Documenting the Dakota: "All they can give us is the land to live on"

Robert:  Yes, the Round Plain Reserve.  But the Canadian Government said he can’t give them any assistance as they give to the treaty Indians because we are not treaty Indians. All they can give us is the land to live on. And we have to make our [pause] build our own houses and live there and make the best of we could.

Helga: That was pretty… It wasn’t easy either.

Robert: No, it wasn't.

Helga: Because imagine not having all the help that the other Indian tribes of Canada had, you know, in everything.  And now in health services and everything, and education and all the rest, you had to do that all on your own.

Robert: On our own, yes. And it was very, very hard for the Indians to make a living on that reserve.  So they go there and they stay there maybe two or three days and away they go.

Helga: Go to work.

Robert: Some place to make a living.  At that time there was a ruling that an Indian have to have a written permission to be absent from his reserve. A written permission by the Indian Agent. [sic] But these people, they used to leave without having this here written permission. Now, the farmers around here, the settlers around here that know that, this Indian we went there to ask for a job but he hasn't got written permission to leave the reserve, they don't give him a job. And it was very, very hard for them to make a living. And then the people said... There is a lot of children of school age that are not going to school and they ask the Indians why they don't send their children to school.  No school on the reserve.  And they couldn’t go in the other reserve and send their children there because the other Indians wouldn't allow them there. And they can't go into the white community; the white community wouldn't allow them so they are. We were up against it in every walk of life.

Helga: You were just sort of isolated there.

Robert: Yes.

Helga: How terribly hard it must have been.

Robert: Yes. And if an Indian is known to be absent from his reserve maybe ten days, the police will send him back. Send him back to the reserve. Finally a minister -- by gosh, I just forget his name -- but anyway, it is a minister from the Presbyterian church, he went to that reserve and he looked around. He figured there was enough children there to start a school and to keep it going. And if they build a school, they can use if for a church. And that is why the Presbyterian church took over. They built a school there and the Presbyterian missionaries were there. Who paid them, I don't know. Or would they get paid, I don't know.

Helga: Yeah, well, they may have got a grant, some sort of a grant, but a lot of it would be paid by the church probably.

Robert: Yes, and we understood that we can't get no help from the Indian Department. No doctors, nurses, or medicines or...

Helga: That doesn't seem right, does it?

Robert: No. And if we are sick, we can't go into the hospital unless we pay for it, and we haven’t got the money to pay for it.  But we are lucky that nobody took sick. 

Helga: Well, maybe your good Indian medicines in those early days kept you going.

Robert: Yes, there is about four of them in the tribe, you know.

Helga: You had four medicine men in your tribe?

Robert: Yes.  And when anybody gets sick, they all go there.  And they all look over this sick body and they perform over it.  They know what is wrong and they know what to do.  This is the way they live. But when the Presbyterian church took over, they didn't like that system. They didn't like to live with some, what they call this now...

Third Person: Rituals?

Robert: Yes.

Helga: Another belief really than their own.  I can see they wouldn’t like it.

Third Person: They called it superstition I suppose.

Robert: Yeah, you just used that word here not too long ago.  What do you call that now? Witchcraft.

Helga: Yes.

Robert: The Presbyterians didn’t like to live with that.  So the Presbyterians through some arrangement with some society and we got a doctor.  And by that time, the Presbyterian church had built a school. And a few of us, a few of the children were going there.

Helga: What year, do you know what year that would be?

Robert: This would have been in 1890 when the school was built.  1891, 1892, 1893 this place was surveyed and the in 1894 we moved in there. I always use the we -- I wasn't there but, you know, my people. In 1894, we moved in there.

Helga: You moved to the reserve.

Robert: Yes, and the Presbyterian church was with us there.  Miss Lucy Baker, she was a nurse, she was a trained nurse and she looked after the sick people -- bandaged the wounds and this and that, and in the evening the Indians would take that off and they would use their own medicine.

(laughter)

Helga:  Got better faster.

Robert:  Yes.

Robert Goodvoice, from SK Archives, R-5761 and R-5762, excerpt from transcript

In this excerpt, Robert Goodvoice discusses with interviewer Helga Reydon, how the Dakota were administered by government agents, and how the Dakota perceived the assistance that they received from various sources.  Goodvoice also relates a story about how the Dakota would sometimes accept Lucy Baker’s medical help, but that they also continued their use of traditional medicines from traditional practitioners.

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