Caught In Time Northwoods Vacationland Album
Fond Memories ...
Preserving a Heritage
Martin Lynch, a non-Indian, came to Wisconsin and homesteaded land near Sugar Camp in 1854. Martin met and married a Chippewa girl known as Ba-gwa-ne-ge-zhi-go-kew, or "Ramona." Ten children were born to the marriage. Their eldest daughter, Bridget, married E-da-wi-gi-jib, a Chippewa who was later killed in the Civil War. They had one son, Wa-Shusk No. 1, Jr.R. Lynch, or John Wayman Sr. This was Blanche's grandfather. Her father was John Wayman Jr.
Wa-Shusk (John Wayman Sr.) homesteaded land in Sugar Camp in 1900, and this was the summer base for his family. We say summer base, because during those years the Chippewa tribes led a nomadic existence. They would summer in Sugar Camp, arriving when the maple syrup was flowing and spend the summer picking the wild berries. Then, after the harvest of the wild rice, they would travel on to find other work and ways to support their families. Most of the time this meant work in the logging industry. John Wayman Sr. usually found work with Frank Robbins, and worked throughout the northern part of the state.
Blanche's story really has to start on a spring day in 1914. A young Chippewa maiden was sitting on Medicine Rock on the Flambeau Reservation. She was idly dreaming, perhaps about her future...little knowing that at that moment her future was riding toward the reservation.
This was the day that John Wayman Jr. Rode in. Tall and handsome, he made a beautiful picture on his gaily decorated Indian pony...and the young maiden was quick to notice him. John was riding with his cousins, Tom Big John and John Big John, both noted wrestlers.
As the story is told, one of the young men motioned for John to look at the beautiful girl...and take particular notice of her long, black hair and tiny, tiny waist. "She will be my girl while we are here," one of them said. "No, this is the woman who will be my wife." John replied. And the Indian style courtship began.
The beautiful maiden was named Annie Jackson, and the courtship began in earnest when her father broke a twig off a tree and went to John's father, where he sang a song asking for his son's hand in marriage for their daughter. John's father, in return, accepted the twig and then replied with a song, accepting Annie as his future daughter-in-law.
At a later ceremonial dance, he gave Annie a bridle which signified that his wedding gift was to be a horse. Annie and John were married that fall. A part of the beautiful ceremony, which included a feast and a Pow Wow, was the presentation of a special blanket to the young couple. Later John had to travel to Eagle River for their legal marriage license.
Their first home was in Winchester, where John had found winter work as a lumberjack and top loader.
John had previously been training to be a tribal medicine man, but Annie was a devout Catholic and asked him to give up that part of his life, which he willingly did.
That spring, following the custom of his family, John and Annie went to Sugar Camp, where John built both a teepee and a log cabin for them. This set the pattern for the years of their marriage...nomadic wandering through the winter...and Sugar Camp in the summer.
Eventually Annie and John had 12 children--seven boys and five girls. Blanche was born to them during a winter stay in Lac du Flambeau; in a little frame house in the Indian Village. Government doctors did most of the delivers in those days, aided by Indian midwives.
As their winter travels continued, John and Annie felt that their children should remain in school where they would be warm and comfortable. It wasn't always easy to support the family from the land, nor had it been for their ancestors. Many times they had to sell the merchantable timber from their allotted land.
Blanche found a document, dated 1892, that showed her grandfather Wayman signed to sell his timber to Joseph H. Cushway and Co. He received 50 cents per thousand feet for hemlock, $1 per thousand feet for birch, $2 for Norway pine, 65 cents for pine shingle timber, $2 per thousand feet for dead and merchantable pine and $4 per thousand for green merchantable pine.
Five of Annie and John's children attended the Government Indian Boarding School in Lac du Flambeau. Blanche spent nine months of each year at the school for 10 years. As she said, "I would have just learned to remember to say 'yes, MaMa'...instead of 'yes, Maam,' and it would be time to go back to the school."
The school was not one of Blanche's favorite experiences. "Oh I guess I liked it once I got acquainted," she said, "but I never learned to adjust to the discipline. It was army style discipline, and it was applied swiftly. We would be punished by having to march around a post or stand in the corner with our arms in the air. We were padlocked in our dormitories at night, and those that managed to escape were badly whipped."
Blanche will never forget one day when she was the point of the discipline. She had said a forbidden word. The class was called together and given a strong lecture on bad language. Blanche was then brought to the front of the room, and her classmates watched as the teacher washed her mouth out with lye soap. She was then taken to the clothing room, made to lie across a foot stool and was whipped. That evening she was admitted to the infirmary, for the lye had formed great blisters in her mouth.
Blanche was only too glad when she completed her schooling and went to work at a resort in the area, where she earned a $1 a day and her three meals.
Her school experiences being as such, Blanche always looked forward to her summers...for it was during the summer that her Indian heritage and her skills were restored. Blanche had been given an Indian name at birth. It was Ne-shu-esk-a-go-kew; meaning "lady of two worlds," and it certainly seemed to fit the pattern of her life.
Blanche learned beadwork at her Grandmother Jackson's knee. Grandma also taught her sewing and Aunt Celia taught her to crochet...Her father made her a cedar bead loom, and she would help her mother with her bead work.
This work was then exchanged for groceries. Blanche remembers making baby moccasins by the dozens. She remembers picking greens at Sugar Camp and selling them for Christmas Wreaths.
...and she remembers more. Blanche remembers the Pow Wows...the Indian ceremonies...the tribal runners...the medicine men. She remembers the stories of her mother's father-"the little Frenchman"-who had the reputation as the best gambler on the reservation.
She has not lost the secrets or the skills of her people...basket weaving...making fish nets...snowshoes and canoes. She remembers and loves a heritage that is slipping away.
In the following chapters we hope to preserve this heritage in words.