A Forgotten Native American

I think it is fair to say that Ti-bish-ko-gi-jik or Father Philip B. Gordon of the Ojibwe tribe in Northern Wisconsin was not forgotten since he was never really remembered.  I have lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota since 1965 and I never heard of the first North American Catholic priest who was also a Native American.  A friend of mine told me about the attached article which is a compilation of stories and a short biography of Reverend Gordon written by Paula Delfeld in 1977.  I am always amazed by the lack of history for Black Americans but it is probably true that Native Americans are equally forgotten in our American educational system.  Call me naïve but I always thought history was supposed to be unbiased and objective and inclusive.  I am still waking up to the fact that it never was.  The following link includes some interesting pictures and some excerpts from old newspapers which are well worth reading to find out more about Father Gordon.  

http://riowang.blogspot.com/2013/03/an-indian-in-subotica.html

On first thought, one might assume that Father Gordon was a sellout to his Indian heritage.  An Indian who adopts the Catholic religion to preach to his tribal members.  However, as this article makes clear, the good reverend stood up for native rights and fought the good fight against a system that was bent on appropriating as much as they could of Indian land and destroying their culture.  

“He built missions, organized the life of the local communities, actively fought for their rights against the authorities and the private companies who wanted to expropriate the lands and forests of the Indians. He became member, and then president of the Society of American Indians which fought for the emancipation and rights of the Native Americans. By denouncing the burning crosses as defamation of religion, he successfully defied the Ku-Klux-Klan; thanks to his perseverance, the sheriffs and other official persons, and even Baptist preachers who were members of the Klan, were dismissed or moved, so that the Klan could never put root in Wisconsin. He carried out a great missionary work not only among the Ojibwe, but also among their ancient enemies, the Sioux; it was his merit that the two people finally made peace with each other.”

Take the time to review this article, then share it with others.  It is way past time to include heroic Native Americans in our history books.  The first part was written in 1912 so you might excuse the pejorative stereotypes of Native Americans held by the author.  The second part covers an article written later in which the original article was used as background.  

First Part written in 1912

Bácsmegyei Napló, 4 January 1912
A Native American seminarist in Szabadka

“Yesterday afternoon an interesting young man walked about the streets of Szabadka. His clothing was the blue cassock of the Catholic seminarists, so he was not conspicuous for anybody.  This seminarist is a red-skinned Native Indian from America.  He is called Philip Gordon, and came from the state of Minnesota in Northern America. His grandfather may have hunted for scalps, his father was perhaps still a nomad roaming the endless American plains, and the son will probably become a bishop. Philip Gordon was baptized, and took a liking to the priestly career. Now he sailed across the ocean to the Old World, and will go to Innsbruck to learn theology. He got to Szabadka by having got acquainted with a seminarist from the village of Bajmok, Ernő Rickert, and he invited him now to us. The Native American speaks in English, French and some German as well. Whatever he has hitherto seen from Hungary was very pleasant to him, and he feels quite well here.  Philip Gordon remains in Bajmok only a few days, and then he goes to Innsbruck. And a few years later he will  spread Christianity among his red-skinned siblings.”

This Second part was written in 2013 by Paula Delfeld and is excerpted from her book. 

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The Indian Priest
Father Philip B. Gordon
1885-1948
Chapter 1 – The Indian Priest Reminisces

 
 
 

“The aging Indian priest sat, as his ancestors had, beside the war drum. A stiff breeze whistled through the tops of the tall pines, but beneath their sheltering branches, the eagle feathers in his war bonnet were barely ruffled. Although the priest was a Chippewa, the headdress he often wore was Sioux; he received it while he was doing mission work in the western states. Along the sandy river bank a campfire, adding its glow and warmth to the cool June evening in the north woods, accentuated the priest’s Indian features and his ample figure. Around him sat twenty St. Paul, Minnesota, Boy Scouts, eagerly waiting for the proceedings to begin. Friends of the scouts and the priest had gathered at the camp the scouts called Neibel to witness the presentation of the Chippewa war drum and peace pipe to the troop by Reverend Philip Gordon (Ti-bish-ko-gi-jik). The Calumet or peace pipe had always been sacred to the Indians, and like the drum, its presentation was attended by strict ceremony. Among the spectators was Luther Youngdahl, Minnesota’s governor and a friend of Father Gordon. He had invited the priest to drum out a song.  For forty years the drum had been used for tribal ceremonies and it was said that on a calm night it could be heard for ten miles. But now the sound reverberated through the dense woods, one of the few stands of virgin timber remaining in the once heavily forested area.” 

