barrel of fresh fish at the end of the dock. The fisherman would come in all during the day with their catch and replenish the supply of fresh fish. Many of my early memories centered around these experiences in Maine.
Even though I had spent a considerable amount of my childhood in Maine, I was still a Rhode Islander. I always considered Maine as vacation time and Bristol Rhode, Island was really home. One of my first ambitions was to be old enough to join the Boy Scouts. I remember going down to the parish hall where Troop 5 met, sitting on the fence and looking through the window at the kids standing awaiting inspection. My friend, Beans, who was nine days younger than I was, and I went down to the Boy Scout hall the first Wednesday evening that we were 12 years old. I don’t think we had ever heard of Cub Scouting at that time but Boy Scout troop 5 was what we wanted to join. This was the epitome of success.
As far back as I can remember I have always been interested in Indians and Indian Lore and my experiences in scouting fostered and furthered that interest. In fact I was active until I was twenty one years old and entered the service.
Even before joining the Scouts, I was most interested in all things “Indian”. My childhood had been filled with stories of Indian ancestors. This made me eager to learn more and membership in the Boy Scouts certainly accelerated this interest. This interest proved to be a lifelong journey. I spent a lot of time in the woods and a lot of time reading about Indians. At this time there was not a lot of Indian activity in the area, which made it necessary to go further afield. I located names and addresses of some of the old Indian supply businesses (Plume Trading & Sales Co. and Pawnee Bill’s Indian trading post in Pawnee, OK.) through scouting publications. I spent my very limited resources to purchase some of the basic supplies needed to get started. From time to time local Indians would come into the community and lecture at various organizations. Small groups also regularly set up their wares and performed at New England Sportsman Shows. My parents were most cooperative in allowing me to attend these events whenever possible.
Miss Jessie Molaski, who was the school librarian met with us every week for a period of library study. I thought that this was a most boring period. And I guess it showed because finally one time she took me by the collar and asked, “ What do you like?” My reply was “Indians and boats”. So she got me going on some books about Indians which I found out later were not that authentic. She was instrumental in developing my scholastic interest in Indians. Our friendship intensified over the years, and when I was in high school and later she consulted me regarding new books on Native American subjects which she considered purchasing.
My mother was very interested also in Indians and Indian people, so she and I spent a lot of time studying. Books were expensive and sometimes difficult to locate, but she always purchased Indian books for me for birthdays and Christmas. This was a habit she continued until her death in 1972.
My aunt Doris, also, enthusiastically supported this interest. She was a teacher and was frequently able to get new books at discount prices. Most of these books are still in my possession – a treasured collection.
Meeting Indian people and particularly local Indian people was an important part of my life. At this time there were only three annual powwows in the area. They were primarily family gatherings and had been held for many, many years. The Narragansett Indians held a tribal meeting in southern Rhode Island, the Wampanoags held an annual gathering in Mashpee, MA and the American Indian Federation, which was an intertribal group, gathered annually at their hall in Lafayette, Rhode Island. Whenever possible my parents would drive me to these events.
At this time in my life I was primarily interested in crafts, regalia-making and dancing. I met some people as a youngster, lost track of them for many years and was later able to renew friendships as an adult. It wasn’t always easy for a youngster to get involved. There wasn’t much for a little guy who was probably more interested in the outfits and clothing than they were to do. It was a family gathering. The Mashpee people had been gathering for 200 years. This was a long history for this rich culture.
The American Indian Federation powwow was first held in 1931 and has been held continuously to the present time. I believe the organization was originally formed by local New England people and evolved into an intertribal group for those people who came from outside the area as well. I later had the honor of being Chief of the Federation for approximately 7 years. More about that later.
World War II was in progress and gasoline was rationed. My family had an “A” card which allowed us to purchase a very small amount of gasoline –– of necessity our travel was much restricted.
Bristol is the ancestral home of King Phillip. He was the son of Massasoit who was the sachem of the Wampanoag Federation at the time of the landing of the Pilgrims. The Wampanoag village was located on the highest point in town, which is called Mount Hope. In the 1940s these lands, including the Mount, were owned by the Rudolph Haffenreffer family. Although it was private property, the public was frequently allowed to enter and view the historic sites. My favorite was King Phillip’s chair, which was a very high rock formation with an indentation in the rock forming a natural chair. I often imagined King Phillip sitting in his chair meeting with his braves, who were sitting on the ground before him with a huge campfire illuminating the entire area. There was a monument in a swamp nearby which marked the site where King Phillip (Metacomet) had been killed in 1676. There was a cave along the waterfront, which we called Crystal Cave. This was an interesting crystal-like formation which was popular with souvenir hunters. A little further to the south was a huge white rock from which a fresh water spring flowed. I don’t know whether the spring and the cave were used by the people in King Phillip’s time. I have asked people recently about these two sites, and I believe that they may be no longer visible.
Mr. Haffenreffer also owned the Narragansett brewery and was very active in other commercial enterprises. He owned a large farm on the property and hired many people to manage the farm for him. His interest in Native American artifacts led to a lifelong hobby. He accumulated many items from the New England area and over the years his interests expanded to include all Native American groups. This interest led to the formation of the Haffenreffer Museum in a building adjacent to his barn.
As a youngster I remember hearing many stories about his early collecting endeavors. During the Depression many local people found artifacts and trinkets in the area and brought them to Mr. Haffenreffer who would buy them for his museum. These local artifacts when added to his extensive collection combined to form one of the largest private Indian collections in the world. (This museum is now owned and operated by Brown University. For further information go to <www.haffenrefefermuseum.org>)
It was a splendid museum, but it was privately owned and public access to it was limited. It was open on occasion to scout groups, garden clubs, Masonic groups, etc. I was always looking for an excuse to be included. I would go in with the Garden Club, a Church Group or any other invited organization. Occasionally one of my family members would be included in a group and I would go along with them.
