ELDER RECOGNITION: Delores Denasha
Delores DeNasha served as the Tribe’s Enrollment Director for a long time, and in 2022, she was chosen as Anishinabe Ikwe for the LCO Honor the Earth Powwow. An article about that honor featuring Delores follows this interview.
LCO News: LCO News: Tell me a bit about yourself. Maybe start with your parents, where your parents met and where you were born and where you were raised as a young girl?
Delores: My name is Dolores. Denasha. Bodo is my Indian name. I was born here on the reservation May 4, 1930. My father wa Frank Henry Denasha. Wabab was his Indian name. And my mother was Francis Navyash. Her Indian name was Gogi. They were born at Old Post near what is known today as Winter, Wisconsin. My grandparents were Edward Thomas, Indian name Kibisha, and my grandmother Julia Boyd, Indian name, Shuini. They all lived at Old Post until the area was flooded by the federal government back in the early 30s.
This was a disaster for our people, since the area flooded, damaged our wild rice beds, cranberry marshes, burial grounds, hunting lands, farmlands, and of course, our homes.
LCO News: Where did you go to school when you were younger? What was the first school you attended?
Delores: I went to school in New Post there. There was a one room schoolhouse and the teacher was Tom Reid, and he had eight grades there, but it was like a one room school, so there wasn't that many students there. Then after 8th grade, 7th and 8th graders, we became 7th and 8th graders. They made a little school up at the Town of Hunter, and 7th and 8th graders were sent up there, bussed up there.
LCO News: And high school?
Delores: In high school, I went to Hayward High School.
LCO New: How was school life for you during those younger years in the one room schoolhouse? Any fun memories of it?
Delores: It was fun. They'd have a Christmas program there and the people all came from the village there, and they put it on. Tom Reed was a good teacher. He had us put on some good plays. There were people there that really enjoyed it.
I just can't imagine being I'm 92, and of course, when I went to school, all the grades were separated in different rooms, and I just can't imagine that.
LCO News: Was that in Old Post?
Delores: No, that was in New Post. It was where they got that basketball court now.
LCO News: So what was that like for you, growing up in New Post? What was home life like? Is there electricity there yet?
Delores: No, we had no electricity back in our days. No kersey lamps and an outhouse, no plumbing. outhouse. Yeah, I had a hot water. My mom, feel sorry for her when I think about it. Nowadays we had hot water from the lake to wash clothes, and she had to go wash it by washboard? She had no well, no pump well or anything. Wow. We did not have a well, interesting.
LCO News: Did you learn how to gather as a young person?
Delores: My parents made sure that we did that all the time. Whatever. There was bean picking or whatever, cherry picking or something. We all went. And my father, we kind of lived off the land. My dad was a good hunter, fisher and all that. He brought all that home. He was a very good provider, my dad. We always had people from the village would come up to eat with us because they had nothing, you know?
He worked as a lumberman sometime. That's when he guided people from Chicago. Always wanted him to guide him out on because he knew the lake. They came up every summer for him to guide them. Then in the wintertime, he disappeared. Oh, my God. I remember that one time he speared a big old musky. The tail and the head was further hanging over that sled. Such a big old musky he speared. He had to have been strong to lift that to pull that out of the hole.
We didn't have any heat like they have now. He had to go across the road, and he’d come with a big old log on his shoulder, and said so we had it for our heater, chop it up. Yeah. He worked hard. My mom worked hard.
LCO News: And as a teenager, what was life like for you and your friends? What do you remember about high school?
Delores: Well, from New Post, we had to ride a bus all the way to Hayward all the time. And it seemed like a long, winding road. Probably took an hour or more.
LCO News: What did you do after high school then?
Delores: After I graduated, I went to Chicago to work for a while. Oh, yeah? I went to work. I was a typist and stuff like that.
LCO News: How many siblings did you have?
