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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 17, 2001 - Issue 49


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Revered American Indian Spiritual Leader Porky White Dies




Walter White, known to thousands by his Ojibwe names Gay gway da kamigishkang (Prancing Horse) and Gahgoonse (Porky or Little Porcupine) died peacefully on November 13, 2001.

He was born at Federal Dam, Minnesota on October 18, 1919, the youngest son of Jenny and George White. As a boy of five, he accompanied his mother to her sugar bush stand at Sugar Point on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. He learned the complex process of making sugar from the sap of maple trees, and he practiced this skill in an annual camp located at Lake Independence, Minnesota from 1976 to 2001. His wife Deb ably assisted him in these camps as did his late camp co-director Madeline Moose of East Lake, Mille Lacs, Minnesota.

His keen sense of timing and solid understanding of the sugaring process is documented in the book Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar, Traditional Native Sugarmaking (Lerner, 1993). (The book is available from Amazon.)

Porky won several Golden Gloves titles including 1937 Lightweight, 1938 and 1939 Junior Welterweight and the 1943 National Championship while in the U.S. Army. He joined in 1941 and served in the famous Tenth Mountain Division Ski troops and Engineers. Although highly trained, he was not shipped overseas for combat duty.

His abilities extended to traditional pow wow dancing and even film roles. He sang and danced in pow wows across the United States and in Canada. His film credits include "Roanoke," 1986 for PBS and other video and audio productions.

For many years, Porky guided hunting and fishing parties who came to the north Minnesota woods for its rich game reserves. His expertise, unfailing hunting eye and knowledge of the backwoods helped spread his fame far and wide as an outstanding expert of the outdoors.

In 1975, he left for St. Paul, Minnesota and a brand new school called the Red School House, an alternative program for American Indian students. The multi-talented Porky taught language, culture, instituted his famous sugar bush as well as rice, fish, and berry camps to teach his young students the traditional life of the Anishinabe people. From that point on, as he moved from Red School House out into a greater teaching circle, Porky’s life was willingly given over to his people.

As word of his spiritual counseling and cultural knowledge grew, thousands came from all over the country to learn or gain insight. He married couples, named children and adults, and conducted sweat lodges, funerals, and pipe ceremonies, all while continuing to teach safe hunting, crafts, and how to prepare natural foods for preservation and use animal hides for clothing and implements.

His genius for all things connected to the outdoors and his broad smile endeared him to all those in his proximity. To many, he was perhaps best known for his lectures on Anishinabe life. In a quiet and determined manner he laid out the form and substance that has held the Anishinabe people together so strongly over the centuries that have included wars, starvation, and violent contact with Europeans.

He had struggled with the effects of diabetes for several years. At age 82, he could look back on a full life, fully lived. Only last Saturday, he traveled north for a day of hunting.

Porky directed that he have a handcrafted coffin when he was ready for his journey. He asked that his bed be turned west, the direction to which he would go when his journey time came. Friends and family were at his side.

A funeral ceremony will be held at Cass Lake Veteran’s Hall on Saturday, November 17th, 2001 at 9:00 am with burial at the Battle Point Cemetery, Sugar Point, Leech Lake Reservation.


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