ELDER RECOGNTION: George Morrow
George: My name is George Morrow Jr. I was born in 1954 on February 15.
LCO News: Where were your parents living when you were born?
George: When I was first born, my parents lived up in what they call Daggets Road. It was the center of the Chief Lake area and would have been Pete Cloud and Frank Cloud and all lived in that area there, pretty much from the Chief Lake area. We moved down off of World’s End for a while there as I was growing up. That's pretty much where I stayed until I went out on my own.
LCO News: What school did you go to when you were in elementary?
George: I went to Kinnamon. I think I was one of the last classes to come out of there, or maybe the last class that came out.
LCO News: What was that like for you?
George: It was different. It was a totally different experience. I grew up with my parents, and a lot of times I would sit there and visit with elders. Some of the names I'm going to throw out are people that I remember as I was growing up. People like Jim Bennett. There actually Charlie Knox, who used to hunt with my dad and stuff. So I knew Charlie Knox really well. He was over at the house, and people like that lived around there. The only guy that ever had a car, his name was Joe Gantz. But I found out later in life his real name was Joe Martin. I never knew him by a lot of these people I know. I don't know what their real names were. I just know them by what we called them.
Guys when I was growing up who hung around were like Cheetah Mustache. And I didn't know until just a few years ago what his real name was. Alfred Mustache. And I never put that together. And so it was just kind of we grew up knowing people by nicknames and stuff. And people that lived close by us over there were like Gene Begay and old man Gene Begay and Lucy Begay. They lived in a big white house down the hill there from up where we were staying and just kind of grew up in that community. It was a pretty tight knit community. We went over into like Six Mile and stuff.
And later on in life, I began to work for the LCO Conservation Department. I eventually ended up being the chief warden for the tribe, and I did that for a number of years. Let me go back a little bit. When I was born, my dad and mother went and saw John Stone to get me an Indian name. So they talked about that, and I've never heard anyone else with that Indian name that I carry. And he called me Azuka India, which in the way he translated from the story, meant to protect the earth. And so I worked for conservation for 27 years, and I got, I think, 32 years in law enforcement. It was kind of like almost like that old man knew exactly what I was going to do when I was first born.
And that's the one thing, you know, when people get their Indian names, they say, that will guide you through your whole life. And that's one of the things that I always felt really strong about, because when my grandchildren now get their Indian names, I asked them to explain the story, where they're getting that name from, and it helps them down the road.
LCO News: So after Kinnamon, where did you go, to Hayward?
George: Went to junior high school in Hayward until starting my junior year, and I ended up going out to South Dakota, to an Indian boarding school. So I was there for part of my schooling. When I got done with Flandreau Indian School, I came home and they had a GED program out here on the reservation here. I went through that program and I got a high school equivalency. But then in the meantime, the teacher that was helping contacted Flandreau and he said, wait a minute. He goes, this kid has enough credits to graduate. He should have graduated last year. So then they granted me a diploma from there. But it was because of I think it was Roy, Jonjak and Judy Warner that helped me get that straightened around. I went to Mount Scenario College for a little while, just kind of bounced around different law enforcement jobs and things. And I was a prison guard for a while, and then I was a deputy sheriff in the county here several times, too, under different sheriffs. And like I said, when I was working as a deputy, I was also running the conservation department. So that kept me hopping.
LCO News: What did you like most, law enforcement or conservation?
George: I loved conservation. It was more in line of what I was just hanging around with those older people. They taught me a lot of things. And as I grew up, I was trying to explain some of the things to our younger people coming up. What I learned from those elders and how I would read nature.
One night they were all fishing on a lake down in Chief Lake and Mick come up to me and he says, what's going on with that lake? We're picking up a few fish, but not many. Not like normal. I go, I was just kind of joking. I said, the frogs haven't sung yet. And he looked at me and that night he was out there. All of a sudden, the walleyes peaked on the lake and he said he stopped and he could hear something. He's like, what the heck? He goes, I'm proud they're singing. He goes and all of a sudden, these walleyes just came to life and they were spawning like crazy. And I said, just by the body of water.
And the way everything was going when the frogs singing, that's when the walleyes were going to start spawning heavy. And he kind of like after a while he was kind of like, how do you figure that? I said, when I go out and look at a lake, I don't look at the water temp. I don't look at the air temperature. I look at the amount of daylight that happens during the day, the moon phases, and I look at the leaves on the shoreline when the leaves are starting to change from buds becoming into leaves. And that's what I judge by telling when a lake is ready to spawn. And you can use all those other sources, you can use water temp or anything, but one of them doesn't rule it. It takes all of them put together to do it and make things happen.
