Lunch with Marjorie: Serving children nourishment any way she can—part one

I first met Peg Lockman at Turtle Creek Co-Op in Beloit, Wis. I needed whole cardamom for tea, and my friend Julie knew exactly where to find it. I now shop at Peg’s organic foods grocery in Rockton.

We chatted at Café Belwah in Beloit waiting for Peg’s portabella sandwich and my squash bowl.

“I’ve always imagined you on a farm,” I confessed, “because of your passion for organic food.”

“I was raised in Oak Park,” she said.

Childhood events made her a strong person, an advocate for children.

“You don’t put kids in school and not teach them,” she said with passion.

After earning her degree in junior high education from Illinois State with a minor in English and a master’s in English, she moved to Wisconsin for her first teaching assignment in Shawano, about 50 miles west and north of Green Bay.

“The district I worked in…this is really complicated…the federal government tried an experiment with two Indian tribes,” she said. “They sold the reservation to the tribe…bought the reservation from the tribe. I don’t know how you would describe it. The Menomonee Indian reservation became Menomonee County.”

It didn’t work. They’re now back to being a reservation.

“They offered each Indian $17,000,” she said. “Indians deal by the person. If you have a family of 10 kids with Mom and Dad, that’s 12 people times $17,000 in payment from the government to give up being an Indian. These people were no longer Indians. They owned the land, but it was no longer a reservation. They lost all federal rights—education, legal, medical…all of it disappeared.”

Twenty percent of her students were Indian.

Peg’s sandwich arrived on a honey-wheat bun. The delicious veggie chips on the side, Peg couldn’t try, because chips are usually fried in oil used to fry fish. She’s deathly allergic to fish.

She continued her story.

“There was a 60 percent unemployment rate. The government provided vocational training…taught every unemployed Indian male to be a welder,” a wry smile crossed her pretty face.

“Now they’ve got a 60 percent unemployment rate of welders,” she said. “There just isn’t enough welding to do up there.”

“I understand that the original purpose of the reservation was to assimilate Indians—it was intended to be temporary,” I offered.

“Right.”

Peg taught there until the Indian Rights Movement. The Indians took over a Catholic novitiate belonging to Alexian brothers, formerly the home of a Nabisco heir.

“Basically, they wanted the reservation back,” she said. “Marlon Brando was there negotiating, trying to get them out. It was creating a lot of turmoil within the school because you had the Indians and the Apples. An Apple would be you’re red on the outside and white on the inside. All of the sudden, there was this polarity and fighting. I had one little boy who came to school, and he’d been told on the bus that morning that by the time he got home, his father would be dead. His father was the sheriff. They were planning to kill him. This was an Indian boy, but his dad’s job was to enforce the law, so he was an Apple. How do you concentrate when you’re being told your father will be killed during the day?”

Overall, Peg enjoyed teaching in Shawano.

“I got to see things from a totally different point of view,” she said. “I really feel for them.”

She related a story of a young man who didn’t want to go to college. He wanted be an Indian, not adopt the white man’s role. His dad told him he would drive him up to his grandma’s cabin in the northern part of the reservation. The young man wanted to drive himself. His dad told him a car is a white man’s thing, and a TV, and a radio. So the young man studied to become an architect.

“But in making that decision, he had to leave everything,” she said. “There’s no need for an architect on the reservation. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do. Do you want to bring your family back into…poverty? Because (on the reservation) you’re surrounded by poverty.”

“So you went from Oak Park to west of Green Bay,” I said. “When did the interest in whole, organic foods begin?”

“Probably when I decided to become a vegetarian—1976,” she said.

I asked her age, but told her she didn’t have to tell me.

“I don’t do my birthday, so I have to do math—I’m 57,” she said. “I’m not into birthdays.

“I guess I’m too casual for a birthday,” she added. “I’m not crazy about weddings, either. Anything where the focus moves off of what’s important onto what isn’t.”

