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Native American Stories of Resilience

Mary Everette

All text and audio copyright, 2015 by the Native American Development Center ©

Lorraine Davis:  We're ready for interview number two for the stories of resiliency of the Native American people. Today here I have an elder from the Fort Berthold reservation from the Arikara Nation. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your name and your Indian name and your tribal affiliations?

Mary Everette:  My Indian name is would have been now Red Basket but I gave it to Catherine, Catherine's name is Red Basket, but my name is Yellow Corn, named after my good grandmother. That would be Snow, used to get my dad's mother. Then I started school in Bismarck here, Bismarck Indian School when I was about 7 years old and I never knew a word of English so I used to go over to grandma, Mrs. Wilde. They would teach me a few words like the main things, you know, what I needed like, "I'm hungry," or, "I'm going to ..." Every day words that was a necessity to my being.

                        I was very happy to find out that I wasn't the only one, that were a lot of others that had the same problem of learning how to speak in the English language and now learn how the outside lived. The first time to get under the shower and wash your hands, sink, and all that. Not to go to the bathroom and flush your toilet. Of course when they flush their toilet I just jumped up. I thought I was going to go right down with it.

Davis:              I couldn't imagine all of those things we take for granted today, those little things. It's all normal for us but back then I could see that's a total big transformation and how things are done.

Everette:         There was a lot of change in our lives when we started. Then of course we had separate ... You had your own government clothes, your striped gown, dress you know and striped bloomers. They were the real ...

Davis:              They were all striped ...

Everette:         Again you went to town you went underwear and stockings or the regular ... Anyhow ...

Davis:              Was it like tube socks?

Everette:         They weren't socks or anything; they were regular government stocking and government shoes. Then of course it couldn't go around, government shoes couldn't go around so a lot of us kids that had small feet, we had to wear boy's shoes. You see a lot of our girls going clump, clump. Then how to march. We learned how to march and well anyhow. They'd say, "Forward march," we'd go ... We learned all the rules of that. They'd say, "Company this way, company that way," and all that. Just a regular military.

Davis:              Yeah, I was just going to say that.

Everette          It was all kind of military.

Davis:              You were kids. How old were you at that time, do you remember that? What was your age?

Everette:         In the morning we all had to get out there and do exercise.

Davis:              Oh really?

Everette:         We had somebody ... As soon as you got up and got yourself organized then you went out there and you know, it's like a military, you know? You know where you stand. Somebody goes down, it's just like people were soldiers.

Davis:              You must've been how old were you?

Everette:         I was 7 years old at that time.

Davis:              Seven years old.

Everette:         Yeah, 7 years old when I started out.

Davis:              Start marching?

Everette:         Yeah, start learning how to March ...

Davis:              Talk English, flush toilets, different things like that.

Everette:         It was the beginning of it.

Davis:              Is it ... I apologize if this is not correct or appropriate but today are you in ... Well in your 90s?

Everette:         Ninety-six right now but I'll be 97 in September.

Davis:              Oh my goodness.

Everette:         September and you know really I thank the Lord for every day because I still have my mind, I can think way back and I mean I can respond to other, but the only thing was my hearing first, it began with that. Boy. I used to have a hearing because that way you can join the conversations or you can answer if they ask a question, this way they don't ... It does get on your nerves, especially not knowing ... They said that too. Now I can speak for myself now.

Davis:              Thank goodness for hearing aids.

Everette:         No one has to speak for me or my grandchildren had to speak for me or tell me, let me know what was going on or something like that. The family is so good. I can't complain really. Because they, they really are good. Right now Jo is gone so I miss her too, you know?

Davis:              Oh sure. Is she out of state? Your granddaughter?

Everette:         Yeah, she's in Chicago, she's a nurse. Yeah, she’s a nurse. Those kids are smart!

Davis:              They're all doctors and nurses, right?

Everette:         Yeah, the little ones. She's married to the doctor ...

Davis:              Rising Sun. I met him through my husband, met both of them through my husband because my husband Scott is friends with Dr. Rising Sun.