“Philip B. Gordon was born on March 31, 1885 as one of fourteen siblings in Wisconsin, the Great Lakes region, in a commercial station called Gordon, which was founded and named after their family by his uncle. Both of his parents belonged to the Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribe, but in both lineages there was also a French ancestor. Hence they inherited the name Gaudin, which was anglicized for Gordon by his uncle. Philip, who at birth received the name Ti-bish-ko-gi-jik, “Heaven Viewer”, still grew up in the traditional Native American culture, but he also fluently spoke in French and English. The railway arrived to the Great Lakes region in Philip’s childhood, and Philip witnessed the radical changes it had brought: the clearance of the forests and the destruction of the traditional Indian way of life. Depression, alcoholism and suicide rapidly spread among the Indians deprived of their living space and livelihood.” 

“Philip, who first went to a military college, felt obliged to devote his life to his Native American brothers, thus after two years he went over to the seminary of the local Franciscan mission. There he excelled with his intelligence, physical and rhetorical skills, and so after the first year he was sent to the American College in Rome. From there he went to the theology of Innsbruck, where he remained for two years, until finishing his studies. This is the period when he also came to Szabadka. Philip enjoyed traveling and spent two summer vacation periods in France, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and made one trip to England. Some of these were walking tours. In the land of his French ancestors, he learned to speak the language fluently and spent much of his time in the French department of Loir-et-Cher. Besides English and French, he spoke fluent German, Italian and numerous Indian dialects.”

“On December 8, 1913, the feast of the Immaculate Conception he was ordained a priest in Wisconsin. His Czech bishop, Koudelka wanted to send him to an urban parish, but he successfully begged to be left among his Ojibwe brothers. In the coming decades he accomplished a huge organizational work. He built missions, organized the life of the local communities, actively fought for their rights against the authorities and the private companies who wanted to expropriate the lands and forests of the Indians. He became member, and then president of the Society of American Indians which fought for the emancipation and rights of the Native Americans. By denouncing the burning crosses as defamation of religion, he successfully defied the Ku-Klux-Klan; thanks to his perseverance, the sheriffs and other official persons, and even Baptist preachers who were members of the Klan, were dismissed or moved, so that the Klan could neve put root in Wisconsin.”

“He carried out a great missionary work not only among the Ojibwe, but also among their ancient enemies, the Sioux; it was his merit that the two people finally made peace with each other. He was an exceptional organizer, an excellent orator, and, moreover, “a charming personality, highly educated and possessing a natural humor which made his remarks very entertaining as well as interesting and instructive.”

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“Philip Gordon died in 1948, after thirty years of intensive work, and two years of serious illness. With the last of his strength he organized the Ojibwe Inter-Tribal Organization, which claimed hundreds of millions of dollars against the government for the lands taken away from the Indians. He was buried in his native village Gordon. His tomb is still highly respected, and, as the Indian Country News writes, it is an obligatory element of every documentary on the Native Americans of the region.”

I hope you are inspired by this story of a man who deserves to be remembered not only by Native Americans but by all Americans.

A Tale of Two Restaurants – Part 1

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This is a story of two restaurants.  There is a moral embedded in these two stories.  Perhaps it will be obvious, perhaps it will not be.  The first tale happened long ago.  The second, very recently, in fact, one week ago.  You may think that between the first tale and the second that the author of these stories would have learned his lesson.  Sadly, he did not.  History repeated itself both times.  That old adage that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” proved itself once again.

imagesThe first tale begins with a trip back from Duluth, Minnesota over thirty years ago.  Karen and I were returning from a scenic ride up the North Shore to our home in White Bear Lake.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in July.  We decided that we were hungry.  We were nearing the Cloquet exit on Interstate 35.  Not seeing anything near the exit, we decided to pull off the freeway and try to find a place to eat in Cloquet.

Cloquet was a quiet little town this Sunday.  It almost appeared deserted.  We drove around the streets not finding any open restaurants other than fast food ones.  Suddenly, in a rather isolated area of town, we spied a Chinese restaurant with a sign in the window that said “Open.”  Somewhat skeptical of a Chinese restaurant in Cloquet, we succumbed to the rule that “beggars can’t be choosers.” We parked in front of the restaurant and cautiously entered.

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We were greeted by a young Caucasian girl.  Looking around we saw only two other non-Chinese diners.  Two strikes already.  I figured we would be lucky to get Chinese food from a Chung King Chop Suey can.  The young girl (mid-teens) brought a standard Chinese menu.  We gave our orders to the same young girl who was our greeter and settled back for a less than desirable dinner.

