Chief Bemidji, whose real name was " Shay-Now-Ish -Kung," received his new name from Lake Bemidji which was called Bay-me-ji-ga, or "lake with cross waters." He was born near Inger, Minnesota, in 1833 or 1834 and lived in the Leech Lake and Cass Lake area. In 1860, he married a Leech Lake Pillager Indian woman and they had eight children, three boys of whom died at early ages. Four daughters and one son grew up and lived to older ages. In 1882, Chief Bemidji's wife died. Saddened by her death, he loaded all his possessions and children in his birch bark canoe and paddled up the Mississippi River to settle on the south shore of Lake Bemidji. He was the first permanent settler of Bemidji (from p. 107,"The Bemidji Area Looking Back" 2004).
Five young Ojibwe women in western dresses each holding a wooden stick used to play Double Ball. Double Ball is a woman's game that resembles Lacrosse. The women are identified as wives of John Druilard. Two frame buildings and Lake Superior are visble in the background.
University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections
Portrait of Old Shoto. Photograph taken with a magazine by ars olclone camera. Contemporary handwriting on back. He is one of Chief Shakopee's braves, he was baptized by Father J. J. Girrimondi of St. Mary's church in 1894; he died in 1899. He is standing in front of a teepee with an open door.
Portait of Shoto in front of tepee. The book, "The Shakopee Story" says that Shoto was one of Chief Shakopee's braves. He was baptized by Father J. J. Girrimondi of St. Mary's Church in 1894. He died in 1899.
St. Benedict's Industrial School was established in 1884 when St. Benedict's Convent contracted with the U.S. government, through the Catholic Indian Bureau, for support of 30 girls from the White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). Since St. Benedict's Convent had sent sisters to teach at the White Earth mission in 1878, recruitment contacts could easily be made. However, the parents were reluctant to have their daughters leave home and the children did not take to the rigors and formalities of institutional life and education. As a result of the resistance of the Ojibwe, most of the students who came from the reservation were of not fully native but of mixed white and Indian blood. Thus, the sisters inadvertently became a part of the suppressive system which disregarded the spirit and culture of the American Indians. "The federal government, aided by church-sponsored missionaries, marched steadily toward its goal of assimilation for Indians. The drive was particularly strong between the 1880s and the 1930s. Their aim was detribalization, individualization and 'Americanization' of the American Indian." (Berg, p. 159) In the boarding schools, students, taken from their homes, were given a new wardrobe, new language and a whole new way of life. It is not surprising that before the turn of the century the government rescinded the contract system. But it has taken almost another century and the experience of assimilating peoples of different cultures for the American people to begin to appreciate the enrichment that multicultural living can offer. (SBMA, McDonald, pages 120-122 and Sister Carol Berg, OSB, "Agents of Cultural Change: the Benedictines in White Earth," Minnesota History, winter 1982, page 159).
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The complex of buildings comprising St. Benedict's Mission in White Earth as viewed from the lake in the early 1890s. By 1895, the mission had reached the peak of its development because that year the federal government reversed its policy of giving aid for education on the reservations and set 1899 as the final date after which no more public money would be given. [SBMA]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The newly-built school was completed in 1892. The school day at St. Benedict's School in White Earth was similar to that of any other American school with hours from 9:00 until 4:00 in teaching the basic learning skills. This daily rigid pattern was not a part of the American Indian culture and tested the endurance of both the students and teachers, but music and singing and manual work offered relief. [SBMA, McDonald, p. 241]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). Students pose with their handiwork in the work room of the newly-built school at St. Benedict's Mission. Domestic arts were considered important. So before and after school hours, the girls were taught to card wool and spin yarn with which they knitted their own stockings. They were taught plain and fancy sewing and took turns in assisting the sisters in the kitchen, laundry and dairy. Under Sister Philomena Ketten's supervision, the boys worked in the garden and helped on the farm with picking potatoes and raking hay. [SBMA, McDonald, p. 241]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). One of the boarding school dormitories in the upper floors of the newly-built St. Benedict's Mission School. Unlike the crowded conditions of the early convent school at White Earth, the new school built in 1890 allowed ample space for sleeping quarters (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives).