Everette:         They're both alike, their feelings are both alike, as a couple. They've got that little boy and you'd think that little boy would be spoiled, it's an only child, he's probably got other children but being the youngest. Then they've got the girl, and she's going to college right now. They're doing real fine for themselves.

Davis:              That's good.

Everette:         She helps me out a lot. Same with Jo. I saw those kids, when she had the babies, you know, I used to take care of the babysitting for them all the time. I would've babysat every time for when they wanted to go some place so I babysat for the kids. I know them both well and even when they got to high school and afterwards. They went to college. I was always with Jo every time she was going to have a test. I'd go over there with her, to Grand Forks and take care of her, my little great grandchildren.

                        After her test then I'd come home.

Davis:              Kind of that's the way it is, Indian way, no matter what tribe we're from Grandmas are a bit part of the family's life, whether it's the grandkids, your own kids. They're a big part of caretaking, even as grandma.

Everette:         I think that's what helped me, my mind and responsibility.

Davis:              Sure, that makes sense.

Everette:         To keep track ...

Davis:              To keep active.

Everette:         I really do.

Davis:              Have that social part that we all need.

Everette:         If I can do my own work I'm going to do it and I do exercises, I do a lot of walking, I do ... I learned how to be by myself and do things for myself. Probably sometimes it can be pretty tough but I manage.

Davis:              You have a beautiful home here. I've been throughout the facility here, this is beautiful.

Everette:         This is nice. I said this reminds me of the time, I think it was the Paterson Place, the same layout.

Davis:              Is it?

Everette:         Yeah. I said I guess I just moved from one place to another place. I needed help over there because I worked all my life. I've worked all my life. I didn't have the education, didn't have that chance because I got married right away. When I got out into California I thought, I've got to do something to help along with the rent and everything else. I went back to school and I went to nursing training and I went to the college there in Sacramento. Then I took my state exams in San Francisco and I was happy when I passed. Oh my goodness.

Davis:              I bet. Big accomplishment.

Everette:         Then too my experience, working in different areas, we had to work in different areas., which helped when you go to different hospitals, you put every place. I was just like that, it seems like they always wanted ... I always had a place to work. If I didn't have it I'd call up, they'd say, "Put on your hat and come right over," so that's what I'd do. I'd put my little hat on, my LPN cat and I'd go to work.

Davis:              You weren't driving back and forth to work, you took the bus?

Everette:         Catherine was going to school. In Sacramento they went. We had nice neighbors.

Davis:              That's nice.

Everette:         Which is nice. Nice neighbors. Betty used to babysit for me, neighbors, and she had children too. There was another one right across too, had nothing but boys. Then they go to school all together go to the school and all come back together as kids.

Davis:              When you were growing up as a child, you went through those experiences, you mentioned going to Bismarck Public School, was it a Public School or was it a Catholic School?

Everette:         Catholic School.

Davis:              A lot of things changed because you grew up being taught, for example the Arikara language and then English, all these different changes. What did you carry with you? Even though you were taught to change your language, some of your values and some use the word, "Assimilated." What would you say through all of that assimilation, what do you still carry with you today?

Everette:         When I started school in Bismarck, it seems like they pushed you on. Then when I got into the public school when I was about 6 and 7th grade, 7th and 8th grade ...

Davis:              13, 14?

Everette:         Yeah, there was a change there. It wasn't for Sister Benedict. It seems like otherwise they would've put me way back at the end.

Davis:              Sister Benedict helped you?

Everette:         She took time out to let me catch up to the real 7th and 8th grade. You know what? I got down. In Derado all of us were in that same category. We all had to start from the beginning. Every time when it's a government school, what we have now ...

Davis:              The public school system?

Everette:         I say no. Start just like the public school so when anybody goes into a different school they'll be able to ...

Davis:              Adapt right into the system.

Everette:         Mm-hmm. I think the government should know that. Should be the same as the other schools.

Davis:              All the schools should be the same so if they move ...

Everette:         Uh huh, and it depends on the person. They can get ahead, maybe get a scholarship whatever it is that the person is working for. That's another thing I would like to have done in the schools for girls, especially starting school. Elementary right on through, same type.