Chinese_mealThe quantity of food when it came was plentiful, but the quality of the food was a big surprise.  We have been to many a good Chinese restaurant in Shanghai, Huangshan, Nanjing, Suzhou, and several other Asian cities including American cities with large Chinese populations.  The food here was wonderful.  It was tasty, spicy, and as good as we have eaten anywhere in the world.  We were beyond surprised.  I could not believe our good fortune.  How could this be?  A diamond in the rough where diamonds were not supposed to exist.

When we had finished eating, our server came over with the check.  I told her how good the food was and asked if it would be possible to speak to the chef.  She replied, “Probably not.”  Thinking it was not to busy, I inquired as to why I could not speak to the cook.  I was curious concerning how he learned to cook Chinese food so well.  She then told me, “He does not speak any English.”  I asked her where he was from and how he had been selected to cook there.

Chinese Lantern - matchbookShe advised me that Mr. Huie (who started the well-respected Chinese Lantern restaurant in Duluth) had decided that Cloquet would be a good place for a small take-out style Chinese restaurant.  He placed an ad in a San Francisco paper which found its way to mainland China.  Mr. Huie (son of the founder of one of the first Chinese restaurants in Duluth) reviewed a number of applicants who answered his ad.  The present cook was selected for the job.  Who would believe a genuine Chinese food restaurant in Cloquet Minnesota?

Next Week:  Part 2

My Four Best of Everything:  – Part 3         

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This is Part 3 of my four best of everything.  In this final part, I would like to share with you my four favorite ideas.

For those of you who missed Part 1 and Part 2, this was my introduction.

This week I am doing what I call my four best of everything.  Everything that matters to me anyway.  Perhaps I should say it is my four favorites of everything that I admire in the literary world because best is such a qualitative term.  There may be little difference between the word favorite and the word best, however, using the term best is more provocative and usually ends up in arguments or debates.  Since I do not want to be judgmental, I will use the term favorites in the text of this blog.

I am sure that each of you reading this will have some ideas concerning your favorites in these areas.  I invite you to put your ideas or thoughts concerning your favorites in my comment sections.  The more ideas you have the better.  Don’t be shy.  Use any language you want to share your ideas with the rest of the world.  Let us know what you like and why you like it.  Plenty of room in the blogosphere.

My Four Favorite Ideas:

internal-coverIf you think about the ideas or premises or nostrums that guide your life, you will soon notice that we have many ideas that along our journey we have adopted.  The sources of these ideas are vast.  Fairy tales and children’s stories give us ideas such as “A stitch in time saves nine” or the “The race does not always go to the swift” or “Those who do not plan ahead may starve in the winter.”  Many of our ideas about living no come from our parents and family.  My mother used to say such things as “Ignorance is bliss” and “If you give them enough rope, they will hang themselves.”  My father was fond of saying “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.”  He also used to like to say, “You have nothing to fear from the dead, only the living.”  These two later beliefs have guided a great deal of my life.

As we grow up and go to school, leave home and get a job, we no doubt pick up more ideas that we will covertly and sometimes overtly use to guide our lives.  By guiding, I mean we will use these ideas to make choices that impact the direction of our lives.  One of the many ideas that I carry in my brain came from Dr. George Box of the University of Wisconsin.  He said, “All models are wrong, some are useful.”  This premise has guided much of my working life.  I have used this Box’s thought when consulting to find a more productive way of addressing organizational changes that are needed in a client’s business.

However, since this blog is about the best or at least my favorites, I need to start discussing my four favorite ideas.  There is no particular relevance to the following order.

There is No Truth:

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Obviously, if you accept my truth, then it poses a paradox.  How can this be true if there is no truth?  But in many ways, that is the nature of most truths.  They are paradoxical.  If they are relative, they are not always true which is a contradiction.  If they are absolute, there are usually exceptions that can be found which makes them false.  What a dilemma!  From the time we are born we are taught to say the truth, speak the truth, search for the truth, but we are all liars.  We don’t know what the truth is and there are many times we would not say it if we did.

If someone came to your front door and said, “Is your mother home, I want to kill her”, what would you tell them?  Would you admit that she was home, if she was?  I doubt it.  We all say we want the truth, but the fact is that many of us will never find the truth because (As our leaders believe) and as Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.”

