Everlasting Sky

by

Craig Wiese

 

The plantive notes of an eerie and solemn Chippewa mourningchant drifted through the air and filled it with serene atmosphere. Giftswere brought and bread was shared with the indians who took and ate it. They shared it with the spirit of John KaKa Gesick as he leaves on hisjourney to the happy hunting grounds. Indians from all over the state satin reverence as they paid their final respects to a great person.

When the traditional Indian ceremony was completed thenthe white man paid his respects to John with song and preaching.

John KaKa Gesick was borne to Highland Park Indian Cemeteryby his Indian and white friends alike. He was laid to rest along side hisbrother Naymaypock. His head to the customary north. And, as Indian wayhas it, a small house was constructed over the grave to protect it fromthe weather.

John KaKa Gesick, ancient Chippewa medicine man died earlyFriday morning December 6, 1968, at the grand old age of 124 years. Hehad lived in Warroad all his life and for the past six years had been aresident of the Warroad Nursing Home.

John told his close friends that he was going to die. In the fall of 1968 he told his family he was going to the happy huntinggrounds in the winter. And John's premonition was right. The people inthe nursing home heard him chanting songs of his death three days beforehis death.

John KaKa Gesick is survived by a daughter Mary, threegrandsons: George Angus, Albert Angus, Robert KaKa Gesick, fourteen greatgrandchildren and six great-great grandchildren.

John was born in a teepee on the shores of Lake of theWoods to Chief Ahya-Sha-Wash and May-Muska-Washie. Of his own birth hehas said, "It was sometime after the ice had gone out of Lake of theWoods and at a time the geese were beginning to return from passing theirwinter in a warmer clime." He was one of eight childern and the lastof his generation. The exact day or month of his birth was not known butin 1964 the Warroad Village Fathers believing that everyone should havea birthday, set aside May 14, 1844, as his official birthdate.

John could clearly remember places, portages, battles andevents. For instance, he could remember when President Lincoln gave hisGettysburg Address and he thought he was about sixteen at the time.

In August of 1905 he was granted a piece of land of 102acres on the south shore of Lake of the Woods. The deed was signed by PresidentTeddy Roosevelt. On this land he lived and operated his trap line up tothe age of 112 years. The land is stiil in his name and is used by oneof his grandsons when he is in Warroad.

John was a familiar sight riding his horse up and downthe streets selling moose meat. When his horse gave up he continued hisoccupation on foot.

KaKa Gesick's father was a medicine man and passed alonghis knowledge to his son. Truly this knowledge was magic for it kept Johnalive all these years. On one occasion gangrene had set in on one of hisfeet. The doctor advised the family to give permission to amputate thefoot but John said "no cut" and miraculously the foot healed withno after effects. Several times upon contracting a cold or minor illness,he would use Indian medicine and chant Indian songs that healed him withoutwhite man medicine.

The statement as "honest as the day is long"truly fits this great Indian. John paid all bills promptly and althoughhe spoke very little English, he was able to communicate and have his needsand desires fulfilled.

John lived with the white man but still did not forgethis Indian customs. Each year he would make his annual trek into Canadaand participate in the pow-wows and sing and dance the old Indian way.

In honor of John, Muskeg Bay, on the Southern end of Lakeof the Woods, was changed officially to KaKa Gesick Bay. A small tributeto a man who walked its shores for so many years.

The old medicine man will remain as a bright memory tomany Warroad residents throughout the coming years. He will remain in theirminds as a symbol of the past a link with the natives of this country fourgenerations ago.

 

"Of no distemper, of no blast he died,

But fell like autumn fruit that mellow'd long,--

Even wonder'd at, because he dropp'd no sooner.

Fate seom'd to wind him up for five-score years,

Yet freshly ran he on twenty winters more;

Till like a clock worn out with eating time,

The wheels of weary life at last stood still." (1)

--John Dryden

(1) Kathleen Sproul, The Shorter~Bartlett's Familiar Quotations(New York: Perma Books,1937,) page 113
roul, The Shorter~Bartlett's Familiar Quotations(New York: Perma Books,1937,) page 113