I guess I felt that Mount Hope was my second home and I was over there all the time playing in the woods or along the shore. It was, however, private property and Mr. Haffenreffer would ride in his chauffeur driven limousine and travel the narrow roads about the estate. On one occasion Mr. Haffenreffer had the chauffeur stop and inquire who I was and what I was doing there. I was quite frightened and tried to explain my interest and enthusiasm about Mount Hope. He explained that many people who trespassed over there would do a lot of damage, but said that he had no objection if I went on to the Mount and caused no damage. I met Mr. Haffenreffer a number of times after this through my scouting experience but probably spent more time with him at this first meeting than during any subsequent conversations.
One of the men who had been hired as one of the caretakers of the cattle just happened to have a son, Wallace, who was a classmate of mine and his family lived on the Mount (housing was supplied for the workers and their families). Wally and I spent a lot of time playing in the huge barns and haylofts. The cattle which were housed in the barns all had individual pens, which were immaculately clean, and each had a plaque with its name emblazoned on it.
My father, all through my life, was a good influence and certainly was instrumental in my character development. He taught that it was always possible to do a good job but it was more important to do a little bit more than the job required. Many years later when I was taking a school course in public speaking he advised that good public speaking was easy as long as one knew what he was talking about. He always emphasized being honest, telling the truth and he expected everyone else to do the same.
Most youngsters during this period were paid small amounts for doing chores and running errands for neighbors and friends. I always enjoyed working and had 12 or 13 regular customers for whom I cut grass and tended their gardens and lawns. I worked almost all year round for these same people –– in the wintertime shoveling snow from their paths and driveways and carrying wood or coal from their cellars into their homes. I earned all of my spending money, paid for going to Boy Scout camp and paid for many of my clothes with my earnings.
From the 9th grade through high school I worked many hours weekly after school and weekends at Usher’s farm which was located in the northern part of town. Although I enjoyed this work considerably, I never felt that farming could be a life long endeavor for me.
During this time I spent a considerable amount of time also writing letters to Indian people whom I had met through my contacts with powwow friends and businesses such as Plume Trading Co. I am sure that I pestered many of them asking questions, trying to get them to write to me and to learn more about Native culture.
One of the first people I met, a gentleman by the name of Jules One Arrow Hayward, was particularly helpful to me – providing information as well as addresses of different organizations. I am unable to recall his tribal affiliation. He published a newsletter called “Talking Leaves”. Mr. Jim Luongo at Plume Trading Co was also very helpful and many times over the years I would either get a ride to New York City or hitch hike (which was an acceptable mode of transportation at the time) to the famous 155 Lexington Ave. address. I would spend many hours talking with Mr. Luongo and his many customers who were coming in and out all day long. I find even today that there were many youngsters doing the same thing at that time.
Plume Trading Co. moved its mail order sales and museum to Monroe, NY in 1957. It was not until 1970 that I visited the “new” location. At that point we went to the store and museum with our six children. Mr. Luongo was there but I don’t think that he remembered me from so long ago. This is really not the end of the story as far as Plume Trading Co. goes but we will pick that up later in this narrative.
Some of my new-found New York friends invited me to participate in a powwow that was being held at the New Haven Arena in New Haven, CT. I think that I attended this event twice. I remember one year my mother drove me to New Haven and I also remember taking the train from Providence, RI. I had made a full regalia, (perhaps it was less authentic than I intended) but I was quite proud of it and the other participants were most encouraging. Most of the Native people were Iroquois living at this time in the New York City area. There were other tribes represented as well. I remember a gentleman whose name was American Horse and I believe he was Sioux. There were a number of people who came from the far end of Long Island (Shinnecocks).
Tepees had been constructed on one end of the arena and there were a number of Indian people with horses and a large contingent of re-enactors dressed as early Calvary solders, complete with a canvas covered wagon pulled by horses, which raced around the perimeter of the arena being pursued by the Indians.
I regret that I can’t remember more details –– I don’t remember there being a master of ceremonies nor can I remember who provided the music for the little bit of dancing that we did. In retrospect I believe that this was probably one of the last of the Buffalo Bill type programs that were held throughout the country. We didn’t have an Annie Oakley but it was a lot of fun. I am sure that the outfit I had at the time was most amateurish and stereotypical (western style headdress etc.) but it was comparable in workmanship and style to the outfits worn by the other young people participating. I remember meeting an old man in the changing room and I asked him where I could leave my suitcase and street clothing. “Oh,” he said, “leave it right over there. There is not a white man who gets down here today.”
I met another “old fellow” at this time. He may have been in his fifties but he seemed very old to me. He was a very tall distinguished looking man and his name was Harold Davis Emerson, PHd and his Indian name was “Be Be Cay Can”. He said that he was the last living “Pontiff of the Mayan Temple”. He lived in New York City and worked in a professional capacity. It may have been at one of the many universities in the area. We spent a lot of time talking together and later communicating by mail. His early advice was that, “An Indian has to be good because you stand out if you’re not good. People can do things which are wrong and get away with them, but an Indian doing the same thing will not get away with it.” I will always remember him for that bit of advice.
Most of the people I met during this time were from the New York City area. At the time Brooklyn had the largest concentration of Native Americans on the East Coast. Many of these people living in this area were brought to the city to work in the high rise construction business. Their real home was Caughnawaga a reserve just south of Montreal Canada. The Mohawk people were adept at working at great heights and New York offered the best opportunity for this type of work. In many cases the men worked in the city during the week and drove home to be with their families on Friday afternoon returning late Sunday night to start another work week. Many full families lived in the city and maintained a second home at Caughnawaga. This reservation is now called Kahnawake.
Our friend Louie Deer (Twin Skies) was brought up on Caughnawaga and moved to Brooklyn to work as an ironworker. Not all of their work was in New York and one of his earliest jobs was on a bridge which connects New London, CT to Mystic, CT. One of his chores was to “get the beer”. He would walk across the steel beams to the other side of the river to make the purchase at a local package store. He used to say that if you started off at that job you knew whether or not it would work out because if you made a mistake and fell you lost your job. He married a girl from the reserve, and he and Louise lived in Brooklyn and raised two daughters. As the children were growing up it was not possible to go home every weekend as so many of his coworkers did, but they did manage to spend as much time at the reserve as possible. Highrise construction companies try to hire the Mohawk people because they are so adept at working the heights. After Louie’s passing Louise gave me permission to name our grandson, Erik, Twin Skies in Louie’s honor.
