Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Revisiting Red Cliff and the memory of Delores Bainbridge, elder and teacher

As I continued a cleansing of my files recently, looking  for material for my memoir, I found this letter to me, as professor Weaver, from Delores "Dee" Bainbridge who led our College of St Scholastica Field Botany Class on a walk in July of 1976  ----- 
Here is the letter she sent to me when she was teaching in the schools of the Bayfield Area, and when I had an office in Tower Hall on the campus of the College of St Scholastica from 1975-1997, when my wife Sue and I created a summer Field Botany Class to serve the college and the people of the area  ----We had 8 participants and the two of us  ----
In white with her back to us, must be Delores (I did not label the photo) with 7 others at a sandy beach on Red Cliff, photo taken by the author --July 1976---
St Scholastica Campus with Tower Hall in the center taken in the winter when Sue and I walked up the hill from 1716 E 5th St to work there, I teaching and she in the library ------

When I arrived at the Legendary Waters Hotel and Event Center last Friday, I asked about Dee, and was led by George Newago, one of the elders and keepers of the active sugar bush, he led me to this display case of the history of the Red Cliff Band of Anishinabeg, Chippewa, that honors her 
I had not returned to the Red Cliff Community since 1976, BC, as it were, Before Casinos, for sure, and was touched they honored her as an elder and educator of traditional stories, values and language ---Spirit encouraged me to bring a copy of a book on plants researched by Red Wing Author, Frances Desmore, 1867–1957,  who studied the music and customs of many tribes including Lake Superior Chippewa to gift it to the Red Cliff community to honor the spirit of Dee ---
See wiki  --https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Densmore
Here are some papers from my files  - Course Description for Field Botany -1976
Here is the class outline in the memeograph technology common in the 1970's Sue and I created at CSS
Recommended readying including the Dover Reprint of Densmore's Smithsonian writing,  Published 1920's book, How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts, then available for about $3 as a reprint in the 70's
Press Release describing the class that Sue and I co created, that attracted 8 registrants in Duluth 

Article in my files from the Duluth News Tribune Sept 5, 1976- Including the descriptions of the 2 canoes, Delores wrote about in her letter  -- Ron DePerry, Marvin DuFoe were local builders of the conoes, as well as Warren Bellenberg, Park Naturalist, Ron Livingston of the Native American Cultural Appreciation Team (NACAT) were involved in the Bicentennial Funding according to the article here

And Dee's obit I found on line prior to my drive up with Jeff J from Faribault who encouraged me to join him in storytelling with others at Red Cliff on a spiritual path ---Pidamiya Megwitch---mitakuye Oyasin

Delores M. 'Dee' Bainbridge
(June 20, 1931 - January 10, 2008)