By Marjorie Stradinger

Columnist

I first met Peg Lockman at Turtle Creek Co-Op in Beloit, Wis. I needed whole cardamom for tea, and my friend Julie knew exactly where to find it. I now shop at Peg’s organic foods grocery in Rockton.

We chatted at Café Belwah in Beloit waiting for Peg’s portabella sandwich and my squash bowl.

“I’ve always imagined you on a farm,” I confessed, “because of your passion for organic food.”

“I was raised in Oak Park,” she said.

Childhood events made her a strong person, an advocate for children.

“You don’t put kids in school and not teach them,” she said with passion.

After earning her degree in junior high education from Illinois State with a minor in English and a master’s in English, she moved to Wisconsin for her first teaching assignment in Shawano, about 50 miles west and north of Green Bay.

“The district I worked in…this is really complicated…the federal government tried an experiment with two Indian tribes,” she said. “They sold the reservation to the tribe…bought the reservation from the tribe. I don’t know how you would describe it. The Menomonee Indian reservation became Menomonee County.”

It didn’t work. They’re now back to being a reservation.

“They offered each Indian $17,000,” she said. “Indians deal by the person. If you have a family of 10 kids with Mom and Dad, that’s 12 people times $17,000 in payment from the government to give up being an Indian. These people were no longer Indians. They owned the land, but it was no longer a reservation. They lost all federal rights—education, legal, medical…all of it disappeared.”

Twenty percent of her students were Indian.

Peg’s sandwich arrived on a honey-wheat bun. The delicious veggie chips on the side, Peg couldn’t try, because chips are usually fried in oil used to fry fish. She’s deathly allergic to fish.

She continued her story.

“There was a 60 percent unemployment rate. The government provided vocational training…taught every unemployed Indian male to be a welder,” a wry smile crossed her pretty face.

“Now they’ve got a 60 percent unemployment rate of welders,” she said. “There just isn’t enough welding to do up there.”

“I understand that the original purpose of the reservation was to assimilate Indians—it was intended to be temporary,” I offered.

“Right.”

Peg taught there until the Indian Rights Movement. The Indians took over a Catholic novitiate belonging to Alexian brothers, formerly the home of a Nabisco heir.

“Basically, they wanted the reservation back,” she said. “Marlon Brando was there negotiating, trying to get them out. It was creating a lot of turmoil within the school because you had the Indians and the Apples. An Apple would be you’re red on the outside and white on the inside. All of the sudden, there was this polarity and fighting. I had one little boy who came to school, and he’d been told on the bus that morning that by the time he got home, his father would be dead. His father was the sheriff. They were planning to kill him. This was an Indian boy, but his dad’s job was to enforce the law, so he was an Apple. How do you concentrate when you’re being told your father will be killed during the day?”

Overall, Peg enjoyed teaching in Shawano.

“I got to see things from a totally different point of view,” she said. “I really feel for them.”

She related a story of a young man who didn’t want to go to college. He wanted be an Indian, not adopt the white man’s role. His dad told him he would drive him up to his grandma

’s cabin in the northern part of the reservation. The young man wanted to drive himself. His dad told him a car is a white man’s thing, and a TV, and a radio. So the young man studied to become an architect.

“But in making that decision, he had to leave everything,” she said. “There’s no need for an architect on the reservation. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do. Do you want to bring your family back into…poverty? Because (on the reservation) you’re surrounded by poverty.”

“So you went from Oak Park to west of Green Bay,” I said. “When did the interest in whole, organic foods begin?”

“Probably when I decided to become a vegetarian—1976,” she said.

I asked her age, but told her she didn’t have to tell me.

“I don’t do my birthday, so I have to do math—I’m 57,” she said. “I’m not into birthdays.

“I guess I’m too casual for a birthday,” she added. “I’m not crazy about weddings, either. Anything where the focus moves off of what’s important onto what isn’t.”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at stradingerm@inwave1.com.

From the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue

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