It was only natural that a group of Native American organizations flourished in the New York-New Jersey area and there were an increasing number of powwows and public events at this time. As WW II ended in 1945 the Boy Scout program took on new enthusiasm. During the war those men who could have served as leaders and committeemen were either in the Service or working hard on the civilian war effort, making it very hard for the scout troops to remain active. Narragansett Council hired Mr. Charles (Swede) Harrington. His Indian name was Trail Maker and although he was not native, he was well qualified to teach Indian lore to the boy scouts in Rhode Island. He traveled from troop to troop teaching those interested how to dance, construct their outfits and do craft work. He had served in the Marine Corps. The story goes, and I believe it is true, that upon receiving his discharge at the end of WW II Swede went into the Plume Trading Co in New York City and purchased an entire Indian outfit from Jim Luongo. He took off his dress blues, dressed himself in his new outfit and traveled home on the bus. The only regret his mother had was that he no longer had his dress blues. Whether or not the story is true is incidental but it does indicate the amount of interest in Indians Swede Harrington brought to the youth of Rhode Island.
Swede probably had at least seven or eight boys from each community in the state with whom he worked with the goal of having them all participate as a single unit. This activity enabled me to meet young men throughout the State of Rhode Island so that we could share this common interest. We came together numerous times to put on dance programs throughout the area. All of this was a part time occupation for Swede; his profession was working with handicapped children at the Meeting Street School on Providence’s East Side.
The Boy Scout program was to culminate in the Spring of 1947 at a council wide “powwow” at Mount Hope in Bristol. Unfortunately the selected weekend became famous as the “downpour” of the century. The “powwow” and the dance program were never held. Many of the youngsters I met during this program became lifelong friends. Some of them were to reenter my adult life. Imagine my surprise thirty years later when I learned of a group called The American Indianist Society, which was headquartered in Wilkinsville, MA. While attending some of their events, I found a number of “Swede’s boys” who had maintained their interest and enthusiasm for native culture for the ensuing 25 years.
During this time my interest in all things Indian continued. I was, of course, active in Boy Scouting and so many of the Scout teachings are based on Indian practice that I was able to combine the two interests. I formed a small dance team in my scout troop. These youngsters made their own outfits and we performed for various youth groups in the Bristol county area. I always felt that this strengthened their Boy Scout interest and they all became honorable adults. At least one of them graduated from West Point and one was a graduate of Annapolis.
In 1945 World War II ended, I was attending high school, became interested in automobiles and discovered girls. Although I was busy with these other endeavors, I was still corresponding with many of the Indian people in the New York area and I attended as many local events as possible. At this time it was a common practice for local native groups to attend county fairs to perform and sell their wares. I am sure these early contacts included Princess Red Wing, Princess Nashaweena, and probably Princess Winona. Although I did not know them very well at this time, many years later I was very fortunate to enjoy their friendship. More about this later.
Over the years I have tended to give people the impression that it was my mother who fostered this interest. However, my father was proud of his heritage and supported me as well. He was working six days a week at this time and had little time to devote to transporting me; however, my mother was able to do this for me. I remember that he frequently gave me money so that I could order some of the things that I needed.At that time some Native people didn’t want to be associated as being Native but this was not the case with my father. We were pretty much accepted into the main stream. There weren’t many Indian people in Bristol so it wasn’t an issue. If you have a minority that is visible, then that minority usually gets picked on, but that wasn’t the case in Bristol. In the30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even into the 60’s (into the 90’s really) many people would not identify themselves as Native. We met such a woman many years ago when my boys were in Scouts. She lived in the Taunton, MA area and was very active with the Cub Scouts. She had lived there for a long time. Her husband was a contractor. Nobody knew that she was Indian until her children went to school and were getting the typical “Indian education”. She was unable to tolerate that, announced that she was Indian and that she was going to teach the children accurately. She had been brought up not to tell anyone she was an Indian and even after leaving the State of Maine she had not told anyone. We were active participants in the American Indian Federation powwow in Lafayette, RI at the time. She accepted my invitation to attend and she came, reluctantly. She stood at the circle watching the dancing and listening to the songs and she was crying. All the cultural things that she had been denying for years came back to her. There are many people like that. This is very common in the east and to a lesser extent in the west because the western people are a bit more stereotypical in appearance. They are more identifiable and it is more difficult for them to get into the mainstream. In the last few years more people are willing to identify themselves as Indian, but there are still some people who have no desire to. They remain in the main stream. There is divisiveness even within a family. I know two or three cases. One man was very active in the pow wows, spiritualism and wore an outfit and was proud to be Native; his brother denied his heritage –– had no interest at all in the Native culture. The brother is now in his seventies and has suddenly become very interested and involved in his culture and genealogy. It is unfortunate that this change came about after his brother’s death.
Our main thrust through the years has been to educate both Indians and non-Indians about Native American culture. When I was out in the real world working, I would frequently take one of the weeks of my vacation to go to schools. All of the family participated whenever possible. In the last few years my son, Ed, and I have been able to do many programs together in the New England area. Our schedules are more flexible than those of the rest of the family.
In 1950 I started to work in the steel business. The Korean War was just starting and I still was involved with this dance team. Crucible Steel was at the time one of the largest producers of tool and alloy steel in the country. I was employed at the Providence Branch and the manager was a very nice fellow and he happened to be an old Swede. When he learned that my grandmother was Swedish, we had a common bond. He also was very interested in my enthusiasm for everything Indian, and he encouraged me to stay with this group, which I did. At this time a number of young men I knew were joining the service. The draft came along and many were being inducted into the service. The time came when I had to decide what I was going to do. I could enlist, wait to be drafted or join a reserve unit such as the National Guard. Men were getting deferments for various reasons, i.e., being students. A friend of mine who was a World War II veteran and a Marine reservist tried to talk me into joining the Marine reserves as this would be the way to avoid the draft. If you were in the Reserves, you would serve your duty at home with one or two active duty weekends. I decided I would not do that and very shortly after this decision, the government activated his unit and he was shipped over to Korea immediately. He served there for a long time.