So I was just sitting there listening to those old timers tell me how to tell that stuff. And like this fall, when we’re hunting, my grandson, that we start seeing these furry caterpillars all over on the road, I told him, I said, now it's time to start hunting grouse because they're ready. We start seeing them all over and were getting them and things like when we don't follow the calendar so much. We go by what's happening in nature. We begin hunting when we see the fireflies. The fireflies come out is when we start hunting deer. And those are the things I go by. I kind of ignore what they said was seasons. I go by with what those old timers taught me about nature and I've always been like that.
LCO News: What stories do you remember from elders or grandparents that were told to you?
George: I guess there's just a conglomerate of things and I picked up things here and there from other guys and I guess it kind of slowly built into where I could comprehend what was happening in nature. It's not just one person or one thing. It combines and it builds inside your mind how nature is telling us when it's time to do certain things. Like the rice. We've heard now that our wild rice is kind of vanishing. Well, I think we're palming it too early because we're opening seasons by a calendar date, not by nature. And that's what we need to go back to that. And if anybody needs to lead that, the tribes need to lead on how we do things. Not following up because they don't understand about rice. They don't even really know where it came from.
LCO News: So you're retired now. What do you do with your life now?
George: I'm chairman of the Public Safety Commission for the tribe. Okay. Thought I was totally out of law enforcement, but when you get all the way out, they pull you back in. I'm kind of headstrong in a lot of ways. I'm set in my ways and I'll be the first one to admit that. When the tribe first brought me on to run and do conservation, I was exactly what we needed during the treaty term on. I was arrogant, I was a bully, and I was totally I feared absolutely nothing. So at that point in time, that was what our tribe really needed. And as my time went on, I was one of the first to admit that my time had passed. I was there for what we needed and it was time to move on to people that can interpret things better. And I was a driving force to get us going on a lot during the fishing controversies and stuff. Was that late seventy s or early seventy’s?
And it was, you know, I thoroughly enjoyed that time in my life where were bringing our culture back and even the DNR was starting to understand some of the way we talked. We had to meet over here on a boat lining one night because they had sterilized some northerns, but the drug they used to do it wouldn't have been good for people to eat, so that we needed it back off for a few days on spearing it. So we worked with that and were sitting there talking about it, and DNR guy goes, well, what time are we going to meet? I says, let's meet at dark. And he's like, well, what time is that? And I go, I don't know. I go, when the shadows kind of consume the daylight and it turns dark.
I said, that's dark, bang, I'll meet you there. Then after he arrived at the scene, he's like, I was pushing it to get here. And he goes, I realized the shadows weren’t consuming the daylight yet. So the way you explained it made more sense for us to meet the way you were telling us how to get there. And it was kind of a it was a great feeling to see those guys trying to understand our culture a little bit and where were coming from back then. We had to do cultural sensitivity training with the DNR and other things to help them see our point of view. And one of the things that I'm most proud of when we did conservation, there was a lake over in Rusk County, it's called Potato Lake. They said they don't regulate for Walleyes on there and we aren’t allowed to spear any Walleyes out there. Well, we'd go out there and we'd see Walleyes all over the place. So they were thought to be lying to us and they said, well, we don't regulate for walleyes. We walked down to the boat landing, I had the DNR guy right with me, and I looked at that sign. I said, see that sign right there? He goes, yeah. I go see that sign says Daily Walleye Bag Five. I go, you're regulating for walleyes. And they still said there wasn't enough in there for us to spear.
But then I contacted the GLIFWC biologist and he sat down with me and we hatched out a number that we could safely take at least 100 Walleyes out of that lake without hurting the lake. So went in that night and we took 53 Walleyes out of a lake that supposedly had none. So we took those Walleyes, and the DNR guy that was on the landing that night said they were going to seize those fish. I told him, I said, no, you're not taking anything from my fishermen. So we left the fishermen the next day. We got ironed out, and we got offered a declaration from the state right away on that lake. And I told them what I wanted. They asked me if I wanted that declaration. I said, no, it's not what I want.
