ELDER RECOGNITION: Margaret Diamond, Former LCO Chairwoman
LCO News: So we're just looking for kind of biography stuff. And it is all about you. What was your life like growing up and where were you born and were you raised, what schools did you go to, those sorts of things?
Margaret: I was born in Superior and then my folks moved back here, and my school is St. Francis, up until the 8th grade. And then Hayward High.
LCO News: What did you do in high school, any sports or other activities?
Margaret: No, I was just one of those naughty ones, just waiting to get by, waiting to get through school. To me, it was typical high school years. And of course, we dealt with racism like everybody else did. I graduated in 1963. There was this one time, a JOM tutor. I'd stop in there and visit him every once in a while. He had a three ring binder, and he said, this is 25 years of stories of kids coming in his office, incidents happening. He says if I could go to page one or page two. He said fast forward. He said, to present day. He said, the racism hasn't changed. Sure. We all dealt with it.
LCO News: Where was your mom from?
Margaret: From here. My dad, Louis Corbine, and my mother, Rita Dennis Corbine. They're both from here. I have an older sister in Maryland that passed away a few years ago. And then there's, way down the line is myself and my sister Lucille, who, you know, I posted this morning because today is her birthday. And then I've got three younger ones. Doris Corbine, Brenda Fairbanks, and then Julie Martinson. And then a brother, Wayne Corbine. He passed away too.
LCO News: So growing up here at LCO, all the siblings in the same house, or were they kind of spread out?
Margaret: We all grew up in the same house.
LCO News: What was that like?
Margaret: Well, in those days you had small houses and we all shared beds and shared bedrooms, hot water. No plumbing, no electricity. Well, my grandmother, her house was when you pull out of St. Francis Salinas. Her house was right across there, and there was a pump in the front of her yard closer to the road. That was the community pump. Everybody went there and filled up their containers and stuff, and that's what we did. That was our drinking water and cooking water. And then where we happened to live, not too far off the road from there was a crib across there. So then we had to haul pails of water across there to do our mopping and our dishes. And then we had a kitchen, wood stove. I remember one time, my dad, we had a cupboard. I don't know where he got that monstrosity, I don't know. But it was not just an ordinary old cupboard. It was long, it had many drawers and many covered places in there. And dishes went there and certain sections. Everything went and he happened to pull a dirty dish or something was dirty that he had pulled out of there one time and he was mad. And we had to haul the water, heat it, and we had to have enough water for the rinsing and stuff. And he said, I told you girls I want this clean. He made us take everything out of the cupboard, clean the cupboard, start all over again. Well, we learned our lesson. But, the thing is hauling in the water to do it.
LCO News: What were some memories that you had from elementary school at St. Francis?
Margaret: Everybody said how me and my sisters were and stuff. And of course, if you were naughty, but I never got hit. I never got that. Not that I was good, but I never got hit. Yeah, I remember. I think one of the times I enjoyed a lot was Father Engelhart, and he was a priest at that time. And he would come over and he did some of our catechism and stuff like that. He always had a smile on his face and he joked with us. And he was one priest that I remember in those are my early years of grade school.
I think one of the most fun times was when we get recessed in our lunch hour because we would go to the back of the church slide. Now it's just all trees growing up, but when we were back there, our slides was back there. And the other thing that we would slide on was, they would have sales and I can't remember what days they had them on, but everything came in big boxes. So sister let us take the boxes and those were our sleds going down the hills. So I went down there. Even on Saturdays after we all finished our work and there was no Facebook, no phones to get in touch with everybody, we would plan it on the bus going home.
That, you know, I think by this time maybe it was 8th grade, 7th, 8th grade, we could go outside, but only after we did our work. Beds had to be made, clothes had to be put away, floors had to be scrubbed, some of those were wood floors. So to us was we knew enough that, okay, everybody lets meet down at 11 o'clock behind school. Those ones of us that went to do that all day, we would spend down there and we had to be home at a certain time. And then we would plan when we got older it was bike ride and we made sure we could all go if our work was done at home, we'd all meet and my uncle Steve Taylor owned the store right at the top of the hill of St. Francis.
Right after high school I went to business college in St. Paul. It was an eleven month course. Then I got a job at Midland National Bank down there. And then my husband to be at that time was in the service. And of course, we grew up together here. We went to all our 8th grade classes together and then we never once were together during that time. We were just friends. And then we started dating when he'd come home on leave. And then in 1965, we got married. We had five children.
Roger Diamond, he passed away in 2010. So we were married 45 years.
LCO News: Where are your kids today? What are they up too?
Margaret: Well, my two oldest ones are boys. And that's Brian Diamond at the casino. He's been working there I don't know how many years. And my second son, he works at Big Fish, Roger Jr. And then my daughter Sherry works for the child support program here. And my next daughter Liza, she works in the lodge at the casino. And my youngest daughter, Margot, just left here a year ago, graduated. She's married to Buck Robertson, and he's the son of Howard and Lisa Robertson.