A friend of mine explained his version of the truth to me several years ago.  He said “Imagine a bookshelf with five shelves.  On the bottom shelf, I put things that people tell me that are opinions and unsubstantiated or uncorroborated pieces of information.  As time goes by and I find more evidence in support of this so called “truth”, I will move the bit of information to the 4th shelf.  Each time I get more evidence it goes up a shelf.  On the top shelf, I have things that I believe are true beyond a ‘reasonable’ but not absolute doubt.  For the time being, I accept the top shelf ideas as true, but I hold out the possibility that I will later find some bit of evidence that invalidates even this Top Shelf truth.”  I like this model of truth.  Let me give you an example of how it plays out for me.

About two months ago, I came across an article that said “In 30 years, all beef and diary farms will be dead.  Things of the past.”  Living in Wisconsin, I was astonished by this bit of information.  I did not put much credibility into the idea.  Given my predilection for cheese, steak and butter I could not reasonably accept any truth to this idea.  Nevertheless, I put it on the bottom shelf of my “Truth Bookcase.”  A few weeks later, I was attending the Annual Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota. This past year it dealt with the environment and global changes to it.  I was surprised when one of the speakers echoed the same idea that I had heard a few weeks ago.  Namely that diary and beef farms would in twenty or thirty years mostly be a thing of the past.  I moved this thought up a shelf.  Two days ago, I was reading the local newspaper and they had an article about diary farms in Wisconsin.  According to this article, ten percent or 800 diary farms in Wisconsin went out of business this past year and there was no sign that the trend would not continue.  I was astounded. I had no idea that the diary industry was so shaky.  I moved the original idea that at least diary if not the beef industry would be gone in thirty years up another shelf.  Two shelves to go.

Thus, truth becomes a process. It is not a final goal.  There is no final absolute truth.  It is a nominal, like in quality improvement that we can never reach.  We can only get closer and closer, but we can never reach a truth that is God like.  The truth that humans can know will never be infallible.

Everything Will Change:

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This idea seems so obvious that I almost ashamed to list it as one of my favorites.  Nevertheless, I keep having to remind myself that “This too will pass.”  Life is a stream of events and even if Santayana was right in that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”, there is still nothing in the past that will ever be recreated exactly as it happened one hundred or one thousand years ago.  Heraclitus was also right when he said, “You never step in the same river twice.”

All is change.  If we could see the atoms of time that surround us, I am sure that we would see a stream of “time” atoms that are flowing like a river with swift currents and eddies and backwaters.  This is the flow of time and the river of change.  Sometimes going backwards but inevitably surging forward and sweeping everything out of its way.

We poor humans are caught up in this river and we must do our best to keep from drowning.  We are swept along like so much flotsam.  The river of time that we are in is invisible to the naked eye, but this does not stop it from changing the lives of those swept along by its currents.  Every day, we deal with new events while the old events keep playing out.  A continuous series of changes.  New wars, new disasters, new diseases, new horrors all mixed in with new ideas, new joys, new births, new technologies, new celebrations.

There are those who we say are “stuck in the past.”  The good old days never die for many.  We see the sad efforts that many have to hold onto the past or to “Make America Great Again.”  Why, can’t things just be like the were when I was a kid?  Movies were twenty-five cents and a bag of popcorn was ten cents.  The good guys were good guys and the bad guys were bad.  Police officers walked the streets and helped people in need.  It was happy days.

African Americans were denied voting rights and the basic liberties as stated in the constitution.  A women’s place was in the kitchen and a man was the undisputed king of home.  White people won all the wars they started, and Indians stayed on the reservation.  Mexicans came over to pick tomatoes and then went back home.  A child’s place was to be seen and not heard and the World Series was the greatest sporting event in the world that only White Americans played.  Oh my!  What ever happened to the good old days.

You Can’t Take It with You:

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Who says I can’t take it with me?  I sure as hell am going to try.  Like Pharaoh, I am going to build a big mausoleum and I am going to put my house, motorcycles, cars, rings, watches, shoes, clothes, wife, kids and anything else I own right beside me when I die.  I am going to collect the biggest batch of things that the world has ever seen, and I am going to have it all buried with me.  Isn’t that what life is all about?  Collecting stuff, collecting things.  Shopping for more stuff and more things until we drop dead.

Maybe I am getting carried away here a bit.  Of course, I can’t take it with me.  Pharaoh might have had it buried with him, but it did not take the tomb raiders long to take it back.  Maybe you can get something that can’t be taken away?  A building named after you.  An airport or street named after you.  A testimonial placed somewhere in your honor.