At that time if you enlisted in the service you were not guaranteed your same job upon discharge. If you were drafted, however, your employer was obliged to give you a comparable position upon your return to civilian life. I had a good job and I wanted to stay in the steel business. When my draft number came up sometime in 1951 my company did whatever they had to do at the time to get me deferred from service because steel was a most critical industry, and they needed experienced people. Reluctantly, I took the first deferment. The next time my number came up (1952) I requested that the company not grant me any further deferments. I wanted to go in and do it and get it over with. So I was drafted. I remember the night before I left home we had a get-together with all the guys. We knew that the army was inducting a lot of people and we had heard a rumor that the Marines were drafting a few people. I didn’t mind being drafted, and I would go anywhere but I just didn’t want to be a Marine. The next day at the Induction Center (there were a bunch of us from Bristol who were bused up to the Induction Center in Providence) I went through all of the physical exams and was walking down this long corridor where an Army Sergeant was standing with a clipboard. He asked, “Your name Bullock?” I replied in the affirmative. He said, “You are a Marine.” So I ended up in the Marine Corps. This was the surprise of the century for me.
I had a friend who was a Supply Sergeant in the Army at Ft. Devens. Additionally a friend of my boss was a Colonel also stationed at Ft. Devens. Supply Sergeants swing a lot of weight in whatever branch of service and Dick was going to nab me when I arrived at Devens. I would have been all set with some choice duty, or so I thought. Of course, an Army Colonel also has a lot of authority and would have been able to oversee my training. I had this all set up –– in the Army but, of course, I ended up in the Marines. It was an experience I would not change for the world. I think that this was the most broadening experience I have ever had and I am glad that it worked out that way. I’m sure there were many days in boot camp that I didn’t think that the Marine Corps was the best place for me.
While I was in the service, my parents moved from Bristol to Barrington, which is about ten miles away. In the whole process of moving a lot of the clothing and outfit parts that I had either got lost or perhaps were discarded in error. At any rate much of it was no longer available to me with the exception of the books. Additionally, in returning to civilian life and getting involved in a career my interest certainly waivered for a period of time. I had some very special pieces of beadwork which I had accumulated and these were nowhere to be found. I remember one piece in particular. As a youngster I knew there were differences in beadwork designs – basically the western designs were a lot different than beadwork produced in the east. The eastern beadwork is mostly floral with single curves and double curves. Western beadwork, on the other hand, is made up of geometric designs. At that time in my life I was much more interested in the geometric designs of the west. Many years earlier a junk dealer in Bristol (as part of the war effort the scouts would collect newspapers, rags and recyclable metals and deliver them to him) called me because he had an item he thought would interest me. It was a woman’s blouse made of heavy muslin type material with floral beadwork on the sleeves and bodice. It was a beautiful piece of handmade beadwork, which I cut up, mounted on a heavy panel and used to decorate my Indian shirt. This very special piece was lost to me forever with that move.
I was discharged from the service in 1954, returned to my parents home in Barrington and resumed work at Crucible Steel. One early June evening I joined my mother in the side yard. My mother was talking with a young lady and two small red headed children were swinging on our lawn swing. And my mother said, “I want you to meet this girl. This is Harriett Mulligan.” So we talked a bit and I thought this was a young mother with two children. But I found these were her sisters and she was taking them for a walk. Harriett was indeed a young lady not attached, so I was quite impressed.
(I originally narrated this and said that it was spring. Harriett advises that it was the third Monday in June of 1954).
At this time in my life I had a dog, which had been given to me by a top sergeant when I was in the service. This was a “marine dog”. He was well-trained, smart and great company. He was also very fond of ice cream. In an effort to appear casual and “cool”, I would put my dog in the car and drive around the corner to Harriett’s summer cottage. Fortunately, Harriett liked ice cream and my dog so my casual approach worked. Harriett and I were married about two years later.
This change in my life left little time for Indian activities. Although my parents and Aunt Doris continued to temp me with new Indian books as gifts on special occasions, between starting a new family and working my time was limited. As our children came along we had even less time and less money for other interests. I finally reached the point that I knew I had to become re-involved. I had to do something and, of course, I had long since committed the address of Plume Trading and Sales Company to memory, 155 Lexington Ave., New York “whatever” New York – this was before zip codes- so I sent for a catalogue. I was trying to explain to Harriett what we were going to do, and I really needed to just get in right up to my elbows. Again the western influence prevailed. I purchased a kit to make an Indian headdress, a typical western headpiece. With the kids assembled around the table we started to make the headdress, and I just felt that this was a new beginning. Although the children were very enthusiastic, I found that this was really a craft project for adults. So I taught them to carve and paint small Kachina dolls, which I had done in my youth.
We were living in Attleboro and Harriett’s father advised that there was an Indian fellow who lived on Holman St. and asked if I knew him. Since I did not know this man, my father-in-law urged me to meet him. So one day I hopped in the car, went up to Holman St. and looked him up. His name was Charles Wells, whose Indian name was Chief Leading Canoe. He was a past chief of the American Indian Federation. I had known some of the members years ago. The Federation Powwow was coming up and he invited us to attend.
The American Indian Federation had been formed in 1931, the year I was born. They’d been having an annual Powwow continuously since that time. We brought the three kids, and I re-met some people I had known before and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Princess Redwing was in attendance and of course, Princess Nashaweena, Squaw Sachem, of this federation. I’m sure that Princess Winona was also in attendance although I don’t remember meeting her that day. We later became members of the American Indian Federation. Princess Winona and Princess Nashaweena became life-long friends of the family. We also attended many powwows with Princess Red Wing who did not belong to the Indian Federation but was most active in Narragansett/Wampanoag Indian activities. So this is where the family involvement started.