St. Mary's Mission, Red Lake Indian Reservation (Red Lake Nation). The Benedictine monks and sisters were preceded in the Red Lake mission by Fathers Francis Xavier Pierz and Lawrence Lautischar. These two missionaries had founded the mission in the 1850s and Father Lautischar remained there as its first pastor. After his untimely death in a snowstorm, Father Lawrence was succeeded by Father Ignatius Tomazin, the Yugoslav missionary who was removed from White Earth for antagonizing government agents at that reservation in1878. In 1883, his zeal for the rights of the American Indians once again brought the soldiers from Fort Snelling to the reservation to remove him. For the next five years, the Red Lake mission was without a priest. In 1888, when the Drexel sisters* paid a visit to the reservation and heard the Ojibwe's plea for priests and sisters, Katherine begged the abbot of St. John's Abbey to take over the mission. She offered to pay the traveling expenses and to rent temporary buildings for them. The following year in November 1889, two priests, Fathers Simon Lampe and Thomas Borgerding from St. John's Abbey and Sisters Amalia Eich and Evangelista McNulty from St. Benedict's Convent made the arduous trip to Red Lake; the last lap from White Earth to Red Lake was by lumber wagons. St. Mary's Mission in Red Lake began in some empty buildings on the reservation. The sisters converted an abandoned Hudson Bay Company's warehouse into a school. In spite of its poor condition, the school opened with an enrollment of 25 day pupils. Years later when Sister Amalia was asked how they kept warm in that drafty house, she replied that they didn't keep warm; they froze. The next spring they took in 27 boarding pupils in addition to the day students. St. Benedict's sent two more sisters and a candidate to help. The candidate, Jane Horn, who later became Sister Marciana, was a former pupil of the sisters at White Earth. She was a helpful bridge for building understanding between the missionaries and the Ojibwe at Red Lake. (*Katherine Drexel and her two sisters, daughters of a wealthy banker in Philadelphia, engaged in charity for the American Indian and African American missions.) [SBMA McDonald, pp. 246-249 Sister Owen Lindblad, OSB, FULL OF FAIR HOPE: A History of St. Mary's Mission, Red Lake, (Park Press Quality Printing, Inc., Waite Park, MN, 1997), pp. 15-17, 34-39]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The various American Indian bands living in Canada and the Northwest Territory fought among themselves and the white settlers as Indian hunting grounds continued to be lost. The Dakotas finally settled farther west and the Ojibwe made land treaties with the U.S. government which reserved land around specific lakes in northern Minnesota for them. However, in 1867, the U.S. government ordered the Ojibwe to give up their scattered settlements and gather in one large reservation at White Earth. The reservation was then divided into agencies with government officials placed in charge. The bishop of the Northwest Territory sent Father Ignatius Tomazin to serve the Catholics at White Earth. Father Tomazin was a missionary from Yugoslavia who had worked among the Ojibwe for some years in the Crow Wing area and was known for his zeal in protecting their rights. While he was courageous in protesting the evils of discrimination practiced by the government agents, he perhaps lacked patience and diplomacy in his confrontations. As a result, Father Tomazin was forced off the reservation and transferred to Red Lake. In 1878, Abbot Rupert Seidenbusch, OSB, who had been appointed bishop of the newly-formed Northern Vicariate, asked St. John's Abbey to provide a priest and St. Benedict's Convent to provide teachers for White Earth. Fathers Aloysius Hermanutz and Joseph Buh from St. John's and Sisters Philomena Ketten and Lioba Brau from St. Benedict's were sent to meet the challenges of White Earth. Six days after they arrived, the sisters opened a day school for 15 pupils (12 girls and 3 boys), which increased to a total of 40 during the following week. (*The American Indian band in northern Minnesota prefer the name Anishinabe -- "Anishinaabeg" meaning "First People" -- while the French settlers called them Ojibwe, which is the more familiar name used in these records; and the government referred to them as Chippewa.) The sketch of the mission shown here is mounted on a card with the name, L. Bergman, Louisville, Kentucky, stamped on the back (SBMA, McDonald, pages 227-232), Pamphlet: "St. Benedict's Mission History, White Earth, MN, 1878-1978, as told by Benno Watrin, OSB (Printed by St. John' Abbey), 1978]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). Survival was the sisters' prime challenge during those first years of exposure to cold and scarcity of food in White Earth. But even so, they took two orphan girls (the younger one only four years old) into their home. The care of orphans was to become an important work for them at St. Benedict's