Ervin Leihy Incidents: Our First Visitor

March 27, 2017

By Amorin Mello

… continued from At the Falls of Bad River.

Transcribed and shared by Robert J. Nelson
from the June 2nd, 1900, issue of the Bayfield County Press :

Incidents of Early Days on Lake Superior

Out First Visitor

By Ervin Leihy

Correct year is 1846.

Lake November, 1864, and late in the evening, a slight noise was heard outside of our cabin at the Falls.  The door was opened and a Indian entered, clad in regulation uniform, as follows: cotton shirt, a blanket coat with of same material attached, a breech cloth, leggings of blanket and moccasins of buckskin.

Gisinaa
it is cold (weather)
~ Ojibwe People’s Dictionary

Rowley, who had picked up a few words of Chippewa wanted to show off, stepped up to the Indian, placed his hand on the bare part of the Indians anatomy and inquired ke-se-nah?  The Indian surveyed him for moment, placed his hand on Rowley’s cheek in repeated Rowley’s question, ke-se-nah, (cold)?  This provided a burst of merriment from the “tender footed,” who could not talk “Injun”, in which the Indian joined. Rowley talked no more Indian that night.

Detail of Ervin Leihy’s sawmill on the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation from Charles Whittlesey‘s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range in Geology of Wisconsin: Volume III; plate XX-214.

The visitor was evidently a young hunter returning from an unsuccessful hunt.  A place was made for him near the fire, he was housed and fed and in the morning departed for his Lodge, six or 7 miles away.

This was not his last visit.  After the new house was finished – now well underway – became again and brought his two best friends with him, with presents of nice fresh fish from the Lake, which were much enjoyed.  These visits were repeated quite frequently by the three friends.  They would come much out of their way to bring us presents of Partridge, venison, most meat, just made Maple sugar or something else intended to please the strangers.

If you can identify who Wi-nah-kis, Pa-me-sa and Wa-bud-o were, or have a more accurate way to spell their names in Ojibwe, please let us know.

Later on when they came to see the product of our little field their expressions of delight were extravagant in the extreme.  They had never seen such potatoes, turnips, corn, squashes, etc.  They were always ready and willing to help in planting, hoeing and harvesting.  They were always well paid for their work and always well pleased with their pay.  The names of these three friends were Wi-nah-kis, Pa-me-sa and Wa-bud-o.  There were others equally friendly, honest and deserving; in fact, the great majority of the Chippewa were comparatively so.  Of course there were some “dark sheep” some in fact quite black.  These, when detected, were given a “cold shoulder” or a hot reception, as the occasion seem to require, but cases of the last named were quite rare.  But that generation has passed away; few, very few, I knew on Bad River survives, and as for the present generation, alas! they are becoming civilized.

To be continued in At the Falls of Bad River #2

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