We became active as a family. In all intertribal organizations family participation was important and Harriett became very active in a supportive role. Naturally, our children had to have outfits as they learned to dance and enthusiastically participated in the Lafayette Powwows for many years. Some of the people whom I had met many years ago attended this powwow and it seemed that life had taken a full turn – we were once again involved with the Iroquois people of my youth.
The American Indian Federation owned a small piece of property with a single building, which at one time had been a church. Although small, the powwow grounds were shaded with many beautiful oak trees and it was a very peaceful place. The dance circle was roped off and there was room for eight or nine vendors on the perimeter of the grounds. The same amount of advertising was done each year and the numbers of spectators seemed to vary considerably from one year to the next. The weather, of course, had something to do with the attendance, but usually we had no idea whether there would be several hundred people or a thousand people.
When I talk about the Lafayette Powwow, I am always reminded of Ed’s participation at one of them. He was always a spectacular dancer and the crowd enjoyed watching him. One year when he was about 6 or 7 the Master of Ceremonies, Chief Bright Canoe, decided that there would be a young folk’s dance contest – just for the kids and just for fun. Ed was very proud when he was selected as the winner and as he strutted across the dance circle acknowledging the applause he backed into the open (unlit) fireplace. He was quite embarrassed and it was a humbling experience for him.
The Lafayette Powwow was always our favorite and we always enjoyed being with Chief Bright Canoe and his assistant, Ben Massey. Ben was a Navajo and had a fine singing voice. He was also an outstanding dancer. He was always called Ben because his Native name was impossible for most to pronounce.
The North American Indian Club in Willimantic, CT was very active in the early seventies. They, too, put on an annual powwow, which attracted spectators and dancers from the New England/New York area. We would attend as many of their meetings as possible and spent a lot of time driving to and from the Willimantic area. I served for at least one term as a member of the council.
Powwows became more and more popular in the next few years and we found that the entire family was happily involved with as many of these events as possible. This involvement also extended to crafts, singing and dancing. The children became well known for their dancing ability. It seemed that some or all of us were involved in most of the area powwows. Betsey was in junior high school, very active scholastically, and it was difficult for her to become quite as involved as the rest of the children. She attended most of the powwows in which we participated, enjoyed camping and meeting the native people. She enjoyed sewing and made some of our outfits and became very adept at finger weaving. This is a process of weaving a sash or garters with woolen yarn without the use of a loom.
Occasionally we found ourselves in the position of putting on a powwow. We were invited at one point to put on a powwow/program at the Slater Mill complex in Pawtucket, RI. I believe that Slater Mill was the first textile mill in colonial America. In addition we organized a powwow at Salve Regina College (now Salve Regina University) in Newport, RI. We worked frequently with Star & Clear Sky, Pueblo people who were living in Beverly, MA at the time. We traveled throughout the state of Massachusetts with them doing programs for the Deerskin Trading Posts. We also performed at the Topsfield Fair for several years with Star and Clear Sky and their family.
A favorite summer trip was attending the Indian League of the Americas Inc. powwow in Barryville, New York. Barryville is located along the Delaware River near the New York-Pennsylvania line. This organization was made up primarily of Mohawk people who lived in New York City and Brooklyn, although their home was a reserve just south of Montreal, Canada. These people were the ironworkers who were instrumental in building bridges and skyscrapers in the New York area. The sponsors of this powwow were the same New York Mohawk people who were joined by their families from Caughnawaga for the event. This was a very popular intertribal powwow and the “regulars” represented many different tribes living in the New York/Pennsylvania area. There were Shinnecocks, Lenape, Sioux, Hopi, Seneca, Navajo, Seminole, Onandaga and Huron to name a few of the various tribes represented. The ironworkers unions were very supportive of this event and the powwow attracted numerous busloads of people from the metropolitan area. Vacationers from the entire area made it an annual event in their summer schedule.
In 1980 we were invited to go to Pointe Bleu, which is 350 miles north of Montreal. We went with Johnny Diabo or “Bright Canoe” and his nephew, Albert from Caughnawaga. Pointe Bleu is a Montagnais Indian reserve on Lake St. John. To get there we drove to Montreal, stayed on the reserve with John and Albert one night and drove up to Pointe Bleu the next day. The Montagnais people are bush people – they are trappers. They leave the village in the fall, travel into the bush and live in tents for the entire winter. All of the tents we saw were white and all were equipped with a stove and a chimney which went through a hole in the roof of the tent just as our chimney goes through the roof of our house. They would live in this manner the entire winter and would return to the village in the spring with their furs. They originally traveled by sled dog but today skimobiles are much more popular. Their travels would take them 50 – 80 miles into the bush. Men were generally accompanied by their wives. The children would have to go to school, so they remained on the reserve and lived in a school dormitory until the adults returned to the village. Our dance group was housed in one of these dormitories and we found it immaculately clean, and we utilized the gym for dance practice sessions. Our group consisted of three of our children, Dan, Ed and Faith, John Diabo, Albert, Harriett and me. Harriett did not dance, but provided support and advice for the entire festival and kept us all on track. This festival was being held the first part of July, all of the trappers had returned to the reserve and the week was devoted to festival events. They held canoe races, foot races, baking and cooking competitions and probably the most spectacular event was the trump line contest, where the men would carry heavy loads of sand in canvass bags by means of a strap around their head. The object was to carry the most weight the furthest distance. It was fascinating to witness this event and marvel at the strength displayed. Because these burdens weighed 200 pounds or more, it was necessary to thoroughly sweep the pavement before each contestant so that he would not slip and fall on even the smallest grains of sand. The Montagnais people were very gentle, had a great sense of humor and really enjoyed our dancing. We were there for three days and put on three programs per day – a real working experience. Language was only a slight problem as Albert was our translator. He could speak French and was somewhat familiar with the Montagnais language also. Over time their language has become a combination of Montagnais and French – a translator is a must. The only reservation people we met who could speak English with us were the Catholic Priest at the local church and the policeman whom we met who was originally from Caughnawaga.
