Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

By Sesi King 

Life and Times with Elizabeth Oakes


Elizabeth King Oakes "Konwarihonienni" was born on September 14, 1939.

Arisawe's parents were Paul King and Theresa Curry and paternal Grandparents were Jake King and Marion.

"My grandparents on my mother's side were Jake Curry and Catherine Smoke. Aunt Josephine had four children: Sarah Lazore, Dave Curry, Mary Herne and Florence Cook. They were my cousins," she said.

During that part of the familial history, the Curry name is no more after the death of Arisawe's cousin David. So here is some of the history of her family to give readers an understanding of some of her relatives.

Elizabeth's brothers are Mose Lazore (dec), Edward, (dec), Joe (dec), Harry, Gilbert, along with two sisters, Sara and Louise (both dec). Two young baby boys had passed away.

Arisawe's children are JoAnn (Ron) Swamp, Felicia (Bob) Sunday, Sheila, Kenny and Mike. All live in Tsi Snaihne.

Her grandchildren have made her so happy and she is so pleased that they are so productive in their choices of careers. Four have become police officers: Robert, Joe, Brandon and Ron. Charlotte is a PSW at Iakhihsohtha and loves and takes care of many of our Totas. Sue Ann has recently completed a very rewarding four years in the Cultural Restoration Program. She learned so much there with earth's gifts and the Kanien'kéha language. Cassandra, Eddie, Mike and Tewisontakie are the youngest of Arisawe's grandchildren.

With a big smile and an enormous pride of her family, she said, "I'm so glad I lived long enough to see my great grandchildren." Their names are Willow (Kanehariiostha), Ava (Tekanontakhen), Carter (Ka'nehwakeniate), Bennett (Aronhiatakon), Chandon (Tekahonwasen) and Ashytn Sky (Katsitsianoron).

Arisawe's family always lived in Tsi Snaihne on the farm. Her father was always a farmer and her mom was a basketmaker as well as a homemaker. She was such a good cook, especially her biscuits. In Arisawe's memory come the thoughts of lots of land where gardens grew, and hay as well, for the animals. Early each morning her father would get up to begin the chores to take care of six cows and two horses he raised.

"I always followed him around carrying the lantern as we entered the building to throw the hay down. I was always right behind him and observing and learning life on the farm."

She seemed to enjoy all there was to do in the routine of each day. After the cows were milked, her father would then go to the shed where the milk machines were used to separate the cream out of the milk. Next, butter was made from that cream to go onto the delicious homemade biscuits her mother had made. They were good days, and we always got by with what was raised to feed us.

"My father always salted the pig barrel so we always had meat. There were also chickens in the barn and we would take a basket into the barn in the morning to gather eggs," said Arisawe.

"It sure was a lot of work when it was time to plant and harvest. In one big yard were all potatoes and another piece of the land was all corn. Another one of my youngest memories is when I would always be with my father riding beside him up the road to another field that was to be cut. The "randell" was used during the haying season and when the hay was cut, us kids would make piles of hay in the fields to be picked up later when the hay wagon came in between the stacks," she remembered.

It was obvious how she must have enjoyed these times even though it was hard work at times. Arisawe kept smiling as she told her story and recalling all the special times she followed and worked alongside her father at the farm. They would finish their day to a delicious meal prepared by her mom.

Arisawe then spoke about her mother Theresa and how she really enjoyed fishing, another food item they enjoyed.

"Remember when we used to go out in the evenings with our lantern to grab the fishworms?" one of her children asked. We would spot the worm and pull it out of the ground and they were long. That was a lot of fun for them all but now days it seems like kids are afraid of worms," and she laughed and spoke of those times.

As a child, Arisawe went to school on the East end. There were only two schools, the other one was on the West end of Snye. Her teacher was Katy Seymour and she lived across the road from school. They had to walk to school each day and that was quite far. So after awhile her next teacher was called Margaret Terrance from Frogtown. After being given permission by her parents, Arisawe went to stay at Margaret's house because she lived alone. Her and Veronica Cook stayed with Margaret until the school closed down. That was the time when their new school opened where the Homemakers Building now stands. She continued school up until grade nine at that location, later all the students were driven in a truck to attend the St. Regis Village School. The truck had benches and a tarp cover so the students wouldn't get too cold. In Spring and Fall the students would walk to Joe Lazore's and they would be driven across the river by boat to school.

There was an incident that took place during her time at St. Regis School. She was studying geometry at this period, and Arisawe just couldn't understand the meaning of "degrees." She tried and tried and Mr. Thompson, her teacher, slapped her on her hand with his strap. She didn't cry....and that sure surprised him. He just looked at her in surprise. Lunchtime came and she and a friend began walking home. Up the St. Regis Road, Hogan, Cook Rd and then down Drum St. That was the very first time she ever walked all the way home. As a result, Arisawe quit school and her mother Theresa was very angry about the teacher strapping her daughter like that.

"Why didn't he take the time to explain it to her, right?"

Arisawe's mom in turn went to the band office to talk to the "Agent" to tell them what he did to her. Nothing came of it.

She then began to babysit for mothers whose husbands left to go away to work. The young children needed care so some moms could also work. Arisawe said, "It's so nice to be greeted by the grown up children who had been babysat by me, they still remember."

"After all that and gaining work experience, even in Massena, brought me to almost 18 years old. At that age I got married to Thomas Oakes, and sadly I had a miscarriage for our first one", she said.

One year later with much happiness, JoAnn was born.

As with many young couples, times could have rough beginnings. The couple moved into a house and began setting up their lives. Her husband had gone away to look for work and Arisawe stayed with her little family until her oldest was to begin school. Times had been rough trying to stay in a home with no running water for a while. Arisawe's father went to get them and moved them back in with him and his wife, at this time there were three children. The best thing that came out of that was that the children heard Kanienkeha language all the time so as a result, they too are now speakers.

She began to go back to work at a Moccasin Factory and after that she returned to school at Manpower for training and upgrading. There were people who played a part in matching her up with various jobs using her skills. She had taken an accounting class and upon graduation she was ready for a job. She took a few months off before she started. She actually learned some more along with Diane in payroll. Eventually, her job was to write checks for about 200 employees at the Band Office, each week completing it successfully. There were many people that helped her along the way to help to get her career going. She mentioned many of them and know that she is thankful to each of you.

The children have good memories of the way they grew up and one of the favorites were when pay day came. Arisawe would cash her check and she'd buy bologna, bread, chips and soda. She would throw a big blanket on the floor and they would share a picnic.

Her favorite holiday was Easter. She remembers her mother being a very strong Catholic who always went to church and also sang in a choir.

Arisawe said, "My father didn't always attend church but I always heard him praying at night before sleep.

About travels; Arisawe said her and her sisters used to go places but since they have passed she hasn't travelled lately. She is looking forward to a road trip to possibly go out west to Arizona where her brother Gilbert lives. Another stop would be to the state of Pennsylvania. Arisawe hopes that when her hip gets replaced, she can travel again. Right now, she is restricted in her walking.

In conclusion to our story, Arisawe wanted to say she is so proud of all her children and grandchildren for all working in such respectable jobs in Ahkwesahsne.

Niawen Arisawe for this enjoyable visit with you in your home.


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