Listen to the Weekly Radio Readings by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member
Recorded October 2021
October 3, 2021:
While looking at some of the history volumes at the Roseau County Museum, I came upon a spiral bound book by Grace Landin dated May 1972, which was a thesis for her Master of Science in Education degree. It had been donated by Kelly Falk, and was titled “A Study of Three Chippewa Families at Warroad, Minnesota and their Historical and Cultural Contributions”. She thanks the many people who helped her gather information about the prominent families of Ka-Kay-Geesick, Lightning, and Thunder, who had made their home in the Warroad vicinity before any white men came. Mrs. Landin says, “No history of Warroad would be complete without including Ka-Kay-Geesick, medicine man of the Warroad Chippewa. He was believed to be 124 years old at the time of his death in 1968. A brief story of his life may help to describe the early life of the Chippewa in this area.
Information about Ka-Kay-Geesick came from Mrs. Angus, his only living daughter; Verna, his daughter-in-law; Florence Ka-Kay-Geesick, married to his grandson Robert, and Robert, Jr., his great grandson. Mrs. Landin notes that this was obtained by interview, photographs furnished by the family, and tapes. Julius Anderson had made some records and also added material by interview. Here is Mrs. Landin’s story about Ka-Kay-Geesick.
In a small dome-shaped hut covered with birch bark and located close to the banks of the Warroad River, a baby boy was born to Osha Wash and May Muska Washie. The naming of a Chippewa child was a thing of ritualistic and divine importance. A child’s true name must be revealed by the Great Spirit to the parents or other relatives. Perhaps May Muska Washie dreamed of a beautiful sky that never darkened, so she called her son Ka-Kay-Geesick, which in Chippewa means “Everlasting Sky.”
Ka-Kay-Geesick spent his childhood in a primitive society. He lived in a tepee or domed hut with reed mats piled one on top of the other as insulation from the cold ground. He was nursed by his mother and weaned on …listen for the rest of the story.
October 10, 2021:
Last week I started reading from a thesis written by Grace Landin about the historical and cultural contributions of three Chippewa families from Warroad and the surrounding area. I’ll continue reading from the account of Ka-Kay-Geesick’s life as an adult.
Shortly after 1880, the white settlers started moving in from the west. Life for Ka-Kay-Geesick and all the Indians who had lived simply as sons of nature, was about to undergo a drastic change. Jim Hill, a young man from Canada, had become interested in trade between St. Paul and Canada, handling freight from steam boats, ox carts, and later the railroads. This often took him to the north where he recognized the potential of these counties. Railroad tracks soon ran to Winnipeg and it was over these rails that white men came to Warren and Stephen. From there they traveled by stage coach, horse and buggy, or wagon to Roseau County. Each week the Indians saw more settlers moving into Warroad.
In 1898, the Canadian Northern Railroad, now the mainline of the Canadian National, completed the tracks from the lake head to Winnipeg. Warroad started to grow, as more people could now get there from all parts of the country without the aid of a horse. In 1909, the Great Northern pushed its rails to Warroad and the town of Warroad grew more rapidly.
Ka-Kay-Geesick was still living in the same location where he had grown up, on the land across the river, which was not as wide at that time as it is now. A small island was located near the mouth of the river close to the present jetty, but was washed away when the power dam was installed at Kenora, and the water rose several feet. This island was known as Sandy Island and was the site of a large fishery and boat docks.
Ka-Kay-Geesick was married rather late in life. No records were kept then, but it was believed that he was about 38 years old at the time. Nine children were born to this family, three boys and six girls. (Ka-Kay-Geesick’s only living child, Mrs. Mary Angus, gave the Chippewa names of her brothers and sisters. She could give them only …listen for the rest of the story.
October 17, 2021:
For the past two weeks I read from a publication by Grace Landin about three Chippewa Families from Warroad and their contributions to the local culture. I read first about Ka-Kay-Geesick. Today I’ll read about the Lightning Family from that same document. The information came from interviews of Margaret Lightning Aas with recollections from her parents which she interpreted, as well as recordings of information and dates personally recorded by her. An interview in 1971 with Tom Lightning was also used.
