Wednesday, June 7, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: June 7

June 7, 1911 – John Smith, a 110-year-old Chippewa who resides on the reservation at Cass Lake, and who is thought to be the oldest living Indian in this country, visited Bemidji today.

His health is still perfect and he is almost as active as a young warrior. He never has been ill with the exception that this spring, when he says, his “legs were sick,” in referring to a light attack of rheumatism.

Smith, whose real name is Ka-Be-Na-Gwe-Wes, says that he was 68 years old when he first saw a white man. He has learned to speak English since that time.

He never fails to have his photograph taken at every opportunity, including today at the Hakkerup Studio.

He refers to himself as a “ladies man,” as he claims to have been married nine times.

To Bemidji residents Smith has been known during the past few years as Chief Wrinkle Face, having received the name because of the wrinkles that time has worked into his bronzed features.

Because of the assistance he gave the Great Northern Company when that railroad first built through this country, Smith has always been given transportation, but because of his love for liquor, the company has brought him to Bemidji only a few times, and then only under the care of a friend.

The Bemidji Daily Pioneer; “Indian 110 Years Old Here. Chippewa From Cass Lake Comes to Bemidji and Proudly Has His Picture Taken. Claims He Has Had Nine Wives.”; June 8, 1911; p. 1.

John Smith, whose real name is Ka-Be-Na-Gwe-Wes

from a postcard sent to my grandma


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