Mission as White Earth developed. Sisters Philomena and Lioba, unlike in temperaments, proved to be well-suited to work together among the Ojibwe. Sister Philomena, young and vivacious, had volunteered for missionary work; Sister Lioba, deliberate and more conservative, was fearful of venturing that far into the northern region. They learned to rely on each other's strengths and persevered through 50 years of mission work at the White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). Records indicate that, when a fire destroyed the school just a few weeks after their arrival, Sister Lioba felt justified in going back home, but Sister Philomena suggested fixing up the barn to serve as the school, which they did at a cost of $35.00. [SBMA, McDonald, pp. 232-237]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The Ojibwe accepted their missionaries, "blackrobes," as they called them. Sister Philomene Ketten, always in the midst of action, is standing among the women near the center tree in this photograph. [SBMA]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). After the missionaries had settled in White Earth and had begun to build a new church and school, the Ojibwe of Buffalo River (Callaway), eight miles away, asked Father Aloysius Hermanutz to send them teachers for their children. Rather than refuse, Father Aloysius promised he would do so if they built a school. He believed that they would be unable to provide a building. However, when they did offer a place for the school, Sister Philomena saved Father Aloysius' embarrassment by offering to ride daily to Buffalo River to teach if Father would lend her his pony. After some mishaps in riding strange horses when Father Aloysius needed his, Sister Philomena begged for a pony of her own which she received. She was also able to convince the bishop to provide her with a saddle. [SBMA, McDonald, pp. 237-238]
St. Mary's Mission, Red Lake Indian Reservation (Red Lake Nation). Sisters and students pose on the porch of the convent/school. In 1889, with a donation received from the Drexel sisters, a convent/boarding school was built. Upstairs were sleeping quarters for the sisters and girls; downstairs contained the kitchen, recreation room, and refectory for serving meals. At the time there were five sisters, 35 boarding students of ages six to eighteen, and 25 day students. It proved to be so successful that it had to be enlarged within two years. A house was purchased to be the dormitory for boys and the temporary church (built in 1891) served as the dormitory for boys after a new church was completed in 1893. [SBMA; Lindblad, pp. 41-43]
St. Mary's Mission, Red Lake Indian Reservation (Red Lake Nation). In 1904, fire destroyed the temporary church that had been converted to a boys' dormitory. A year later, the sisters' and girls' first house was also destroyed by fire (see photo). The wood-burning stoves were a constant hazard for the early pioneers. In one of his letters, Father Thomas Borgerding, OSB, describes the agony of not being able to save the building because of the intense wind. Father Thomas wrote to Katherine Drexel requesting funds and she responded with an $800 donation. Using 30,000 feet of lumber stored at the mission, a new building was built by 1905 which housed the boys' residence on the upper level and the sisters and girls on the lower level. By 1906, construction was begun for the sisters and girls' residence and was completed after many summers. [SBMA Lindblad, p. 54-58]
St. Mary's Mission, Red Lake Indian Reservation (Red Lake Nation). This panoramic view of St. Mary's Mission shows the outlay of buildings and the extent of the farm and gardens around 1909. Records reveal the great amount of produce that supported the mission. For example, one summer 1,800 bushels of potatoes and 600 bushels of corn were harvested. The horses, cattle, and chickens were all important in the survival of life on the mission. Red Lake mission prospered despite the early trials of hunger, cold and destructive fires. The sisters maintained an enrollment of 80-100 pupils in the boarding school during the next 50 years. [SBMA, Lindblad, p. 72]
St. Mary's Mission, Red Lake Indian Reservation (Red Lake Band of Chippewa). "Traditionally the governmental structure of the Ojibwe was based on adherence to an hereditary clan chieftainship among the people, and the right to participate in clan decisions was an inherited right" (Lindblad, page 78). They did what they could to keep friendly relations with government agencies, traders, lumbermen and missionaries, while preserving their status of the reservation as a "closed reservation." The people of the Red Lake Indian Reservation themselves insisted on this status to protect their autonomy and food source. It took years for the American people to realize the injustices that were inflicted upon the Americans Indians. The Ojibwe's efforts at revitalizing their culture attest to their dignity and resilience as a people (SBMA Lindlbad, page 78).