Delores: There were four of us. Two brothers and a sister. Yeah, my two brothers are already deceased. My sister's in the nursing home. She's four years younger than me. I go and see her. Usually go see her on Monday nights like tonight. I usually go see her, dear.
LCO News: Did you meet a young man at any point?
Delores: Yeah, I went to Chicago. I met my husband. He passed away already. There was a large community of Ojibwe in Chicago because I have good friends with Dave Anderson. He grew up in Chicago as well, and he tells me lots of stories about growing up there.
I served on the Board of Regents for the LCO College for a while. Back in 2004, I was the Board of Regents chairperson for the college year. I was appointed after the passing of a longtime board member, Charlie Kagigebi. Back in October of 1999, I was a Board of Regents member for 13, along with 13 other members since John Anderson was president of our college back in 1982, Roger Thomas was a Dean of Academic Affairs. I've got in here. My dream for the college this I wrote back in November 2004. My dream for the college is that someday we become a university and its happening. Oh, my God. This was my dream back in 2004. We helped get the college started. John Anderson and Roger Thomas and Ann Marie Penzkover.
Back in 2009, I was with enrollment for 24 years already, and I'm still at enrollment this day.
LCO News: And any grandchildren?
Delores: Oh, God, I can't count them all. Last time I counted was 23. And I think they're still having great grandchildren, too. Yes.
LCO News: What activities do you like to do to keep your hobbies or other things?
Delores: You had to ask that's. Bingo. LCO used to have good bingo. They closed it. Now I go to St. Francis Saturday nights, but I wish that LCO would have some bigger games. Yeah, that's what I like to do. Now I got two sons that drive me to Hinckley and to Black Bear. That’s a long ways. I don't like that ride, but they have a very good bingo there.
LCO News: We always think about the 7th generations from now. If you were able to talk to the 7th generation now, what would you say to them as far as advice in life and how to live life?
Delores: Make sure they get their education after they finish high school. Make sure they get some college education. People continue, you know, so that to prepare themselves for the world to get out and work. And they need that education to get a good job. It’s very important.
2022 Anishinabe Ikwe
Delores Mae DeNasha has been named 2022 Anishinaabekwe for this year’s Honor the Earth Pow Wow and Homecoming Celebration.
Delores Mae DeNasha (Eagle Clan) was born May 4, 1930, in the old village of Pahquahwong (where the river is wide), also known as Post, which was flooded as a result of impoundment. As much of it as possible was relocated and named New Post. The former site of Pahquahwong, now underwater, is today known as Mooshkadoojigan, or “place that was flooded.”
DeNasha attended a one-room schoolhouse from grades one through eight in New Post. She remembers a teacher from the Town of Hunter, Tom Reed. Later, she attended school in Hayward, Alverno College, Mount Senario College and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College.
Delores DeNasha is the daughter of Frank DeNasha (Eagle Clan) and Frances Naviosh and is related to the late Edward Benton-Benai, Bawdwaywidun. She lives in the Blueberry Lake-Sandy Point communities of the reservation.
Her children include Juanita Palkovics, Mike DeNasha, Arlene DeBrot, Frank Moose, Rose Wilson, José Valentin, Jim Valentin. She has 17 grandchildren.
After living in Chicago, she decided to move back to the Hayward area to raise her children and began working in the administrative department of the newly-formed LCO Ojibwe School system. From there, she moved on to the LCO Tribal Enrollment Department and has been in charge of tribal enrollment for the past 37 years.
At age 92, Delores still finds her job rewarding and says that she wouldn’t know what to do with herself if she retired.
Delores likes to go to Bingo, casino, church and, of course, work. She has been a Board of Regents member at the LCO Ojibwe College, founding director of the LCO Federal Credit Union and has been with the LCO Ojibwe School system from the beginning.
She continues to provide exemplary service to the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe through her wisdom, her good moral character and her understanding of the Ojibwe culture.
Editor’s Note: Delores did retire as director of Enrollment since this last summer’s powwow, but she still works hard every day in the Enrollment Office.