The families that lived at Warroad before the coming of the white man and still make Warroad their home include the names of Ka-Kay-Geesick, Lightning, and Thunder. The Lightning family still continues some of the early craft work of basket weaving, bead and leather work. (This family was willing to supply the necessary information, so this family history is mainly from primary sources.)
Honest John Lightning and Nay May Puck made their first trip to Roseau for marketing around 1880. They had heard they could find a fur buyer and store in Roseau where they could trade. These two men were brothers of Ka-Kay-Geesick. Tom Lightning was the son of Honest John; it is his story that will be recorded here.
Tom Lightning was born on October 10, 1875. His wife was born on October 14, 1881. Both are at present living in the rest home at Warroad (this was in 1972). There were three children born to this marriage – Hans, Margaret, and John. Hans was killed early in his adult life and left five children. Margaret, who has one son, still resides in Warroad and continues the early Indian craft work. John has retired from the United States Navy after 29 years of service and again makes Warroad his home. He has two children.
Tom Lightning’s parents were Honest John Lightning (Mah-gee-gah-bow) and his wife ..listen for the rest of the story.
October 24, 2021:
Last week I read to you about Tom Lightning from a document donated to the Roseau County Museum by Kelly Falk. It’s a study of three Chippewa families from Warroad and their historical and cultural contributions to the area. The document is by Grace Landin in 1972 and uses interviews with family members to relate their stories. I’ll continue reading today starting with Tom Lightning’s wife’s story.
Mrs. Tom Lightning, whose maiden name was Ethel Gardner, was the daughter of a Chippewa woman and an Englishman. Her father was involved with shipping freight and supplies out of Warroad. She was married to Tom Lightning just before the turn of the century, probably in 1898 or 1899. In 1916 Tom Lightning was skinning a moose and accidentally stabbed himself with a knife, just above the knee. Blood poisoning resulted, and Tom’s leg had to be amputated. This made it necessary for Mrs. Lightning to do the heavy work of a man to help support their family. She was a courageous woman.
Mrs. Lightning spoke in the Chippewa language and told the following story about her camping trip. Her daughter, Margaret, did the interpreting. The following is Ethel’s story as close to the actual wording as could be recorded.
“We started out from here (Warroad) about in April. We had a big horse sleigh that my husband Tom made by hand out of oak. We cut the tree ourselves, whittled it down with an ax and finished it off with a sharp knife. It was nice and strong. Tom also put iron runners on it to pull easier.
This was the way we loaded up our trapping supplies. First, we would load up the …listen for the rest of the story.
October 31, 2021:
I’ll continue today reading from the Grace Landin document telling about three Chippewa families from Warroad. Today I’ll be reading from Tom Lightning’s daughter Margaret Lightning Aas’s childhood story.
“When I first went to school, I must have been between seven or eight years old. I just cannot recall.
My oldest brother, Hans, was in his teens. Our parents took us to an Indian boarding school up in Shoal Lake, Ontario. I couldn’t write my own name then. They didn’t even try to teach us to learn to read or write. I guess we didn’t know any different. They put all of us to work. We would go to a half day of school about three times a week. The rest of the time we would do housecleaning, sewing, cooking, and anything in the line of housework. The boys would do the outside work like cutting wood, caring for the cattle, and shoveling snow. There was a lot of work to be done outside for a big school. They had to do everything by hand.
After two terms my father didn’t take us back to that school again. The following year we went to school in Warroad. We had a late start, Hans and I, so I guess that’s why we did not get much schooling. John had a better chance. He really loved school. I never liked school very much. The white children would tease me all the time. They would call me all kinds of names and I wasn’t one to fight back. They would call me a “dirty Indian.” Maybe they thought my skin was dirty when it was darker than theirs.
Here in Warroad, I learned to be able to read and write a little. I didn’t learn anything in Canada, not even my ABCs.
We lived in town here with our grandmother, Mrs. Honest John Lightning. Louis Goodin was raised with us. He was like a brother to us. My grandmother and my parents raised him. His mother died when he was an infant. Louis’s mother was Nay-May-Puck’s daughter. So there was three of us going to school. We took care of ourselves and …listen for the rest of the story.
Thank you to for letting us share the history of our county with your listeners.