LCO New: So what are you doing now? What keeps you occupied?
Margaret: Well, I'm executive director for the tribal governing board. And I was on tribal council. I started working for the tribe, I remember the date, July 6, 1971. And I started off as the clerk and eventually as the tribe grew and under Rick Baker, I still give Rick Baker so much credit that so many people don't. He started economic development, in my view, on the reservation. That's when I started working in 1971, when he got elected to tribal council, under him, I watched him write grants. I just said it. I'll tell my kids and tell my family. I said, for some reason, were lucky at that time that he came along, that he knew the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he knew Indian Health Service, he knew what the tribes were entitled to, and he went after them. He told me, he said, I want you to go back and look at the files of enrolled people. At that time, there were two four-drawer black cabinet files. Two! And they weren't full of files, and they're of enrollment. So he said, We've got to get the letters out. We got to start telling people to get enrolled, because numbers make a difference when you're writing grants.
So that's what I started, was working on the enrollment records, working on the enrollment books and contacting people, and it just so happened that my grandma and my aunt, my Grandma Katie Dennis and my aunt Irene Dennis lived across just across the yard. And I would run across there and I'd say, Grandma, do you know this person? You know? Oh, yeah, they remembered, they helped me research.
Eventually that got too be too much because that was time consuming. So Rick got two more workers to do the enrollment, and my memory serves me right. One of the first ones, the two workers that he got was Tom Carley. So, once the grants got funded and then he could start putting people on payroll and that was, he was working to start getting more funds in. So the first people on payroll when our first payroll started, because other than that was just writing checks out by okay, you work how many hours this week writing a check out? That's how I got paid. I would get paid maybe $60 a week or something like that and until you actually got on payroll. So, once that started, Rick Baker's enrollment number was one. And Sylvia Baker. She was Sylvia Bracklin at the time. That was before she became the Headstart Director. She was employee number two. And I was employee number three. And that's still my employee number today.
Then, you know, he started writing grants and they wrote grants for a fire department and kind of who headed that up was Rick Baker and Monty Diamond. Monty Diamond was on council. He got elected on council at the time. And I think Doc Quaderers worked for the housing and the little survival department that we had. So those two, I remember, that those two were sent to, I forget the name of that town, for our first fire truck. And Monty was the chief back then. So he was the first fire chief back then in the early seventy’s. That was before 1977. So he got that funded. So that pole barn building, the one that collapsed? The roof collapsed on it. In Reserve where the elderly center is now? The tribal office was a trailer house, a two bedroom trailer house. And that's where I worked out of, and that's where the council worked out of. And they had their own jobs. They had their own day jobs. And then that construction went underway to build a new pole barn building. A new tribal office went in there attached to the fire department. And actually the funds were actually for the fire department. But on this end of it was a tribal office.
Inside that tribal office was the Housing Authority office. The BIE Forrester office was in there in the health center. And then the outer part was myself, and Ida Wolf's office in there. We were in the center part, where our offices were located on the outside, and then the tribal chairman's office. And that's where they held their meetings in there. Sometimes smaller meetings.
What was fun about that was 4:30 you could punch out, open up another door, and there was a bar there. That's when they had a lounge thing there for a while. For a short while.
I worked up until 1990. Then I got elected on tribal council, and I was on tribal council for 15 years.
LCO News: Who were the tribal chairmen’s at that time.
Margaret: Goshkaibos and Al Trepania were, and yeah, I was too. Those were some fun years. And we moved from that Pole Barn building when they broke ground up here before this one was built. That was in 76, because in January of 1970, and I don't know why I remember that here, but January of 1977 was when we moved into the new tribal office up there until the one that we're presently in now was built. Well, anyway, they moved in there in 2006.
LCO News: So what do you do in your spare time when you have spare time?
Margaret: Well, you know what? Actually, I just like being home. I lost interest in a lot of things after my husband passed away. And the house that we're living in now, we used to live on Gurnoe Lake. And he bought that house without me knowing. Well, when I found out, I was like surprised, because every week I was paying on, we didn't finish building our other house that we were living in. And then he bought that. I was so surprised. And he said, I bought this. He said, for our retirement. This is where we're going to retire to. The lake is just right there. So that's what I'm doing. Slowly, slowly fixing. And this is where he wanted to be. I just enjoy being home.
I remember when I was young going to my grandma's house. Well, then my cousin Carmen, who was the daughter of Steve Taylor, who owned that store, lived right across the road. And my other cousin, Barbara Dennis, lived almost in the back of my grandma, just down the road a little bit. Right now, I think Chris Rusk is living in that house. That's where my Aunt Margaret Taylor lived there with my other cousin. So we gathered in my grandma's yard. She was the one that had that bigger yard. That's where we would all gather her front yard in place, and then the aunts would always come there anyway. They would bring their coffee and pies or whatever.
