The Saint Francis Herald
Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Karen Krein
Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Karen Krein
Anna Brewer was 103-years-old on Sunday. That is a mile-stone in itself; however. Mrs. Brewer is also the oldest living member of the Kaw Nation Indian tribe. Mrs. Brewer is one-quarter Indian and laughingly says her heritage is German-Irish-Indian. Her mother. Katie (Shroyer) Cooper was German, her father. William was one-half Kaw and one-half Irish.
Her father was born on Kaw land near Council Grove. When he was 2-years-old. the government moved them to land in (Manama near Newkirk. The government allotted half-blood Indians land. William and Katie lived on his allotted land, naming it the Cooper Homestead. It sat along the Arkansas River 6 miles east and 4 miles north of Newkirk.
Anna was one of 14 children borm to the couple. However. only seven children survived. Anna, named Annie Pearl at birth, was the youngest of the children who survived. She said there were several still-born children after her.
Her life was mostly carefree. Her father, she said, was well-to-do. raising wheat, corn and cattle. Their two-story home seemed large to her. The home still stands today.
The house was near a creek. Throughout her younger years, she was able to go down the hill to swing on the grape vines that grew wild, then falling into the water to cool off. She also looked for craw-dads.
In an earlier article, written when she turned 100, she said, because she was the youngest she seldom had to do chores. One time when she was naughty, she said she was told to go to the room under the stairway. The canned goods were kept in this area and she kept busy by removing all the labels.
Her mother was German, so their home life was more like the white man's. However, she would go to visit her grandparents, Roseanne James, who was a full-blood Indian, and John Cooper. When Roseanne was very small, she was traveling in a wagon when the seat broke and her leg was injured. Mrs. Brewer said she always walked with a cane because of the injury.
Roseanne was an interesting person. After meals, Anna remembers that she would smoke a clay pipe. She would cut off a plug of chewing tobacco, rub it in her palm to crush it and stuff it in her pipe. The pipe is now located in the Kanza Museum in Kaw City. Okla.
When Grandma Roseanne and her sister got together. Mrs. Brewer said they talked Kaw and no one could understand them. Anna's son, Dwight, said he has tried to learn just a little bit of the Kaw language but, unlike English, there is really no sense to the way the words are formed.
“The only way to learn it is to memorize it,” he said.
Anna never learned to talk Kaw.
Grandma Roseanne cooked with a little black pot and Anna remembered her stewed meat to be very good. She baked bread including fried bread which was made with water, salt and flour, then fried.
She said they removed the kernels off Indian com. They laid the kernels out in the sun with a net over them where they dried. When almost dry, they were put in a sack and hung on the clothes-line for the final drying.
This corn, she said, was put into the pot with some type of meat or ham bone and slowly cooked until the stew or soup was thick. She
said she has dried corn in a dehydrator and had much the same results as her grandmother and mother did without the sun and gnats.
Anna was 4-years-old when Grandpa Cooper died. She remembers the hearse and the house her grandparents lived in. (It had wallpaper with brown Teddy bears, she said.) Later, Grandma Cooper moved to town and Anna stayed with her when she went to high school. She said only the stone barn and fence of her grandparents country home remains today.
Anna is proud to be an Indian. Growing up, there were no prejudices among neighbors, friends and students as they were much like her.
Anna went to the Cooper school, just one-half mile from her home. Her dad would hitch up the horses to a wagon and, as they traveled along the way, they picked up other children to take to school. She went to Newkirk to attend high school.
Her mother died when she was in high school so she then went to live with her older sister, Edna. When she went to visit relatives in Nebraska, she met Clark Brewer. They were married in 1934. They had three sons, Wallace, Doug and Dwight.
The early laws allowed Indians including half-breeds, to receive 400 acres of land. All Anna's siblings received the land, however, the year before she was born, the government quit giving land. Since then, the Kaw Nation has received additional payments from the government but, not without a fight in court.
Mrs. Brewer has what she calls her "blue card." This card allows her to be treated in any Indian Health Center. These centers are operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Each of the boys also have cards stating that they are Kaw Indians.
Mrs. Brewer has been recognized in the Kanza, the newsletter of the Kaw Nation, for being the oldest living Kaw Indian Roseanne is pictured with her aunt, Elizabeth Curley and her mother Margaret Curley, in the 2009 Kanza calendar. The same photo is shown with this article.
From July 31 through Aug. 2, the Kaw Nation Intertribal Pow-wow will be held at Kaw City, Okla. There will be dancing, contests and eating throughout the three days. Mrs. Brewer said she and her family have attended several of the powwows. Wallace would like to go again this year. Mrs. Brewer will see if she is up to making the seven-hour trip closer to the end ot July. It is not every day that the oldest living Kaw, at 103 years, can attend such a celebration.