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The traditional festive attire was an important part of all Indian celebrations at the White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe) (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives).
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). St. Benedict's mission at White Earth thrived; more and more orphans were crowded into the convent quarters and the day school's enrollment increased. With the help of St. John's Abbey, a new church and a convent school were built in 1881-1882. The convent school, called St. Benedict's Girls Orphan School, was built for 30 orphans; classrooms were built in the ground floor of the new church. Though unaware and unprepared for the cultural sensitivity that would have been desirable in undertaking such a venture as the Indian missions, the sisters shared what they best understood -- education and friendship -- with the Ojibwe who were relegated to reservations in the mid 1800s. There, as in the German and Polish settlements which they served, they staffed schools and taught the basic learning skills, music, domestic arts, and religion. Hindsight reveals the injustice of the American government and of the early settlers in land settlements and in the expectation that American Indians must learn to live, talk, believe and look like the whites who took over the country. For example, the sisters were required to use only the English language in school. However, homey exceptions to that occurred in the life on the mission as the sisters lived, worked and played with the Ojibwe children and learned from them the native language, traditions and life values that in turn enriched the sisters. [SBMA]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The school at White Earth was so successful that it was noticed by Katherine Drexel who lived in Philadelphia and had devoted her life to working for American Indians and African Americans. (She later founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for the education of these minorities.) Katherine visited White Earth with her two sisters and was so impressed by the work of the Benedictines there that she made arrangements for the building of a new school that would house 150 orphaned and dependent children. During the summer of 1890, the bricks for this four-story building were made near the mission and in the winter months, the lumber and other materials were gathered. Two years later, February 10, 1892, the school was opened for 100 children with the expectation that government funds were available to educate and cloth them. By 1895, the enrollment had grown to 150; the number of teachers and helpers grew to eighteen over the years. However, when government funding was rescinded by the turn of the century, the school faced the challenge of survival. The Benedictines turned to the charity of the Catholics of the Northwest Territory, of St. John's Abbey and of St. Benedict's Convent, and most of all, to tribal funds that the government had held in trust for them in lieu of the land they had given up. These funds could be requested by the Ojibwe as needed. In this way, St. Benedict's Mission managed to continue the boarding school until 1945. When the tribal funds were no longer available, the school became a parochial day school. [SBMA, McDonald, pp. 241-246]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). About 85 boarding students and six sisters posed in the inner court of St. St. Benedict's Mission School in the early 1890s. Record keeping for this large a group of children was not simple. While the churches constructed and operated the schools on the reservations, government policy allowed the schools an annual appropriation of a flat rate for tuition, board and clothing annually; the amount varied from $100 to $150 per pupil. This policy required careful quarterly reports to be sent to Washington. All expenditures had to be accounted for - the number of pounds of meat, sacks of flour, bushels of beans and potatoes, barrels of sugar, pounds of rice, and gallons of syrup and soap These accounts show the frugality of the mission school's fare. For example, the 1886 end-of-year record shows $2.00 for candy and $2.50 for a pair of geese. [SBMA, McDonald, pp. 240-241]
St. Benedict's Mission, White Earth Indian Reservation (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). Sister Lioba Braun, at the organ, leads the sisters at St. Benedict's Mission in song. Sister Lioba, one of the first sisters to help establish St. Benedict's Mission at White Earth, brought her gift of music and singing and soon had a choir that was able to sing at the religious services. The sister to the immediate right of Sister Lioba is identified as Sister Meinrad Burrell and the sister to Sister Meinrad's right as Sister Basilia Cosgrove. [SBMA]
This is a photograph of Po-Go-Nay-Ke-Shick, also known as Hole in the Day, an Ojibway Native American. The photograph was taken in the studio of St. Paul photographer Joel E. Whitney. The photograph was purchased in 1862 by a woman from Indiana.