I said, I want you to own up to the other lakes you're hiding on the tribes. And went through the list, and we figured out there was about 192 lakes they were hiding on us that said there was no fish, there was no walleyes in. But we got the numbers eventually, and I entered their database for this public knowledge, and I found that they were tracking walleye populations in those places, but they just denied to the tribes they were doing it. So we harvested over 100% of our declaration that year, and they couldn't fine us for it because we did it legally. And the statute I went by when we did that was incidental catch. If there's no bag limits or harvest holes on there, you can go in.
And actually, we could have gone in and taken every walleye we saw, and it would have been totally legal because it's not an identified species on the Declaration. So we played their little game too, right? There were a lot of other things. I remember being down there battling with DNR over one fish on a lake. We were down there for two weeks arguing over one fish one lake. And finally were sitting in there one day, and I sat there and I looked across the DNR rep, and I said, I'll make a deal with you. And he looked at me and he goes, I won't fish that body of water with fishing line. And he looked at me like I said, you know, I said, I can go out there. I can catch ten Walleyes every day if I go out there.
And he kind of, like, shakes his head. And so I said, I won't fish it. Leave our negotiations and flip that fish over tribal site, and they caved in right away. But it was just interesting. They were playing their little numbers game with us.
LCO News: I want touch back on the boys that you've been mentoring and what other areas are you involved in with the younger people here at LCO?
George: Mostly my grandsons and other young children, anybody that wants to learn. I remember we take our boat off Spirit, and we don't usually have five or six kids jump in the boat with us, and some of them weren't family, but they came along anyway. We just wanted to show them how to do it right when we get out. And we tell them you're not spearing the big ones. You take these nice eaters, you start taking the big ones, and you take the brooding stock, so you're not getting a good spawn anymore. So just things like that, we're trying. And I remember I forget it was, I think, Mick who was tribal chairman, they contracted with me to come out and help with Spring Spearing declarations while were starting to get more and more citations. So he brought me in, and I came in. I started going out on boat landings. Before we'd go out fishing, I'd go out and talk to the fishermen about why we had these rolls, why this was there. And that year, we ended up with two citations the whole year. And the next year I did it again. We had two citations. Unfortunately, it was the same two guys. It was the same, too. They just couldn't judge.
But it was like when we explained to them why we’re doing things a certain way, that then they kind of understood and they complied with everything voluntarily. It was more of nobody bothered to explain to them before why we set those rules.
LCO News: Your family, children?
George: Yeah, I have Caroline, my oldest daughter. She's the human resources person for the Tribe. Adele, my daughter, she works for financial services. My oldest son, George, he works for the Mille Lacs Band over there, and he's doing things with culture and harvest and things like that and conservation and fights fires and things. So he goes out west fighting fires and stuff. My youngest is Johnny, and he lives down in Madison. He's working for the university down there now, doing locks and building security doors for them. And then I have a couple well, actually, I have other children. I've been married a few times, so I have children that were there and are biologically mine. But they're basically my kids because I was around with them, and I still count them as that.
And right now, I'm married right now, and we have a couple of grandsons that pretty much spend every weekend with me. What I'd do if I didn't have that?
LCO News: Any hobbies besides nature?
George: One thing I do is a little carving every now and then. I used to do pipes and things like that, but I haven't done those for a while. After I lost a family member, I stopped doing pipes and things for a while. I need to get back into it, but I just didn't feel right doing things. You got to totally enjoy what you're doing.
LCO News: What advice would you have for maybe a 20-something year old about life?
George: Just hang on to everything, all your memories and things, and keep driving forward. Don't look back. Every one of us have made mistakes in our life. There's no way around that. We need to look forward to the future and where we're going. And the people that signed those treaties back then, reality right now, we are the 7th generation from those. So that's what I keep going back to, is our 7th generations. That's what I'm looking at down the road. I want something here for when my great-great grandchildren get of age to hunt, fish. I want that to be there for them. And that's the way I look at life. It's not all about what you want, but what you do. You're looking to make sure that your unborn children yet are taken care of.
And so that was one of the hardest things that when I was looking at and I looked at those old treaties and things, and I was like, those things were designed to protect me back then. And now I look at it, and I still look at the way we do things and when I look at our way of living in things and get I a little upset because there's only three things in the United States of America that require blood quantum. Dogs, horses, and Indians that are required to show blood quantum, which to me is if you're born this way and you're growing this way, you should have all the rights that we have.