Davis:              When you were growing up, what were ... Who was your teacher? Who did you learn the most from?

Everette:         We had ... One teacher, that was in grade school, Miss Dosey.

Davis:              Miss Dosey was your favorite?

Everette:         She was a favorite. Miss Dosey, yeah.

Davis:              What kind of teacher was she? What did she teach? Was it academics?

Everette:         She was the 7th and 8th grade teacher. I remember Tootsie Partay. She was kind of mischievous, and so she'd say, "No," she says I'm going to have to spank you. So she'd spank her and she put her pants so hard I don't think she even felt the spanking.

Davis:              You guys would get spanked in school? Back then that was normal to get spanked in school?

Everette:         Yeah.

Davis:              You must've been about 7, 8 years old at that time?

Everette:         7 years old at that time ... Miss Dickinson used to be the one with the elementary, that was our superintendent's wife.

Davis:              She did the spanking?

Everette:         Yeah. Very strict lady.

Davis:              Going back to before the public school or the Catholic schools, who was your teacher? Who taught you? Was it your mom and your dad both? Were they a part of your life?

Everette:         My dad, yeah.

Davis:              Where did they go?

Everette:         My mother went to Fort Stevenson.

Davis:              Fort Stevenson?

Everette:         Yeah. They had the school there.

Davis:              Where is that?

Everette:         Most of them when you go down there they always have a place that says Fort Stevenson. I imagine the school as in that area. I never did know whereabouts the school was, but Pete Roshan used to go to school there too, my dad, all of them. They were just like the way where you had to march in. They always tell about each other and they'd tell, we'd sit there, the things that they'd laugh about. Of course, I can talk to you about that. We were all poor but regardless, it’s just that Leah was the poorest .

                        The bottom of the shoe? I guess it came off so there he goes, you know.

Davis:              He was the poorest one, huh? I could only imagine.

                        You mentioned your father. Was he sent to Fort Stevenson's too?

Everette:         Yeah, I guess they all go to school right there at the Fort Stevenson. They have one now, Fort Stevenson flat.

Davis:              I'm not familiar with where that's located.

Everette:         I'll bet you that's probably where the school was. I wish I could've known where it was and if I knew I would've really found it out, if they showed me, whereabouts it would be. Then all of a sudden they took a lot of ... They took them to Pennsylvania, what's that place there now? They had 2 schools.

Davis:              In Pennsylvania?

Everette:         Yeah, in New Jersey, around the area. Pete Roshan, I guess he went out there and Charlie Helfen, he was out there too. I imagine they graduated ...

Davis:              Together?

Everette:         Yeah, they graduated from high school.

Davis:              They had each other over there?

Everette:         Yeah, they had government schools over there I guess.

Davis:              They separated you guys though, your parents?

Everette:         Yeah, they said one school there, I don't know which one it was, I can't think of the names of them. They were Indians and Blacks together.

Davis:              Oh okay, I didn't know that.

Everette:         Now what school was that, there were 2 schools there.

Davis:              These were the ones in Pennsylvania? I'll have to look it up.

Everette:         Yeah, there were 2 schools.

Davis:              I'll have to do my research.

Everette:         Pete Roshan, he was a smart man, he did a lot for the people, same with Ina. do you know them?

Davis:              No I don't.

Everette:         And Margie?

Davis:              No, I don't know who they are.

Everette:         They did a lot, the White Shield School, she's got her name on there, Margie Roer ...

Davis:              She was a relative?

Everette:         Yeah, that school has got her name on there. They did a lot of work.

Davis:              Creating that school?

Everette:         Yeah, for people. Of course they are around Arikara's too but they have White blood in them, you know? Mrs. Roshan, she was White, came from the east and Pete was married to her. I suppose they got married when they were out in New Jersey or some place, when he was going to school.

Davis:              He was Arikara and she was White and he met her up there? I see.

Everette:         There's a lot of Boshan's there.

Davis:              In White Shield?

Everette:         Yeah, White Shield.

Davis:              I didn't know that.

Everette:         Sons, they had 3 of them I think. Yeah. Pete and Bernard and the young one is still living in White Shield, but I think Bernard and them are now gone. They still ...