Alas, people are fickle.   Buildings get torn down.  Name places change with the whims of those in power.  There are only so many airports and streets and there are millions of people clamoring to have their names in places that they think will insure their posterity.   You can’t even take fame with you.  In a hundred years or so no one will remember who you were.

One of the famous tropes among baby boomers is remembering where they were when JFK died. I once asked one of my freshmen college classes this same question and to my astonishment got blank looks.  I could not believe it when one of them said, “Who was JFK?”  Who will remember you when you die?  Maybe your wife and a few friends assuming they outlive you.  So what can you take with you?  Fame, fortune, power, money?  What did Marc Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar say: “The Evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  There is nothing on this earth that you can take with you.  There is nothing that will outlive the entropy and erosion that will destroy all the mightiest monuments that have ever been built.  Everything else is an illusion that you take with your to your grave but that is as far as it will go.

Love is the Only Real Purpose in Life:

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You can spend your life looking for its meaning or you can spend your life trying to find its purpose.  Your search will uncover many ideas but none of them will ever suffice.  Nothing will satisfy your quest until you realize that love is the only purpose a human life exists for.  Every prophet who ever existed recognized this simple truth.  Love is the only thing that gives life meaning and purpose.  It is so simple that it escapes many of us.

We look for purpose and meaning in our work, our jobs, our acquisitions, our accomplishments, our credentials and our status, but none of these give us happiness.  The only satisfaction we get in life is from loving others.  The individual who does not know love for others lives a lonely unhappy life.  Love is the power that makes life worth living.  As Jackie Wilson sang in his song Higher and Higher: “You know your love, keeps on lifting me higher and higher.”

I sometimes think love is one of life’s great mysteries.  I have spent a great deal of my life asking the question “What is love?”  I am 73 years old and I am still puzzled as to what love really is.  Is love the same as passion?  Is love good sex?  Is love caring for someone else?  Is love simply wishing no harm for anyone else?  Does love need reciprocity?

People use the term love for many things.  I love my car.  I love my dog.  I love my Nikes.  I love you.  I love him.  I love her.  I love everybody!  Jesus said that love was more than just words.  Love exists in the doing.  How do I show my love for others?  “Greater love has no one than this, that they will lay down their life for another.” – John 15:13.   Do I need to die for someone else to show true love?

I don’t believe that loving things is love.  I don’t think loving my car or my Nikes is true love.  For that matter, I do not think that loving my life is true love or even that loving my wife is true love.  I think true love is a more intangible quality that we can only approximate.  To know true love is to be a lover in a more universal sense.  True love seems most evident during a crisis.  I think that the people who stayed behind on the Titanic to let others have a seat in the lifeboats were true lovers.  I think Harriet Tubman (who ran the underground railroad) was a true lover.  I think Martin Luther King was a true lover.  Lovers are not perfect people by any means, but they know that life is more than just loving oneself or even another single individual.

Let’s be clear here.  I love my wife and I love my sister, but does that make me a true lover?  Not necessarily.  What if I love my wife and sister but I hate immigrants?  What if I love you but I hate Black people or Latino people or people who belong to another religion or another country?  To know true love one cannot hate anyone.  Today we hear a vocal minority decrying “haters.”  However, these same people hate Democrats, liberals, Non-Christians, Gays, immigrants and minorities.  They may love Trump, McConnell, Nunes, Christians and Republicans but they are more haters than lovers.  Jesus did not say “Only love those who are related to you or whom you like.”  He did not say that you can pick and choose who you love.

Love is the most important journey of our lives.  To find true love is to find a love for the world both in concrete and abstract terms.  It is to love globally as well as locally.  It is to love non-kin as well as kin.  It is to love the rich as well as the poor.  It is to love the sick as well as the healthy.  It is to love Democrats as well as Republicans.  Probably no task is more difficult, but no task has more promise for humanity and for our own souls.

Well, this concludes my best of everything series.  In Part 1, I covered some of my book preferences.  In Part 2, I covered more literary ground and in this final Part 3, I have covered some of the ideas that I think are my favorite guides for trying to live a good life.  I am certainly no exemplar of any of these ideas.  I journey down the path and get stuck in some bogs.  On other days, I take a wrong turn.  I often hesitate when I should be charging forward.  On some days, I even go backwards.  My life has regrets, recriminations and misgivings that would fill an NFL stadium.  I know right from wrong and still too often choose the wrong.  But one of my other guides is “do not kill the message because you don’t like the messenger.”  You may need to find your own guides, but you won’t go wrong with any of the four that I have described in this blog.  Try them and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

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