Oral Histories

Interview of Elaine Bissonette

Sioux. Came to Los Angeles as part of the American Indian Relocation.
American Indian Relocation Project
American Indian History
Biographical Note:
Sioux. Came to Los Angeles as part of the American Indian Relocation.
Dobroski, Sonja
Bissonette, Elaine
Persons Present:
Bissonette and Dobroskei.
Place Conducted:
Indian Revival Church in Bell Gardens, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Sonja Dobroskei; M.A., American Indian Studies, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Bissonette was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
52 min.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in the series American Indian Relocation Project document the experience of American Indians who came to Los Angeles as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' urban relocation program in the 1950s and 1960s. The initial interviews were conducted by students in Professor Peter Nabokov's American Indian Studies 200A class. The Center for Oral History Research then conducted additional interviews to expand on those first student interviews.
Family background — Living on the reservation — Moving from the reservation to Nebraska — Business training, the first time going to Los Angeles — Discusses more about living on the reservation, talks about parents — School life — Moving to another town for high school — Meeting her husband, working in the fields, first job at the laundromat — Moving back to Pine Ridge, deciding to go on relocation — Taking the train to Los Angeles — Arriving in Los Angeles, getting settled — Financial assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Los Angeles, living in Los Angeles — Husband working at Ford Motors, life in Los Angeles, BIA helping them purchase a home — Elaine’s first job in Los Angeles, how she got her own employment (without the BIA) — Elaine’s second job, going back to school for accounting — Elaine’s third job — Health issues, being on disability, how the BIA was involved with health care — Elaine’s opinions on the BIA’s involvement with relocation. Other families that went back to the reservation — Meeting other Natives in L.A., Elaine’s husband’s involvement in basketball — Finding the Indian Revival Church, about the Revival Church — The first time she came to L.A. and her impressions her second time in Los Angeles. Her opinions on Los Angeles — Visiting Pine Ridge, family still on Pine Ridge — The difference between Los Angeles and Pine Ridge, why she stayed in Los Angeles — Why her family decided not to go on relocation. Why it is hard to live on the reservation — Where people work on the reservation, job scarcity — Her family’s impression of Los Angeles — Elaine talking about her children, leaving her children in Pine Ridge. Her son staying on the Reservation — Speaking her language, her desire to go home to the reservation — Elaine’s brother living on the reservation. Activities on the res vs. in L.A. — BIA organizing sports teams for Native people in L.A., Elaine’s husband joining the team — Planning on staying in Los Angeles, visiting Pine Ridge — Where Elaine would be if relocation wasn’t available — What Elaine misses about Pine Ridge. Her impressions of Pine Ridge — Relocation, budgeting, working in Los Angeles — Her impressions of the schools in Los Angeles, other programming for students — Elaine’s husband’s impression of Los Angeles — Other American Indian families' impressions of Los Angeles — Getting her first house in Downey, Downey High School, living in the neighborhood — Prejudice in Los Angeles, prejudice in and around Pine Ridge, traveling on and off the reservation to get food — Finding and socializing with other Native communities in Los Angeles — Powwow — Being in the suburbs of L.A. versus the city, Living in Downey — Final thoughts on relocation, Los Angeles, and the reservation.