Davis:              Their names are still on the school, right?

Everette:         Mm-hmm. It was a real nice family.

Davis:              I'll check that next time.

Everette:         The whole family is just great.

Davis:              One of the questions that we wanted to make sure to share with the audience is because what we want to get tout of this is to help people gain some insight, gain some wisdom from your life experience, your journey. What were some of the struggles that you had, overview of some of those struggles and what got you through them? What helped you get through them in a good way.

Everette:         My mother and dad used to put in a big garden. You know how it is without the equipment like the modern you had to do it with horses. I think the community people that was oh they had a boss farmer there and one was Burton Bell and then there was another one before him was Charlie Ross, Burton Bell and the least one I think he came from Wisconsin. I think he was a teacher or something. I don't know but anyhow the main thing is they had community gardens. People would put in their gardens in all those places and then you could see. What I really wish I don't know what goes on right now in White Shield but I think if they put their minds to for their sake of their children in their gardens, work, that would give them ... That way they wouldn't have time to be thinking about drinking. You know what I mean? It'd probably be ... They'd be doing something for their own self by putting in a garden.

                        Margie Brewer, Agnes was working there too, Vera, there was a lot of people working at that school. They told the people there whoever wants to can their food, bring your canning over to the school and we'll help you can. That was some of Margie Brewer's ... A lot of them they took whatever they wanted canned, they took them over to the school and they did like that.

                        There was one lady there, I can remember she was a wonderful lady and her name was Pauline Fredericks. She was a wonderful lady, a German lady. She was just a wonderful person. She did a lot of things at the school. Help, cooked and everything else at the school. I had a picture of the people that are going to have to go downstairs and look for the trash, oh it's not trash but there's a picture of all the people that worked at the school.

Davis:              That's a pretty old picture.

Everette:         Old picture. The whole picture, the elders and probably just like they were in that kitchen, the teachers and Margie's in it.

Davis:              I'd love to see that picture.

Everette:         Yeah, I'm going to have to find out about get it and get it out, I should even take it up to the school.

Davis:              Sure.

Everette:         Make copies of it.

Davis:              Put it up on the board. That would be such a gift.

Everette:         That would be something to pass on and help them advance, and then they'd forget about drugs and alcoholism if they'd just put their minds to doing something about themselves and the community.

Davis:              That's a good point that you make. It helps us to feel a sense of self identity. Learning those values, being taught things that make us feel valuable and at the same time feel unity and love is what you get when you have community. Sometimes the love isn't always directly in our home sometimes for some family members, so if we have it within our community we can all carry each other's weight and help one another, right? That's kind of the sense that I feel like it was a long time ago. Even though I surely wasn't there but it seems to me that's the sense that I got from listening too from my grandma before she passed away and hearing a lot of the stories.

                        Growing up as a little child I felt that. It was always a sense of unity within our relatives. A lot of laughter, at the pow wows that we went to and the visits at the houses of our relatives, it was always warm and welcoming and a lot of laughter and eating and warm. Love. Feeling. I remember that from my grandma's side.

Everette:         I'm thinking about alcoholism, I don't know how many ... To me, looking at the people when I go there, it doesn't seem like there's alcoholism among the people that I eat with.

Davis:              You can't see it.

Everette:         At the senior center. Of course they have those homes, but I think most of it must come from New Town.

Davis:              Mm-hmm. That area. The bars.

Everette:         I imagine it's because of they have the oil and things right there too and it's much closer, much closer there.

Davis:              The bars are and activities.

Everette:         Casino. There is a lot of temptations and things. I just imagine according to what I hear they say that they go in to be a place for people that have alcoholic problems.

Davis:              A treatment center?

Everette:         Drugs.

Davis:              Recovery?

Everette:         Yes, a recovery place.

Davis:              Center.

Everette:         Yeah, that's good.

Davis:              That is good news.

Everette:         I heard about it, it's good. Apparently they probably, everything is going on right in that area there. I don't know anything about the Fort Yates, but there they've had a lot of problems too, you know? It's quieting down quite a bit. It really has. I never hear anything more, it's just mostly in that area.