So that's where we spend a lot of time. And I remember my grandma calling me in one time, and she said, I'm going to show you how to crochet or something. And we happen to be sitting right at the table. Everybody else was out in the yard playing. I didn't want to do this and do that and stuff, and I wasn't there. All of a sudden, she hollered, Margaret Corbine. She said my maiden name Margaret Corbine, get out of here. She said, you don't want to learn how, man, I was out that door. I just didn't have no interest in it, and I still don't. Yeah, I envy those ones that can go in a room and just figure out what they want to do with it. Not me. I'll get someone to do it for me. I don't have that. But I appreciate all the beautiful work that some of these women do, though. The skirts that they're making, the bead work. I hate to say this, but I'm not much interested in beadwork, because at St. Francis, we used to have to make that. We used to have to do the looms and all that.
I remember, together with my sisters, we started doing that with my mother, going out at least a couple of times a month, going to have dinner with her. That was fun. And we started doing our Thanksgiving meals at her house, and we'd all bring the food there, and kids would be on the floor in the bedroom eating theirs and stuff, and it just got too big. So we asked the casino if we could start having our Thanksgiving dinners in the convention center. And it grew so much. Everybody with our family would come from Minneapolis. They would come from Minnesota that lived across over there.
And that's what we would all do. And then it just kind of fell apart. Once my mother passed away, it wasn't the same anymore without her. We tried to keep it up, but it didn't go. So now, one time, my daughter Sherry lived in Louisville, and she sent me a hat, and I guess hats go on sale down after the Kentucky derby part. So she sent me a hat. Yeah, she sent me a really nice white one. And I love the hat. I still have it this year. And about that time, I don't know if you're familiar with the red hat ladies society out there. Okay. So I would watch different clips on TV about the red hat ladies. So I got my sisters together, and I said, let's have a hat party. We'll go out to eat. I said, wear our hats, dress up and wear our hats. And I said, and we'll take our nieces with us. No men, no boys, just the women. So we said, let's all go hat shopping. We already had mine. My daughter sent that to me. So that's what we started. It was the sisters and the nieces, and now we got the smaller granddaughters to come. So we still do that. And we try to go to different places each year.
LCO News: 7 generations from now, what advice would you have for your family members or other relatives, thinking that far forward, what advice would you have for those people?
Margaret: Well, I don't know if I have advice that far, but I think what I'm seeing is I'm proud of the language coming back that just disappeared. And I've got nephews out there, I've got my nieces, and especially Krysten Sullivan, her family, what they're doing with their family. So I see that coming back and stronger. I see it growing. People are sticking to the traditional ways. To me, though, I don't see the division so much in our religions and how we practice, because my grandparents, Louis Corbine and Agnes Corbine, they were very traditional people. But my grandpa was Catholic, and he married, according to my mom and dad, that she couldn't speak English language when she married him, but she did, and she became a Catholic. When the first Catholic Church was built, when that burned down, my grandpa just lived well, you know where the elder center is? If you go down that one road and you turn the sharp corner there, down that road was where my grandparents lived.
And that's part of the Catherine Corbine allotment, that used to be one of the main roads all along the lake going across, that road is still there, and it goes right up to the convent and the church. So when that church burned down, my grandpa opened up his house and they would have mass in my grandpa's house.
And then from Pipestone, my dad told me, he said when they were building the church, he said, the church is made of pipestone. He said, we had to haul the stones from Pipestone. And my grandparents, I can't remember their correct name, they're the only ones in the St. Francis Cemetery by the church, not the one off the road that have pipestone for their headstones.
Well, people get married back there (Pipestone). People go back there for different occasions and stuff. So my daughter Sherry, she's interested in all kinds of stuff. She's one of these crafty people. She said mom. She said, let's go to Pipestone. I said I've never been there. And she said, you haven't? I said no. I said, for some reason, I don't want to. And she said, why? I don't know. I don't know. But she said, let's go. So we did. We parked up there, and now I guess they made a bigger road to get down there, which I don't think they should have, but they did. So we had to park up there. Wow. I said okay. I'm scared of bears, bobcats. And I always think they're safe. She said, oh, come on. She said, People come down here all the time. Well, evidently we're the only ones here right now. So we started walking around. Oh, my gosh, that's a pretty place.
The farther you get and the whole thing is just pretty. And then I only went so far, and I was looking at it, and she was picking up things. I said, Remember, you don't take anything from here. She said no. I know. And so she started kind of following that crick, and I got so she left me alone in this one area over there. And I said, I got this feeling like, am I being watched or something? I just got this weird feeling. And I looked at her and I said, Where are you going? And she said, let's follow this guy. I said no. Don't. And she said, Come on. I said no, Sherry. I said, let's get out of here. And she said, why? I don't think we should be here. She didn't want to go, but I did. I said, I don't care if you go or not. I'm going back to the cars. I just don't want to be here. I don't know why I didn't I think I wanted to talk to somebody about that one time. I'll never go back to Pipestone again. I just didn't like the feeling that I had that I wasn't supposed to be there. I don't know why. But it's a beautiful place, though.