Roger White Jr.
My name is Roger White, Jr. I’m originally from Fort Peck Fort Peck Reservation. I come from the Red Bottom Clan of Assiniboin, the Nakota, and it basically means “Red Root”. Some people have said before it means there’s a story behind it. It goes about the red bottoms of the tipis, the red linings of the how the tipis are. So, I don’t know, because it was so long ago that these stories are put in place. So I’ve heard one being us being the Red Root. That’s what “hudesana” means and the other being “red bottoms”. They’re calling us the red bottom of that root.
My dad’s family comes from here as well. He’s Roger White, Sr. and they were Red Bottom people. My mother’s family, she’s Dakota so that’s where I get my Dakota blood, but I’ve really stuck on my Assiniboine side for some reason. I just grew up around it so that’s what I took up. So there’s a lot, there’s a lot of different things I guess that we do down here differently
I kinda wanted to give you a little insight into how it used to be. How dedicated people were coming to these social gatherings. Well, long ago the people would come and they would powwow for four to five days. They’d celebrate for four to five days to visit, to share, and to help one another out. Well, they would do this for four to five days and before they would do this, some places, wherever they were going to have it, like if they had one here on Fort Peck, well the lead singer used to go around and he would sing what we call nowadays Doorway Songs.
These Doorway songs were to entice his other singers to come and help him. He’d stand outside their home and sing until they came out. Well then they would come out and he’d go and get all his singers. When he had gotten all his singers gathered up, he would go around from house to house and he would sing out in front and, and they called these. Some people call them begging songs, but I like to prefer them as doorway songs. They used to call it counting buckets.
Well, they would bring out a food item to these, these singers, or they would come and say, “Well, for the powwow tonight or tomorrow I’ll bring, you know, salad or I’ll bring something to feed. So they always made sure before they left the house that they had received some type of monetary donation, whether it was money or blankets or, and that’s what they used to give away to all the visiting people that came and that’s how the powwows used to take place. It was hard for any contest and stuff like we have nowadays. But long ago it was a lot different and a lot more fun, I guess you can say. Everybody came to socialize and have fun. And nowadays it’s kinda different but I just wanted to share that with you.
When our band would put on powwow we’d sing the Committee Song or the Clan Song or then it would go to the cooks, because we’d feed all. Then we have to feed the people so we’d sing a cooking song about feeding. There were always songs that went into place and they all told a story about something. They all tell a story in some way or another, about they’re looking at these people. You know, they’ve cooked here. These are the ones that are feeding you, you know. Respect them. It was mainly the women and they would carry the ladles for the Cook Song and to show that they were the ones that prepared all the fixings or food and whatnot for the celebration.
Wataphevi. It’s basically saying “Our buffalo, the buffalo. Where have you gone? The Red Bottom, are your friends. We’re your people. You know, where have you gone? We’re having a hard time.” That’s what that means. It’s a buffalo chaser song, I guess. For the Red Bottom Clan.
I started singing when I was about three years old, so I kind of just grew up with the music.
Roger White, Jr.
Roger White Jr. is a member of the Red Bottom Band of the Assiniboine at Fort Peck Agency. The reservation is located in northeastern Montana between Big Muddy Creek and Big Porcupine Creek and extends from the Missouri River to the Canadian border. Descending from a long line of chiefs and warriors, his father, Chief Buffalo Stops Four Times, was one of the last chiefs of the Red Bottom People. His ancestors include Chief Big Mountain, He Wets His Arrows, and medicine man, Chief White Dog, who had a reputation for his exploits on the warpath in Canada and as a capturer of horses. The Assiniboine occupied a vast region, following the buffalo that wintered in different areas from Wyoming north to Saskatoon, east to Minnesota, and west to the borders of Washington. Today, the terrain encompasses woodlands, plains, plush green rolling hills, and flat farmland.
Roger is a singer and song carrier for the Red Bottom People and shares ceremony and social songs. He tells of different dance styles, the history of dances, and the origin of the powwow and other social gatherings. He is featured on Wisdom of the Elders Radio: Series Two in the Tribal Rhythms feature for Program Seven which honors the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribe.
He is also a storyteller and tribal historian. He includes legend and creation stories in his presentations. He tells the history of the Assiniboine, a term derived from the French meaning stone boilers, rock boilers, or cooks with the stones. He discusses the importance of cultural identity and preservation with today’s youth, many of whom don’t know where they come from, so sharing origination stories helps them identify who they are. Although he focuses on tribal youth and elders, Roger also is comfortable speaking to non-Indian audiences. He discusses traditions and culture which are passed down through families and how arts and crafts designs and colors identify tribes. He also gives talks on environmental issues and health and healing. He has been on many committees, including the Assiniboine culture committee, and is a canoe paddler.
Roger White, Jr.
Wolf Point, MT 59201