Davis:              Fort Berthold area since the oil has come?

Everette:         Yeah, and so somebody's got to do something about it.

Davis:              When it's in the news often that's when you know it's happening a lot because just imagine how many things are happening that aren't in the news. The way it used to be before, things weren't always in the news. It's such at a deep end level of crime now. It's more criminal today than it was back then. Yeah, it's definitely blamed to alcohol and drugs. We can blame the oil but if we really look at it it's the actual addiction of people.

Everette:         Yeah. A lot of them, I mean then too a lot of that money, I was telling Catherine, I said a lot of that money, should we spend it on things that to help the people look at themselves and to start cultivating something to overcome and to start ...

Davis:              Invest in their futures, in their children's futures, in their futures, home ownership, things like that. That would be definitely a place to start. I think we need a revolution. We really need that inspirational empowering kind of mobilizing bodies of unity to do that, whether that comes within each reservation or comes from the urban area and does outreach to ... However, but it needs to happen because it just ... We need the people power to inspire people to find their culture, to find God, to find something that is higher than this life.

Everette:         Mm-hmm. Yeah. I don't even know the people. All the old people, maybe a few now that goes to the senior center, but most of them, they're gone, the older people, people that I remembered. People that I knew. When you go in or whatever and you're glad to see them and like that but not anymore. You don't get to see them. They've passed on. Now it's just a few. There's Greta, when I go to White Shield, of course Greta's my niece. Packinome and sometimes you should go, just go in there to eat. Talk to ...

Davis:              That's a very good idea.

Everette:         Catherine. Your aunt is working there, Florence's girl.

Davis:              Oh, which one would that be then? It's not Delila?

Everette:         Yeah, they work there, and I always like it too because I mean they're very dependable. Makes me feel good. I know them.

Davis:              You're proud of them.

Everette:         I am very proud of them because they're very dependable and the food they bring out, is it ever good. They have a way of fixing up the ... The food up, and I says you now what? It's Val and Catherine and I are going to White Shield, and I says, could I go? Catherine says, "Yeah." They take me along and I say you know what? Maybe I should take chicken along, the barrels of chicken, put an addition to the food.

Davis:              Your pot luck. That is so fun. I love visiting with you.

Everette:         You know what? I said do you know ... I'm related to everybody.

Davis:              It seemed like everybody's from White Shield. When I meet people here over the years in Bismarck, I've worked at United Tribes, people at the church or just in our community here and they say they're from White Shield, there's so many from White Shield, I'm like wow, it's hard to believe that many people come out of White Shield because it's the tiniest little piece of the reservation up there. It always amazes me.

Everette:         I went to the school and they had us talk to the kids so I went to the school and looked around. I says oh my goodness, I says I'm a grandma too old. I was a grandma to all of them in some forms or other.

Davis:              Oh I bet. I think we're going to start wrapping up but I just want to ask one more question and if you are able to share and give some advice to someone who's listening who's younger and still has a journey in front of them. What advice would you give them that might be helpful for them, going forward in a good way, to do it in a good way? What advice would you give to the people?

Everette:         I was telling the kids I said when I was a little girl, I said what I remembered as a child, when I was running on my own, which is true, I said I used to see haystacks. You now, the straw? I said, did you know your grandparents put in a crop, they put in wheat, they put in flax and they put in on their lands regardless, even if it was just 80 acres because they had to work with horses.

                        Then they had this thrash machine, used to go from one end of the reservation and comes and they had ... I can remember that coming out and I can remember that and I always think oh, how sweet and how nice to still have that picture where they were straw piles and everything else. They themselves did. Now this new generation we have one fourth shares of, we don't even put nothing in. I know we did, I mean Jack and I did. We put in wheat, we put in although had to drop the tractor but we put them in. We didn't have no thrash, the modern, so we used to have to get somebody to do their and they'd put it on the floor and then we had to find ways to put the truck in and go and ... We done it though, we made it. I really think people should do their own land and put their own wheat in and a long time ago they had a flour mill.