Bright Canoe was a most professional Master of Ceremonies. He provided both the singing and the narration by himself. Bright Canoe was a talker as well. He would go on at great length to explain the dances and songs to the public. Partially this discourse was to give his dancers a chance to rest – but he really did like to talk! He would narrate all of this in English and the local people could not understand him. We chuckled when Bright Canoe would take three minutes to introduce a dance and Albert would translate in a ten second sound bite. People who provide both the music and the narration are a dying breed. Today’s powwows generally utilize both a singing group (or groups) and a Master of Ceremonies.
These people are superb craft workers and particularly adept at making leather goods from moose hide. We saw great items made with all kinds of furs, moose hair embroidery and some floral beadwork.
As part of the celebration there was a block long barbeque, which had been constructed at lakeside. They were slow cooking beaver, bear meat, and moose meat. During our stay we had many great meals of game food prepared in various ways.
Their homes in the village were modern in every respect, yards were very well kept, and, I guess, as a reluctance to surrender to modern living, many of these homes had a tent complete with stovepipe in their back. Many families lived in these tents during the summer months even though they had a modern home close by.
This trip was one of our great family adventures and our children enjoyed meeting all of those people. We found various ways of spanning the language gap and Dan, who had two years of high school French, was able to get us through when Albert was not around.
As our family became more involved in powwows and various similar events, the kids encouraged us to develop a small part time business. All we needed, they advised was a small card table upon which to place our wares. This would not only give us a headquarters but it would provide Harriett with an opportunity to participate more fully, and we suspected that this also provided a place to keep their suitcases and extra regalia during the powwow. At one point we purchased one dozen boxes of notepaper with Indian designs. We sold the dozen and purchased two dozen. A little later we made contact with an Indian fellow in Chicago who sold embroider patches and purchased inventory from him as well. The boys were corresponding with a number of people who were willing to sell craft supplies to them at wholesale prices. Harriett very early on established a reputation for making ribbon shirts and soon had orders for all she could produce. Of course, these sales enabled us to attend these powwows and pay for gasoline, food etc. Although everything was informal at the beginning, these were the beginning days of the Wandering Bull.
Over time we increased the number of items we were purchasing for resale. We found that people in this area wanted and needed craft supplies that were not readily available in the New England area. We also found that new mail order companies were springing up all over the country. Earlier, Plume Trading & Sales and Pawnee Bill’s had dominated the market for these items.
At this time we also became very friendly with Princess Winona, who is Androscoggan, Passamaquody and Wyandot, originally from the State of Maine and now living in Worcester, Mass. She has just celebrated her 91st birthday and continues to be very active on the powwow circuit. She was a member of the American Indian Federation as well as other Native American organizations. We have worked very closely with Princess Winona over the years putting on programs and powwows and later forming an organization called Indian Cultural Art Lodge, which continues to flourish. She is a very close family friend and our children have all benefitted from her friendship, hospitality and teachings. For many years we traveled every Friday night to Princess Winona’s for a weekly craft session. Winona is an accomplished bead worker and taught all of our children this craft. Some Friday nights I would go alone if the kids were involved in other activities, but frequently the 1970 Volkswagen bus was filled with youngsters and other adults heading up Route 495 to attend the weekly session. We always felt that Winona’s home would be a safe haven for any of our children should the need arise.
One of the benefits for our children was exposure to this intergenerational group. They learned to know other adults and to respect and appreciate older people. They were comfortable with adults and they all became well-balanced individuals as a result and developed a great work ethic. True to the Native culture elders are revered and respected.
A gentleman who was a member of the American Indian Federation for years always had a dream of having his own group and a small piece of land. He lived in Plainville, Mass. which isn’t very far from here. His name was Big Thunder, Fred Reynolds. Big Thunder finally took the plunge, got a number of us together and went through whatever legalities were necessary to receive a state charter. This was the formation of an organization called the Wollomonuppoag Indian Council. This was chartered around 1970 and the organization continues today. Big Thunder has crossed over and Running Deer is now chief. This group has maintained an active membership over the years. They run a powwow every year, which in the past few years has been held at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro.
The original meeting place for the Wollomonuppoag Indian Council was at the American Legion Hall in Plainville, Mass. The first powwow that the group sponsored was held in the very small yard behind the Legion Hall. We worked very hard to make this first powwow a success – we mowed the grass which was 16” high, plotted a small dance circle, which unfortunately was on the side of a slight hill, and advertised in the local newspapers. The entire membership pitched in to insure the success of this event. Our friend Chief Strong Horse (Narragansett) was our Master of Ceremonies. The Star and Clear Sky family provided the music. This was one of the first local powwows and was well received.
We are not as active with this organization as we would like to be but as charter members we support it whenever possible. We belong to numerous organizations and attempt to support them in any way we can. Most of the organizations have specific reasons for forming – some groups are tribal groups, whose entire membership is made of members of a specific tribe – other organizations are intertribal and membership is drawn from people of different tribes. Some of these groups admit non-Native members (associate members) who may or may not enjoy voting privileges. Spouses and children of Natives are almost always entitled to fully participate.
Although we may not be members of all of the following organizations, we are affiliated with these groups and lend our support: Mass Center for Native American Awareness, The Organization To Preserve Indian Culture (TOPIC), Wollomonpoug Indian Council, Dighton Intertribal Council, New England Native American Institute, Nipmuk (Chaubunagungamaug Group) Webster Nipmuc Group, Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association (GLICA), and American Indian Federation. Some of these groups run powwows periodically, sometimes an organization will run a powwow for the sole purpose of raising funds to pay organizational running expenses. Most of the groups support various Native needs and charities such as scholarships, social service programs, health programs, food pantries, public education, jobs, housing, heating and political action. While powwows serve purposes, they are basically social in nature and provide us with the opportunity to meet with friends and relatives from the entire area. We look forward to each one because we know that we will meet certain people there who may only attend that particular powwow. This becomes an opportunity to renew old friendships and get updated on relatives. I will devote more attention to the evolution of powwows in the New England area at a later time.