Sign Guest Book | Send Private Condolences
Delores M. 'Dee' Bainbridge, age 76, of 308 Third Avenue East, Ashland, Wisconsin, died Thursday, January 10, 2008, at Northern Lights Health Care Center, in Washburn, Wisconsin.
Dee was born, on June 20, 1931, in Red Cliff, Wisconsin, the daughter of Charlotte DePerry. She was united in marriage, to Theodore C. Bainbridge, in Pine City, Minnesota, on February 19, 1958. She was a homemaker and Native American educator in the public school system. Her resume also includes 22 years at Northland College. She was instrumental in preserving the language, culture and teachings of the Lake Superior Ojibwe. She was equally comfortable telling stories in Ojibwe and English. She was a very generous person who opened her home and her heart to everyone. She will be missed by everyone who knew her.
She would burn tobacco, this was an offering to the spirits, so she wouldn't offend anybody. Then she would burn cedar, which is supposed to take away all the evil spirits. The whole house would be like incense. She did that pretty regularly. They tell us now that we shouldn't talk about Wenabozho unless there is snow on the ground, otherwise a big frog will jump on your bed and leave welts on your body. I've violated that, but if a frog jumps into my bed, I'll kiss him and see if he turns into a prince. I don't remember that she ever said it was taboo, but I've read several times since that you shouldn't tell stories in the summer. Some stories that don't pertain to Wenabozho I guess are okay.
While some of the stories swirling around the DePerry home were in English, Dee's grandmother told her's in Ojibwe. Dee absorbed some stories by simply listening, but others were acquired more formally. She recalled that her grandmother would tell me a story, then ask me to repeat it.
Dee went through eight grades at the Catholic Mission School, at Red Cliff, then attended Bayfield High School. She worked at several jobs, married, raised six children and provided a home for her grandmother. In the Bainbridge home, Dee and Ida Mary DePerry relied on Ojibwe as a secret language when they did not want the children to understand. Likewise Dee continued to enjoy talking and joking with elders in Ojibwe. In early 1973, she began a twenty-two year career of teaching: the Ojibwe language, Indian history and storytelling at Bayfield High School, where roughly 70% of the student body were Ojibwe.
About the same time, she began teaching Ojibwe at Ashland's Northland College. Beyond telling stories amidst other Ojibwes and within the context of her classes. Dee Bainbridge also performed for various community groups and organizations.
She was equally comfortable telling stories in Ojibwe and English. Her delivery was stately and sure, accompanied by occasional mimetic gestures and reliant on subtle vocal shifts that conveyed character and mood. In the 1990's, Dee Bainbridge was recognized by: local Ojibwe, the Wisconsin Arts Board and the National Endowment for the Arts, for her story telling.
Survivors include: her four daughters: Ida Nemec, of Sayner, Wisconsin; Gail Maderich and her husband, Steve, of Ashland; Nan Emery and her husband, Darren, of Lakewood, Washington; and Mary Simmons and her husband, Kirk, of Eagan, Minnesota; and two sons: Paul Bainbridge and his wife, Janet, of Naperville, Illinois; and Joseph Bainbridge and his wife, Carla, of Port Wing, Wisconsin. Dee is also survived by: thirteen grandchildren; four great grandchildren and several foster children.
She was preceded in death by: her parents; her husband, Theodore, on December 22, 1974; two brothers, her grandmother, Ida DePerry and her beloved canine companion, Doobie.
A visitation, for family and friends, will begin at 4 p.m. Monday, January 14, 2008, at the Red Cliff Elderly Center, in Red Cliff, and will feature a Native American Service at 7 p.m. The visitation will resume, on Tuesday, at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, in Ashland, beginning at 10 a.m., continuing until the hour of the service.
A Mass of Christian Burial, for Dee Bainbridge, will be held at 11 a.m., Tuesday, January 15, 2008, at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, in Ashland. Father Frank Folino, O.F.M., will be the Celebrant. The casket bearers will include: Joseph Pascale, Jr., James Peterson, Edward DePerry, Gerald DePerry, Paul Bainbridge, Joseph Bainbridge, Joe Rose and John Anderson.
Interment, in the Saint Agnes Cemetery, in Ashland, will follow the Mass.
Our Ashland Chapel has been entrusted with the privilege of assisting her family with their desires for these memorialization events.

Ice in Bayfield Harbor, Sunday morning April 9 on our way back south

Brownstone National Park Visitors Center in Bayfield not yet open on Sundays in the spring
Beginning of the Brownstone Trail by the Bayfield Harbor, history of the mining of the stone, and the 1883 courthouse now serving as the visitors center -----more interest for a return trip with more loved ones ?  


  1. Greetings Tom Weaver. Your sister, Jeff's Dorothy here. He sent me the link. I agree with you that we are born into one family and get to pick the rest of it. I have certainly been enriched by all the new people who have been added in to it, such as you! You are a great addition to our family. We have even tried to make the shower tall enough to accommodate you if you stay over sometime! Grin. Enjoy the lightness of the evening. "Lakha noche " to quote my old old Ukrainian friend named Dee who has gone on ahead to join a lot of good company. Peace.

    1. Hi Dot, Jungle Woman indeed - Mountain Woman from the Indian Peninsula with language skills from the Tamil nation - Oyate ---Cheers