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Paul Buffalo oral history project

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: S6035

Scope and Contents

Oral history project of Dr. Timothy Roufs interviewing Paul P. Buffalo (1900-6/1977) from March 1967 – 1977. Mr. Buffalo resided at Ball Club, Minnesota, and the Leech Lake Reservation.

The collection consits of transcripts, audio cassette tapes, CDs of the tapes.

The transcripts are also on the Paul Buffalo web pages developed by Dr. Roufs.


  • 1967-1977


Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Kathryn A. Martin Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

INTRODUCTION by Timothy G. Roufs, Ph. D., Univ. of Minnesota Duluth

Paul Buffalo's mother, herself an Ojibwe medicine woman, told Paul, her oldest son, shortly before she died, that she had a dream revealing that one day someone would come to write down their Indian ways of life. She told him that when that time came he should speak of those things she had taught him: "You are the oldest and I have taught you my ways. Someday someone will ask you about these things. I have dreamed about that. Keep these things that I have taught. Someday people will want to hear about them again."

In 1965, after watching this writer studying in his community for a number of months, Paul Buffalo, the old woman's son, told the writer, "I have been watching your work. I have some things I'm supposed to leave behind, but few will listen to me now. Would you write them down for me? Someday people will want to listen again, and when they do, you can give them these words." Believing this writer to be the person his mother dreamed of, Paul Buffalo began what became a twelve-year process of systematically recounting his life experiences.

Mr. Paul Buffalo (Gah-bah-bi-nays), in the last twelve of his seventy-seven years, systematically recorded most of his beliefs and left a legacy of approximately 3,500 pages of life history materials. During the twelve years of taping life history materials, Paul Buffalo discussed every aspect of his public and private life, including descriptions of his religious beliefs and herbal medical practices.

He spoke of his heritage, his years as leader of the Local Indian Council, his beliefs, his language, the changes he had seen, the things his elders told him and his personal experiences of life. He was only one of many with similar experiences, but he was one of the few Ojibwa leaders who would talk at length about the past. A few months before he died in June of 1977 he said, "I've told you all now. I think we're done."

These pages contain those things that Paul's mother had taught him, and those things that he lived and learned and drempt and contemplated. It is thus that we have a rare personal statement about some of those beliefs and experiences.

A descendant of Pezeke, the great "Chief Buffalo" of Lake Superior, Paul Buffalo was born near the fork of the Leech and Mississippi Rivers in 1900. On the Fourth of July in 1900. Or at least that's how they reconstructed it. What they really only know is that he was born on the day that the whites were temporarily crazy with celebration.


3.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Oral history project of Dr. Timothy Roufs interviewing Paul P. Buffalo (1900-6/1977) from March 1967 – 1977. Mr. Buffalo resided at Ball Club, Minnesota, and the Leech Lake Reservation.

Physical Location

This collection is located at the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives. For more information about this collection or to make an appointment, contact us at or 218-726-8526.

Guide to the Paul Buffalo oral history project
Finding Aid Authors: P. Maus.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University of Minnesota Duluth Archives and Special Collections Collecting Area

Kathryn A. Martin Library
University of Minnesota Duluth
416 Library Drive
Duluth MN 55812-3001
(218) 726-8526