Our children have grown up, married, pursued their careers and are raising children. Their busy schedules preclude them from being as active as they formerly were but their interest seems to be as enthusiastic as ever. Our youngest daughter, Faith is called Popshela, which means Wild Flower. When she was given this name by Princess Nashaweena, this was indeed an appropriate name for her. She lives in Spencer, MA with her husband and family, has a beautiful native dress which she made years ago and attends dances whenever she can. When the family first started attending powwows, she was only four or five years old. Popshela became a great dancer and won many prizes for her dancing ability. She frequently participated in our school programs when she was growing up and was very much at home at all of the Native events she attended. More recently she and her brother, Ed, have performed the partridge dance which is an old courting dance.
Ed was also very young when he began dancing. Princess Nashaweena named him Eyes That Shine. This name was certainly appropriate for him at the time and remains most descriptive to this day. As a youngster he was primarily interested in Fancy Dancing and frequently participated in school programs with me. As a teenager he had a summer job at the Goldenrod Restaurant in York Beach, Maine. He worked there for several summers and upon graduation from the University of Lowell, he realized his dream of opening a store in York Beach selling American Indian goods. He had spent a considerable amount of time working with the Wandering Bull in Attleboro and named his new business the Little Bull. His first store was a closet-sized room, which had no facilities. His business grew rapidly and relocated to a much larger storefront. It doesn’t seem possible but he has been there seventeen years and the business continues to grow. His “full time job” keeps him very busy as a manufacturer’s rep for a number of companies and individuals who produce fine Indian crafts. The Little Bull sells finished products such as moccasins, jewelry and pottery. This is definitely a seasonal store, although the season continues to grow longer each year. The season from May to mid October is exceedingly busy with two full time jobs demanding his attention, but Ed still manages to attend many events in the Native community.
Dan’s Indian name is Brown Bear and he’s been a great dancer over the years winning his share of contests and participating in many powwows in New England, New York, New Jersey and as far away as Canada. In today’s corporate world he is a plastics engineer. He has a limited amount of time. Dan is an active singer on the 101 Drum. He can frequently be seen at powwows with three year old Sam sitting on his lap as he sings. Dan has become an authority on Native American textiles and pottery. He frequently attends Native American antique and craft shows all over the country.
Chris lives in Attleboro and runs his own carpet cleaning business. He is well established in the community. His interest and enthusiasm for Indian arts, crafts, and dance has grown over the years. He has also sung with the 101 Drum. His area of expertise is beadwork (antique and contemporary) and porcupine quill work. He, too, is very interested in Indian antiquities. Among his many talents is the art of porcupine quillwork. He devotes much time to museum quality craft projects. Chris is able at this point to devote a lot of time to this endeavor.
Our oldest daughter Betsey was a teenager when we started to become active at powwows and as the Wandering Bull business started to grow. She had many friends on the powwow circuit and attended all of the weekend powwows and was an enthusiastic camper. She graduated from high school and went to the University of Utah in 1975 later transferring to the University of Chicago, where she completed her studies. She and her family now live in Attleboro and her husband, Gary, and her children are interested in Indians and powwow activity, frequently attending these events with us. She is an accomplished seamstress helping out by making ribbon shirts. She also has made lovely finger woven sashes.
Andy has always been interested in our Wandering Bull activities. Additionally he has been dancing since a very early age and has constructed a number of fine outfits. He is an outstanding craftsperson and has always been willing to share his knowledge with interested people. He went to school at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario where he majored in Anthropology and Native Studies. This enabled him to develop a wide circle of Canadian Indian friends. After graduation Andy returned to the States, but did not want to go into the corporate world. It was his ambition to expand the business and at the same time provide a better location for our customers.
At about that time a friend of ours had a store rental available. Upon inspection we were awed by the “huge” size and concerned with our ability to fill it. Ralph Zito, friend and landlord, offered to partition the space so that we could have only one half. This would be a major decision for us. I was still working full time in the steel business, Harriett was working full time as a medical social worker, and we still had three children at home. This would be a part time venture for us and Andy would devote his energies full time to the business. In addition to the size of the store I was concerned about committing to a lease. I asked Ralph how much of a lease would be required. His reply was, “If you come here and you are happy, you will pay the rent. If you are not happy and you don’t do well you won’t be able to pay the rent. So what good is a lease?” A handshake sealed the deal. Ralph partitioned the space and we moved in.
Prior to the move the Wandering Bull had been doing business at Powwows and in a portion of our cellar, which was set up as a small showroom. Customers would either purchase from us at powwows or come to the house by appointment. We still have a number of customers (friends) who reminisce about our little store in the cellar and tell about the many happy evenings spent selecting beads, hairpipe and craft supplies or chatting over a cup of coffee.
The new store opened, Andy was the sole employee, chief cook and bottle washer. Ralph, ever the friendly landlord, would stop in frequently to deliver delicious Italian food straight from his kitchen. Andy was always well fed there. It took a while for our customers to find him. He started with a little cash drawer and sales book in which he recorded each sale.
It is hard to believe but we have been at the same location for 22 years. Ralph retired a number of years ago, leaving his son, Al to carry on the tradition of being a friendly and supportive landlord (the meals have stopped). We did learn that it was a simple matter to fill our “half” store. Over the years we have been able to expand our original space to encompass three full store areas plus a large warehouse and storage area.
At this point in time Harriett and I are in “semi retirement” and Andy is president and Janyte is vice president and treasurer. They are doing a lot more mail order business and our web site draws many new customers. Recently we have been producing a new catalog on a yearly basis and continue to advertise in a number of national Indian magazines. Although these periodicals have a limited circulation, they reach Native people and others who are devoted to the culture. We continue to sell at a number of powwows in the area and meet many of our customers in this manner. People come into our store from all over New England and it has become a niche destination store. There are days when we do not see a customer from Attleboro, but many people from other points in New England.