                        I remember one man there, my dad just would tease him because he was related to him in some way, but he was in charge of the flour mill. They even had ... What did they call ... Where they made lumber. They had one of those, too. I thought about it, the time I went to ... With Sarah, her and her husband, he was transferred to Arizona and Apache reservation. I went along to babysit and to help her out with that. Then I used to ... What got me was they had their own restaurant and their own hotel, we stayed in that hotel until they got a house that they got, that they had to have a house. Then they even had a fish where they raised fishes and I would even go over there to see it.

                        They had a hospital there, so I'm kind of nosy. They had a lot of things. Their own stores and oh dresses, they had dresses you know, and they had those just kind of ... I think I'd seen some of them on a sale and stores. I could just see and then I went to their museum and I sat through the museum to see the beginning of what they did before that. I thought they did the same ... We did the same thing as they did at one time or other, and they have cattle. I don't know if it's still going on but when I saw the movie they said the cattle belonged to the whole tribe.

Davis:              Oh really? Wow.

Everette:         Yeah, and that's what it was at that time, the whole tribe. The land belonged to the whole tribe. They got money, everybody I imagine got money in there. Anyhow I sat through there and I thought I wonder if that happened to us, whether we had ... I don't think so because they used to have ... My mother and dad, they had horses and things too and I remember now this is way back, I'm talking about, they had ... They round up all the cattle and it was right there around Roseglen, just way up there. That's where they had the ... Then of course a lot of people went and made a big deal out of it.

                        Then of course they took a lot of the camps, I mean the cattle and then they'd take the calves away and that way they knew who's calf belonged to who, and they did a lot of branding. That was a long time ago and I remembered, thank goodness. That was the same thing that was going on then which brought my mind back to a time when I was a little girl and I'd seen the whole thing there. As kids we were playing around and running around and everything else like that. I can remember that so well and of course we camped there, my mother and dad and me. We camped there. A lot of things was going on there.

                        People seem to have known where their own cattle and their own ... Their horses and I suppose they did a lot of things anyhow for their cattle and things at that time. Just think, this was way back in 1918.

Davis:              1918? That's when you were born?

Everette:         Maybe I might've been about 5 or 6 years old at that time, to be able to remember all that.

Davis:              Yeah. I will have to do the math here. You know my grandpa was born 1917.

Everette:         Yeah, mm-hmm.

Davis:              He would've been 97.

Everette:         That's going way back with what I remembered.

Davis:              That was a long time ago.

Everette:         Yeah, that was a long time ago. I can remember. I often wondered looking back at the old records of the time we all lived in that area there, I wonder if there's anything written about that, I mean if they were keeping track of that, you know?

Davis:              Would that be Applewoods?

Everette:         Nichu.

Davis:              Nichu?

Everette:         It used to be Nichu and then before that it was Fort Worth ... Armstrong.

Davis:              Armstrong?

Everette:         That was the first one was Armstrong, then just recently they named after the Chief, Nichu. Then of course Nichu and then of course what's named White Shield. That was Theodore Gillete’s son. You know we all did get there, either brothers, I guess I don't know how many brothers they had but ...

Davis:              Everybody who lived there was family?

Everette:         Between the 2 of them, yeah. We were related to Bill Deans, remember her?

Davis:              I don't think I know them.

Everette:         Anyhow, I'm relate to everybody, and then you couldn't marry your own relatives, remember that?

Davis:              Yeah, that would've been hard. You'd have to go somewhere else to find your husband or your wife because everybody's related.

Everette:         They thought that was terrible. If you're married close to your ... Maybe 3, 4, but even then it was still terrible. You didn't do that. You go outside an marry somebody else.

Davis:              That's why it's so important for us to be taught.

Everette:         A lot of the people got married to some other tribes because they didn't want to marry their 4th cousin or 5th cousin.

Davis:              If you're unsure, just go to a different tribe. Play it on the safe side.  Thank you, Mary.

Everette:         That's how they used to do before.

Davis:              Thank you, Mary, This has been a pleasure visiting with you and it's been nice meeting you and I look forward to vising more and more with you.

Everette:         Mm-hmm. Yeah.





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