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ELDER RECOGNITION: Barb Lacapa


LCO News: What department at the health center do you work with?


Barb: I work on the accounts payable.


LCO News: So, you're on the computer all the time, too? So you like beading?


Barb: It relaxes me when I come home. That's the first thing they just say, oh, Mom's going into her cave. So, I have my own little room. And so, I got beads. I got grandkids that love to mess with all the colors.


LCO News: What else are you into? Just your hobbies or what other things do you do.

Barb: Play at the casino. I go to the powwows and all that.


LCO News: Tell me about yourself. Where were you born? Tell me a little bit about your parents, how they met, where your dad worked, what your mom did.


Barb: Okay, well, I was born in 1956 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Phoenix Indian School. They had a hospital there. My mother and father, my father worked for the Phoenix Indian Hospital. And my mother transferred from Salt Lake City BIA. To Phoenix BIA. And the story we always heard, my mom got invited with some of her coworkers to a pool that would open on a certain day for Native Americans and say, you can swim at our pool for free to show your ID or whatever, you can come because they live adjacent to the Phoenix Indian School. The BIA was kitty corner from the school. The hospital was right there, and they were just building another one where they had the TB unit, and it was all on Indian School Road. So, my father worked for the facilities. My mother worked for BIA. And she saw this man climbing a diving board, and she saw him jump off, and then he was gone. And she's like, where are you going? Next thing, he popped up. He must have dived in, she said, and swam all the way to the end of where she was sitting at and introduced himself. She said he looked like a Hawaiian. She said he was a short, stout, muscular man. And they went out for a couple, took her out to eat. Well, my mother was a tribal member here. She's from Lac Courte Oreilles. My father was a Hopian Taylor from Arizona, and he was part of a group that a coalition of BIA employees, Indian Health Service, where they would get together and sing popple songs, Southern version. But my dad could sing, he was one of the singers.


And from there went on all the parades with this association, phoenix Indian Association Club. And my mom had me then she had five other kids with my father. And from there he had his own little dance group. So, every weekend we performed, my mom made the regalia. She didn't know it. My mother was a foster child. Unfortunately, she lost her parents. One. I don't know how, but my father found out. My grandfather was unfortunately killed up here and buried somewhere by the high ground where the train tracks down by high bridge. And my mother was raised by her family, and I guess circumstances they deemed that they were not capable of raising a young girl because of certain perspectives. So, she got fostered. She became a foster child, but she was one of the lucky children of Native, ya know you hear bad stories about kids being fostered. But she had a wonderful foster parent that every summer they would bring her up here and let her stay and visit with her aunts and all that. So, she still got to know who her family was. She would get to come up here, visit them for a week, and then she would go home.


LCO News: So, they kind of respected her culture?


Barb: Yeah, she was so lucky. So, when she graduated, she went to high school, vocational school. I think at that time. And they trained you either to go into nursing or business, administrative, dental. The men worked how to do carpentry or whatever, and so they helped them get their civil service test, and she took a test, and she got a job at Salt Lake City. So that's how she met my father in Phoenix. So, she raised a small family of six of us, all of us back in 1950s, up until the I would say almost. My father retired in 1974 from the medical center. By then, it was the Phoenix ending, a medical center. And my mom wanted to go back to work, and he did everything that she wanted. She went to be a transcriber, and then she worked for the Indian hospital in Phoenix and medical records. And then she said, I want to move back. I want to know who my side. She didn't know how to dance. My father helped her learn how. And the joke in our family, my mom could hear a drone beating two states away, and she'll ask me, dad, let's go to a powwow. And he would take her to a powwow. So, we grew up dancing on the weekends. I always thought our weekends was like Friday night. We would go up into the parks with all the other native kids and all that. The family, they would sit around, drink, sing. We would play. It was 49 nights. That was our Friday, was 49 nights. Saturday was listening to Honkytonk. My mom loved Honky Tonk. My dad did whatever he had to do.


We started saving our money in the 70s so that they were able to buy a farm. And we moved to Wisconsin. Half of us moved to Wisconsin. My dad stayed at that residence, and my mom stayed in Phoenix. Half of the kids stayed with my dad. I, by then, was already going to school, so I was going to Haskell and met my husband.


LCO News: Are you the youngest?


Barb: I'm the oldest of six kids. So, there's me, and then I have a brother, John, and then Camille, then Tom, and then Martha, and then Paul. And we would come here, I think back in the early, late 60s, maybe into the 70s. Every August we came up here. My mom wanted to know he bought her a bus ticket. She would take her younger child with her, get on a bus, and come up here and visit her relatives. Majority of them lived in a signor area and all that. And then my father would pack all of us kids in whatever he had at that time and drag a trailer and come up here, dance at Historyland okay. And then get to roam around the woods in Wisconsin. And then we all pack up and we would head back to Arizona so he can go back to work. So, all the money we earned over during the whole year, he pulled it all together, and then he would give us part of those earnings we make. So, we would stop in Minneapolis. I love Minneapolis. I thought, I want to live here, but I never knew what winter was. I grew up living in the desert, so I never knew what winter was until I finally moved here. And like I said, my family pulled up stakes from Phoenix and moved here. My sister and all of them, some worked at the LCO School at that time when it was based in, I think, over in New Post.