Many people habitually use our web site to place their orders. A posting of the powwow schedule is also very popular and we find that people from as far away as Pennsylvania check our web site to find out what is going on.
Of course, Harriett is and always has been the center of all of our activities. Her reputation as a seamstress continues to grow. She has made Comanche wedding dresses, researched and produced Micmac coats, Indian capotes as well as her well-known ribbon shirts.
Caughnawaga Reserve has always been a favorite place for family visits, and we always remember our visits with John Diabo and Minnie and Lou and Louise Deer. At one time when the kids were younger, we journeyed to Caughnawaga and stayed with John and Minnie to put on a dance program to help raise money for a new furnace for one of their local lodge buildings. Here we were coming up from New England to an Indian reservation to dance because at that point there were not many people on the Reserve who had outfits and could dance. Times have changed and Caughnawaga (now called Kahnawake) hosts an annual powwow on the second weekend of July every year with thousands of people in attendance to watch 300 or more dancers.
A friend of ours, Don Standing Bear Forest, has lived in Alaska approximately 20 years. He was raised in Massachusetts and comes to New England whenever possible to visit his folks. It has always been a dream of his to put on a New England style powwow in Fairbanks, Alaska. He was able in July of 2001 to put on such a powwow. It was his desire not only to have a Northeastern powwow, but to include the native Alaskan people. He invited me to attend the powwow as master of ceremonies. It presented a challenge for us in that we were making it a true intertribal powwow and bringing the Eskimo, Aleutes, Athabaskan and Southeast Coast people to a single event. All of these groups have their own ceremonies and powwows and spiritual gatherings but this was the first time that a true intertribal event took place.
Our son, Ed, who is the lead singer of the 101 Drum was also invited to attend and participate. The 101 Drum also brought the Eastern Woodland music and regalia to the area. It was a thrilling experience as all of these people came together and participated in each other’s dances and spent time socializing. Although we were all different in culture, clothing and dance, we all had an opportunity to do our own thing and enjoy all of the differences and similarities. Harriett and I were able to spend about two weeks in the area and completely enjoyed Alaska and its people.
The powwow was held again in 2002 and we were all invited for the second year. We found it equally enjoyable. We renewed friendships and met many more native people. Putting on an intertribal powwow was a challenge in that it needed to combine the customs and cultures of a variety of tribal groups. We wanted to get these people together and to say, “Hey we respect your way of doing things and we want you to respect ours.” We managed to get everyone out into our dance circle doing their own thing and it worked.
The Athabaskan people basically live in many villages in the central to eastern section of Alaska. The term Athabaskan is a linguistic base and I think in the 1950s the government took all of these small villages, put them under the single heading of Athabaskan and set them up in “corporations”. They still lived in their villages and certain amounts of money were used to set up these corporations. One of them, the Doyon corporation, is today the largest land owner in the USA, but other corporations have not done as well. These small villages all have different names and they may have at one time considered themselves different tribes, but they are all beneath the Athabaskan umbrella today. Talking with them, they still refer to themselves as coming from a certain village, which has maintained a certain tribal name. We found that some of these other corporations have successfully invested in tourism and own cruise lines, hotel, motels, resorts and so forth. I think that some of the Eskimo people are also in a corporation program. We understand that the tour company which ran the tour of Barrow, Alaska which we took was owned by Eskimo people.
The Eskimo people have, of course, different tribal names. They are concentrated in many villages along the northern, and northwestern section of Alaska. The Aleutian Island section is a home to the Aleute and a number of them attended both sessions in Fairbanks. In the southeast section of Alaska there are a number of tribes, which the Alaskans call Southeastern People. In New England we call these people the North West Coast Indians because they are on the Northwest coast of the lower 48. Most of the people we met from this area were Tlingt or Haida. There are many small tribal subgroups and villages. These are the people that we call the totem pole people. Their outfits consist of woolen blankets decorated with white pearl buttons with a lot of appliqué and beadwork. They wear various hats, some made of carved wood, some of straw and some with fur.
We, of course, wore our eastern clothing and some of the Alaskan people had never seen this type of regalia. It was a learning experience for all of us. Their beadwork styles are different than ours – we use wampum shells and they were unfamiliar with that craft. They use a lot of moose and caribou for their leatherwork and moose hair for embroidery and basket making.
Although their dances were different, we did find that they all knew how to “powwow”. The Eskimo dancing was quite different than ours. The music for their dance was provided by 3 or 4 singers. Each singer had a drum approximately 18” in diameter with a small handle so that it looked like a big fry pan. Its one head is flat and the frame is only 1 ½” thick with seal skin stretched across the top. They use a long round stick for a drumstick. They hit the drum with the stick from underneath. Some of their music results from hitting the frame with the stick, occasionally they also hit the hide. This appeared to be based upon tribal preference. The drummers also sing and dance. The Eskimo dancers are very different – they stand in crouched position lifting one leg at a time to the beat of the drum. Their body and hand movements are done in a form of pantomime, which tells a story.
They won’t let me sing at these events, but I dance all the time. Harriett does not dance at powwows but she will dance at home. She’s an excellent dancer actually. When we were in Alaska, she was honored by the veterans. She was selected as one of the four women who accompanied the color guard at grand entry. The color guard danced to the center of the circle, stood in a straight line facing the drums. Upon command the flags would be dipped and the honored women women would place an eagle feather at the top of the staff. The flag song was then sung by the host drum while everyone stood. After this, the flags were placed in the stanchions to remain in the center of the circle for the entire program. At the end of each session the veterans retired the flags, the ceremony was reversed and the ladies removed the eagle feather, then they danced out of the circle with the veterans.
So I guess that this covers some of the high spots in our narrative. I believe our plan is to continue this at a later time. I would also like to expand on some of the topics already covered. I find that as we discuss these things and place the words on paper, there are so many interesting things which have happened and should be included in this project. Some I have touched upon briefly and some not at all.
I consider myself very fortunate to have had such a wonderful and happy life, a great family and wonderful friends and many memories and I look forward to documenting more of these happy adventures.