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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Lula Blue Beck
Interviewer: Emma Echols
March 5, 1994
Lula Blue Beck, at eighty-nine, is the oldest Catawba Indian
on the Catawba reservation in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In this
interview, she recalls details about various family members, her
parents visiting Salt Lake City, Utah, and how she met her husband,
Major Beck. She also tells a story about an opossum in the Catawba
language. She concludes the interview by discussing her hopes for
the settlement with the federal government and for the young
Catawbas on the reservation.
INTERVIEWER: EMMA ECHOLS
INTERVIEWEE: LULA BLUE BECK
DATE: MARCH 5, 1994
E: This is Emma Reed Echols, 5150 Sharon Road, Charlotte, North
Carolina. This is March 5, and I am visiting in the home of
Lula Beck. I have been here so many times that I am
surprised that she lets me come in, but she does. Lula,
tell me your name and your address.
B: Lula B. Beck, Rock Hill.
E: How old are you now?
B: I will be eighty-nine on my birthday.
E: You are the oldest one on the reservation?
B: Yes, I am.
E: You know the thing that I like about you is you have a
wonderful memory. You remember all of these things. Now
you have got the picture of your mother. It is the first
time I have ever seen her with a costume on. I do not know
whether she made it or not. But she is beautiful. So often
in the pictures [that] I have her eyes are shut, but in this
one her eyes are wide open. Tell me what you remember about
B: I just know that she was a good mama. [Laughter] Everybody
says that, but she was. I was talking about her the other
day. I never did know her to get mad. And she always let
my daddy control the kids. Whatever he said, it was OK, and
she was just a really good mama.
E: She had a garden.
B: Yes, we always had a good garden. She always worked in the
E: And you had chickens and things of that kind?
B: Chickens, yes.
E: Did you also have game--rabbits and squirrels and things
like that from the forest?
B: Yes, and we had hogs and pigs and things.
E: So you must have lived very, very well.
B: Very, very well. My mother was the mother of twenty-one
E: Not all of them lived.
B: No, not all of them lived, but she raised nine out of the
twenty-one. I guess I was the meanest one of them all.
E: Lula, you told me the story of little Harvey, and I have
[got] that picture from LeRoy, and I am so proud of it.
What was his birthday? You did not tell me his birthday.
Do you remember it?
B: No, I do not remember it right now.
E: But he was eleven, and you were older than LeRoy.
B: You see, it was Harvey, and then me, and then LeRoy.
E: But you told me that you believed it was an accident.
Nobody really deliberately [shot him].
B: No, I do not believe that it was really deliberate. They
were just boys out playing and I do not think he did it on
purpose. He was a bit excited. They were out hunting and
this boy saw this squirrel run down a tree and he just shot
at the tree. No, I do not think he did it on purpose.
E: The wonderful thing was the spirit of your father walking
from those woods, out there in the front yard, and shaking
B: That is right.
E: He showed everybody that spirit of forgiveness that was
B: That is right.
E: Lula, you are the only one that speaks any of the Catawba
language. Will you tell me that story about that little
B: They do not know it?
E: No, they have never heard it.
B: All right. Do you want me to say it now?
B: [Interviewee speaks in the Catawba language.]
E: Now do you want to tell us what means?
B: They say that this Indian fellow went out hunting and
fishing. And he could not [speak] English, he [spoke in an]
Indian [language]. He was sitting on the bank of a river,
fishing. He says that he kept on noticing every once in a
while something drop from up above. There was a tree right
over him, and it looked like soap suds. He got through
fishing and looked up and it was an opossum. And as you
know an opossum spits out and the opossum was slobbering
down in the river. And then "cheekoon"--the opossum fell.
Well, that does sound like something falling into a river--
"cheekoon". Well, that meant the opossum fell into the
river. [laughter] There are so many of them that have heard
me tell that story. Have you been out to Elsie's? I think
me and Elsie are the only ones that know that [story].
E: Yes, you and Elsie are the only ones. Now, you remember
when your father and mother went to Salt Lake City, and they
were all dressed up? I have a picture of them. Do you have
that picture? He was all dressed up in a suit and she was
in a nice looking dress?
B: Yes, I think that I have it up there.
E: What do you remember about that? What did he tell you about
that when he came back?
B: Oh, he just told me there was nothing like it. He really
liked it out there, [but] mama did not like it out there.
Mama got homesick and wanted to come home. She said that
out there there were big mountains where they were staying
and you could see the mountains, and they looked [like they
were] real close. She said she could see the snow up on the
mountains, and she told my daddy that when he went over
there to bring her back a snowball. He told her it would be
melted by the time he got back. She thought the mountain
was right behind where she was standing. [laughter] He
really liked it out there, but I guess she missed home.
E: Nelson went out to Oklahoma several times, did he not?
B: Well, he moved out to Salt Lake City, you know. He and Leo
moved out there, and it did not suit them, and they came
back. Then they went back, and they came back again, and
they stayed here for a little bit.
