Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Redby Episcopal Cemetery

 


I asked mom if we could stop at the Episcopal cemetery before we went home as I wanted to look at May Dway Gwo No Nind`s grave. The cemetery is right next to the highway, a couple of blocks west of downtown Redby. It is kitty-corner from the Art Thunder Memorial Ballpark.

Even though it is next to the highway, there is a peaceful feeling here. One I find in other cemeteries and graveyards as well as a rare few other places. Perhaps this is one thing that makes this sacred ground. It takes mom a while to find dad`s, uncle Ruggy`s, and great aunt Helen`s grave and I use that time to track down grandpa`s great grandpa. It takes me a while too, as the graveyard is constantly changing due to new graves being added.

The chain link and top rails are missing from the front of the fence at the entrance to the cemetery next to the Episcopal Church. Perhaps to make it easier for the backhoe to get in to dig the graves.

Bright colorful plastic flowers adorn the newer and newly dug graves in the front of the cemetery. I find this somewhat ironic as I think the flower was originally supposed to represent (among other things) the impermanence of life. That there is a time to bloom and then the blooms fade and wither and die, to be replaced by new blooms the next spring. But the meaning of the desire to use these plastic flowers is not lost on me, that we all desire some permanence to life, and some permanent connection to those we love.

Off to the left are a couple of large shiny black marble tombstones in a family plot. These are contrasted by homemade crosses in other parts of the cemetery with name and dates scrawled in permanent magic marker.

As I walk toward the rear of the cemetery, I see the headstones of some veterans, courtesy of the armed forces, intermixed among the dead. Dad`s is one of these. Eleven years of frost heaves have caused it to half disappear into the earth. I take the time and effort to dig it out with my hands, place some sandy soil underneath it so it lays flat again.

As I look around I can often see small grave markers with slots where letters and numbers can be placed for the name and date of the individual. I wonder if the tribe or the funeral homes provides these.

Walking further back, newer headstones give way to the older ones of the people who have died around the turn of the century. These are interspersed with depressions in the ground where the headstones or crosses have disappeared. Probably corresponding to the disappearance of those who had been left to care for them. Still further back, there are only two or three scattered headstones in the rear third of the cemetery spread forlornly on the smooth lawn which is rarely punctuated by depressions caused by the settling of the earth. May Dway Gwo No Nind`s cement cross is one of those, standing alone. He has a marker because he was important, being the principle head chief of the tribe at the time and all… but the occupants of those unmarked graves were important in their own ways as well, in the lives that they lived, the things they did, and in the lives of the people they touched–even if we didn`t know them or remember them.

I wonder if there are records which indicate who is buried where in that cemetery, who has those records, and if there is anything the tribe could do to get tombstones or even get those fill-in-the-blank plaques for those people.

 

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