My mother knew we had to survive in the greater society

Mr. Childs talks about growing up, going to school, family, and career.

Audio Chapters

MC: In high school I was very shy; I couldn’t find enough places to hide. I didn’t feel very comfortable. But then I went to Rochester Junior College and started in engineering technology, which is basically drafting, and making blue prints. I was a mechanic type; I didn’t like to have clean hands. And dirty hands didn’t go good with drafting. There wasn’t enough carbon tetrachloride to clean it. So anyway, I went to Dunwoody and it was just like they welcomed me with open arms. [Emotional]

DL: You finally found a program you liked, and they treated you well and you graduated, and you made a life doing that.

MC: Yes. It just changed me all around. [Emotional] I served on the Student Senate there at Dunwoody and it just changed me.

DL: Who taught you about being Dakota?

MC: Oh, I didn’t finish.

DL: Okay.

MC: Grandma Lena was very important to us because she came over practically every day. That’s Lena Campbell. She didn’t speak much English and we didn’t know Dakota because my mom went to Pipestone and Flandreau Boarding Schools. They were – I wish I could think of a word that was severe enough to say how they were stripped of their language.

DL: Yes, that was the intent.

MC: Although we didn’t know what Grandma was saying, we could tell [what she meant]. She was here so much that we knew what she was saying. Her sister, Rose Blower, also was here a lot; we called her Auntie Rose. She was very important to us too. Ma’s sister, Hazel Wells, lived right across the tracks and they visited a lot; siblings, you know, they’d come over and talk a lot. All the closest relatives were right here; they just were part of our life.

And that’s how we, leading back to your question, that’s how we got our values of Dakota life. It was very important that you shared, just everything.

MC: Times were hard and basically we either fished every day, or we hunted squirrels. We didn’t have guns; we used slingshots made out of the crotch of a tree with strips of tire rubber and leather.

We’d either fish or hunt. Of course it’s cold right now, but we’d normally have to walk these railroad tracks about half-way to Red Wing and pick up turtles, and then we walked along the river banks and picked up turtles. We ate a lot of turtle; snapping turtle and what we called sand turtles. Then there’s kind of a medium size one we called a tiecha – it’s an Indian word; I don’t know how to spell it, but it’s kind of like a tortoise. It’s got big scales on sections; they don’t really have scales, but the sections of their shell are rather pronounced. It’s a vicious-looking turtle. So anyway, those are the three types of turtles. There was a leather-back or soft-shell, but we very seldom got them because they were fast-moving, unless you caught it on the fishing line.

DL: How about rabbits?

MC: Yes, we had rabbits we caught with sling shots.

MC: It was important to my mother that we were taught to survive in the greater society. We were taught to speak English very clearly, learn grammar and that, and to really survive in the greater society because of what she went through, because of the punishment and cruelty and un-teaching of culture and family values. My mother knew we had to survive in the greater society. That was important to her. After all the children were raised and out of school, she went back to school and got some kind of nurse’s aide training. She also worked in the library at Burnside School.

DL: She must have been very proud of you, with your employment and your longevity at Sears.

MC: Yes. In fact, there’s a book, I can’t think of the title right now, I got it here, but it’s something about: what’s it like to be an Indian, or something. It was a hard-covered book, and in there she mentions that I worked at Sears Roebuck at Knollwood Plaza.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Michael Childs Interviewer Deborah Locke made at Welch, Prairie Island Indian Community, MN | Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. My mother knew we had to survive in the greater society June 23, 2024.

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.