Lawrence Aripa

Lawrence Aripa telling of the Coyote - 1997

Lawrence Aripa was born on the 26th of March in 1926 on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation in Idaho. His family had traditionally lived "up on the St. Joe (river) area." As with other heads of Coeur d'Alene families, his great grandfather, Shet-sin, had been given a Christian name by the local priests, "Albert," after Saint Albert. But the name, when spoken in Coeur d'Alene, was "difficult to pronounce by us Indians," and over time "Albert" became "A-rap-a" and then "A-rip-a."

As a very young child, Lawrence remembers listening to the stories of his great grandmothers, Mattie Garry and Susan Aripa. Mattie was a Spokane and blind, but "could she weave beautiful braid rugs!" She was at the Battle of Steptoe, in May of 1858. A U.S. Army colonel by the name of Steptoe was marching his troops north to Fort Colville through Coeur d'Alene territory. There were some fifty Nez Perce scouts accompanying the troops, who were "bragging that the Army was going to beat us and take our lands." A battle broke out. Allied with the Spokanes and the Palouse, the Coeur d'Alenes "drove the Army out," at least for then. Mattie died in 1937, well over a hundred years of age. Susan Aripa was Coeur d'Alene and almost a hundred years old when she died in 1931. In the house in which they all lived, each "grandmother had her own corner." They didn't get along very well, as Susan was Catholic and Mattie was Protestant! Lawrence remembers going to one or the other corners, and asking for and being told stories, that "always had a lesson to teach me." The stories of Mattie Garry and Susan Aripa continued until Lawrence went to the Jesuit-based DeSmet boarding school. There he was not allowed to speak his native language and soon lost touch with his great grandmothers.

Coyote's Laugh - 1997

In addition to storytelling, drawing and painting have always been an important part of Lawrence's life. As a child, Henry, Lawrence's older brother, remembered how Lawrence used to "draw cows and horses on the walls" of his room. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Lawrence worked at the Navy Supply Depot in Spokane, Washington. While serving at the Depot, he illustrated an "operations and safety manual" with cartoon characters he created, such as "Bulkhead!" In 1972 and 1973, he taught at the Indian Art Institute in Santa Fe. For the next eighteen years Lawrence owned and operated his own art gallery, the Indian Art Shop, located on the reservation. During those years, he would attend local powwows, set-up a booth and "do charcoal portraits of the people." Lawrence also designed the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Seal and one side of the Idaho State Centennial Coin. For the last twelve years, Lawrence has served on the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Council. Lawrence has also been active in his "Catholic faith," attending the Sacred Heart Mission at DeSmet. Catholicism was brought to the Coeur d'Alenes by Father DeSmet and the "Black Robes" in 1842.

I have known and worked with Lawrence since 1990. We have both been involved in several local projects involving the stories of the Coeur d'Alene being shared with North Idaho communities and in the schools. He is a gifted storyteller, always able to relate his stories to both young and old, to Indian and non-Indian alike. While fluent in Coeur d'Alene, "though sometimes I get my words confused with Spokane," Lawrence has become a master of telling his stories in English. He has become a fine "ambassador of the Indian ways" and great translator of the "old stories." I've come to appreciate his warm smile, his kindness toward others and his tremendous joy in telling his stories. His storytelling vitalizes, both those listening and himself.  Six of Lawrence’s favorite stories are included in Stories That Make The World, while eight of his stories are included in Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: the World of the Schitsu'umsh.  In 1997 painted the Coyote reading our book, Stories That Make the World, showing this pleasure at doing so!  On October 15 of 1998 Lawrence Aripa was returned to the earth which he so dearly loved and companioned.  His legacy with still alive in the many voices who continue to re-tell of Coyote!

You can listen to many of Lawrence's favorite stories as her re-tells them in this module: Coeur d'Alene Tribal Lifelong Learning Online Home Page  

Access this audio and video files via RealPlayer.  You can obtain a FREE version at this site.


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