E: What was Nelson's wife like? Was she a lovely person?
B: Yes, she was.
E: She sewed and made things for her children.
B: Yes. [She] made things for other people, too.
E: I noticed in the picture that I have of Nelson that there is
a sewing machine behind her.
B: She kept one of those old Singer sewing machines that you
pedal, you know?
B: Yes, she sewed for a lot of people. She never did work out
in the fields, she just did home work. I would like a
picture like that.
E: You want a picture like that?
B: I do not want you to go to any trouble.
E: Do you suppose your mother made the costume that she is
wearing in that picture?
B: I do not think that she did; it must have been somebody
E: Is it not a lovely picture? Her face is so pretty in that
B: Yes, it is a good one of her; it is about one of the best.
It is like you said, she always had her eyes shut [in the
E: She did.
B: She never did want her picture made. I guess she felt if
she shut her eyes, it would not take. [laughter] Mama was
kind of funny. She could not speak the Indian language.
E: She did not speak, but .
B: She could understand it, she said. When my daddy and Sally
would talk she said she could understand what they were
saying, but she could not talk back to them.
B: When my daddy and my sister did not want us to know what
they were talking about, they would [speak in the] Indian
[language], but we did not know what they were saying.
E: But your father and granny would talk together?
E: I have a picture of granny. What was she like?
B: She was dark skinned and old, you know.
E: She was a real Indian was she not?
B: Yes, she was a real Indian. A lot of them say I look like
her; I do not know, that might be.
E: How far away is granny's house from here?
B: She lived right next to where Evelyn lived. Did you go to
Evelyn's this morning?
B: Well, it is this house right on this side.
E: Yes, I know where they live.
B: Well, that is where we lived.
E: Well, you are looking forward, not to having money, but you
hope there will be some health things for you in the new
settlement, do you not?
B: Yes. If I live long enough. I do not think I am going to
live long enough. We have been talking about this ever
since I was little. Mama told me they always talked about
that when she was little, and she is gone now. [laughter]
Roger Trimnal was over here last night. He asked me about
that. He said [that] they were going to tear down the old
houses, and build new ones for the older people. He asked
me what I thought about that. I told him I did not want
mine torn down. I said [that] this has been an old
missionary home, and it is good inside. It has three
ceilings in it. I told him there have been a lot of prayers
offered up in this old house, and I would not want it torn
down. I might have one or two planks repaired on it, but
just to tear it down? No, I do not want that.
E: This ought to be preserved as a museum. The old history
says that people would come here to see your father and they
would sit out there and discuss their problems with him,
and that visitors were always entertained here. The Mormon
teachers lived in this home, and then of course, he came.
But your father died up on the very top of the hill, did he
B: Not far from the church.
E: Well, you have a lot of good memories of your father and
your mother and of everybody down here, do you not?
B: Yes, in fact just about all of them.
E: You have always gotten along with all the white people, too.
They think so highly of you. I remember your husband, Major
Beck, of course. He was a fine looking person. How did you
happen to meet him?
B: One of the Indian boys from here went to Carlisle School.
Major's sisters were going to school out there and they met
up out there. He [the Catawba student] came home and it was
not long before she [Major Beck's sister] came down here.
They got married. After so long, Major (her brother) came
down here on a visit. He never did go back. I guess the
young girls would not let him go back. [laughter]
E: Well, Nelson went to Carlisle, and the old stories say that
a white dentist in Rock Hill, Mr. Simpson, put him on the
train to go that night. Who went with him? Do you know?
B: Who was that now?
E: Who went with Nelson to Carlisle to study?
B: I do not know who went with him.
E: But he was there several years?
E: And then [he] came back?
E: Well, Lula, if you were going to tell the young people down
on the reservation one thing, what would you tell them?
B: I would tell them to live their religion, and to make the
best of the good in life, and not to throw their life away.
I would tell them to live good, clean, pure lives.
E: That is a good message. You [used to sing] "Oh, my father."
Do you still sing that song?
B: [Laughter] I do not sing anymore. I have just about lost my
voice. You know, when people get old their voices do
change. I sing like a man most of the time [laughter]. Two
weeks ago, Carson brought three or four of the families down
here, and we had a singing here in the house. You know, we
all sang together. We sang the old church songs. I sing by
myself sometimes, but I hardly ever sing in a crowd.
E: How about singing "Oh my father?"
B: I cannot sing. If I get started, I will get to coughing. I
would if I felt like I could.
E: One of these days I will get Carson or someone in his family
to record it for me.
E: Because I like it very much.
B: I would not want to get all messed up with all these folks
here. [laughter] If you were here all by yourself I might
E: How do you say goodbye in Catawba? Do you have a word for
B: I do not believe that I know that one.
E: Well you can just say, "God be with you".
B: In the Indian language? I cannot say it in the Indian
language. I can just say, "God be with you".
E: That was Harvey's little song.
E: Well, we thank you for talking with us today.