My mom got to work for the tribe. She was a secretary. Then she transferred and got a job with the health center. She worked there for a while, but my father says the tribe is not going to give you a retirement. When you're ready to retire, you got to go back to the federal government. And by that time, I had moved back, but I was already working for the government, so I moved back to Minneapolis, and my mom got a job at the VA hospital, so she would come back up here. They finally got a home on the reservation, so they've been living on Gurnoe Lake. We have a residence on Gurnoe Lake now. So that's where my mom and my father and all of us all lived around. And so half of us live here. I have another sister, Martha still here. Paul still here, but the rest they just couldn't handle the winter, really. They all moved out back to Arizona.


My brother Tom, unfortunately, he moved back, but he just recently passed away due to COVID So in December, we're going to go back and celebrate his life with his friends. We had our own private ceremonies up here. We brought them home, so we're going to go celebrate his life. It's been a year now since he passed, so it's time to celebrate in town. We're still thinking of you. Yeah, it's hard. A lot of people lost family members, friends, and COVID is COVID was a pill, but we're learning to get through, and some of us are working. I'm proud of my children. All my children either worked for the tribe or financial services.


LCO News: Yeah. Going back to your childhood, where did you start going to school?


Barb: I went to Phoenix. My mom was raised as a Catholic at that time, so she was devoted. And my father had his own religion where he went through. So, he loved her so much that he sent us all to St. Agnes School. But each one of us didn't thrive through too well. Paying tuition for six kids was hard when you only work as a facility worker for the federal government. So that's why he had an outside job taking us, we performed all over the four corners, so we were always dancing. We would even dance in our backyard if we had to practice for a parade or something. I was like, oh, my God, dad, don't sing too loud. Because my father had a loud voice anyway. And my mom would just say, oh, just go out there when you're a little kid, you didn't know what money was, right? So, my father would start drumming, and people from their houses would come going, what's going on? They'll watch us practice and all that. And then we got many awards, you know, best Family Group or whatever, you know. And I think in 1974, I went to Haskell. My brother went to the army. And then at that time, my sister Camille got accepted to IAIA because she was a great artist. So, all of us had our little achievements or something. Our dad encouraged us. My mom was right there saying, oh, I hope you do well, you know. But she finally says, I want to do something. And so, she convinced all of us. We're moving to LCO.


My son's in the army. He's in his third sign up. So, he says, I got two more, and I could retire. And it's like, I can't even imagine my son retiring under 40. It's just, like, crazy for me, working all my life. I didn't graduate high school, and all the skills I've learned over time has just been learn as I go. And now I'm probably considered an expert in what I do. And it's like, boy, I had to fight like that. And I told him it was right after 911. He says, I want to join and go after those people. He never made it overseas. He's been stationed here in the states.

LCO News: What's the specialty?


Barb: He repairs the Tomahawk helicopters.


LCO News: That's a good job.


Barb: Yeah, he's in Kansas. He went to South Korea first, then to Tennessee and then Alaska, and now he's in Kansas.


LCO News: How many kids do you have?


Barb: I have four children. I'm 66 now. So, I got four more years till I reach 70. And so, I'm hoping I can finally just do bead work. My kids will give me a couple of dollars to go to the casino. I have good hair dye. Maybe I don't look it, but I feel it. I feel 66. I've done a lot and I'm appreciative of everything I've achieved on my own with the help of family, with help of friends, and maybe occasionally from the tribe. I don't ask them for much, but I'm appreciate what I can and do get all the time.


LCO News: Grandchildren?


Barb: I have many grandchildren. I'd say I have almost nine now.


LCO News: Any great grandchildren?


Barb: Yes, I have two great grandchildren, too. So, I'm very blessed. I hope they can like my dad says, one day you're going to talk to your grandchildren. They'll be on the moon. And I'm hoping they'll say, hey, Grandma, I know you're not there, but we made it. I'm on the moon listening to all the old stories. I was raised up with. My father knew a lot of old stories. Listening to what Camille has told me, reaching out to the community about the radio. I mean, even in our beliefs, the elders would tell you're going to hear things. It's almost going to be like a spider web. And that's true. I mean, radio is like a spider web if you think of it. The waves and all that. So, I believe in the old stuff.


LCO News: One last question then. Seven generations from now, what would you tell your great grandchildren? What's some advice that you want to pass along to that through those seven generations?


Barb: Still dance. Rather, you know how to speak the language. Understand that language. You are still Native in your heart. And I wish everyone to try your best. Don't forget to respect your elders. Respect yourself. And if you don't love yourself, you can't love others. That's what I want. Migrate.

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