Women! No fur-trade would have been, without you. Women! No man would have been, without you. Women! No children would have been raised. Women! No "Metis Nation" would be alive today. None will forget the hours of toil and care you have given. None will forget the hours of happy memories. None will forget the guiding hands and peaceful countenance. None will forget your unpredjudiced love. It is you who have done the most to forge today's prosperous and secure presence. It is you who will light the path to a strong and healthy tomorrow. Listen again to our women-les Metisse!
(Photo Courtesy: Ile-A-La-Crosse Mission)
Mary Rose McCallumMary is about 85 years old. She was born in the month of February. The year she doesn't remember-but, it appears to be the last decade of the 19th century. She was born at Canoe River. All her brothers and her mother were also born there. Her father worked for the Hudson's Bay Company at Canoe River and area for forty years. Mary's mother died in 1903 in a flu epidemic. It was after her death that her father moved the family to Ile-A-La-Crosse.
"My husband died at Pinehouse. In the springtime I moved back to Ile-A-La-Crosse. There were quite a few families here then, almost like today. They were mostly older people living here. There were quite a few young people around, but you never saw them walk around. I didn't go to school, but my younger sisters did after my mother died".
"My father had to give up the cattle he had, and the gardens at Canoe River when they moved to Ile-A-La-Crosse. For, father had to work and my sisters went to school. Everyone had to work hard to make their living. Families were large and everyone had to help. I remember I used to go check the nets even when there was a storm in the middle of winter. My mother told us that the old people then made things with what they had. Now people throw away so many things that just need a little fixing".
Dog Team Resting.
(Photo Courtesy: Ile-A-La-Crosse Mission)
"We used to go to the bush and make a hole in a birch tree and let the syrup drip into a pail. We had a couple of pails at a time. The syrup is sweet, and the pails fill up in no time. We would boil this syrup in a large open fire. We would let the pails hang in the fire until the syrup starts to turn its colour. We'd add a little flour and sugar. Gradually, it would thicken. You can eat this syrup on your bannock and on anything. It's really good!"
"About picking berries and storing them, we used to store them in baskets of birch. We used to dry them and put them in bags. They looked like raisins".
"In the fall, you make your fish-hang them out to dry, and store them to have during the winter. You clean them, pull them through a long stick and then hang them out to dry. Put them out in a shack or something and freeze them. Then, just go out and get them when you feel like fish. If you gave these to someone now, they would make a face".
"When it was Christmas, or any holy day, people would come to town from everywhere. In the summer, there were tents everywhere. In the winter, people were filled up in the homes. Horses and dogs were tied up everywhere. Now, people don't realize when these days come around".
Settler's Cabin Ile-A-La-Crosse.
(C7784 Public Archives of Canada)
"Everyone would go visiting in different homes. The older people would invite people over for a bite to eat and drink. This was the time when people came in to see their relatives and friends. Before sunrise, there would be gunshots heard, meaning, the people shooting were sending their greetings out and would be waiting to get invited for tea. Everything is dying out today".
Women and Children Ile-A-La-Crosse.
(Photos PA 44545 and PA 44554, Courtesy Public Archives of Canada)
Metis Children at Ile-A-La-Crosse 1908.
(PA 44539 Public Archives of Canada)
Mary Ann Kyplain
Mary is sixty-three years old. She works in the Women's Handicraft Co-op in Ile-A-La-Crosse.
"I was born in Ile-A-La-Crosse in 1913. When I was four, my father was sent to Dillon to buy furs for Revillon Frere. My father also kept a store there. The last year we were there, there was a day of complete darkness. My mother used to tell us that there were so many forest fires, you could not see anything. It was around 1917. After two years stay in Dillon, we came back to Ile-A-La-Crosse. The manager transferred my father again to out near Cree Lake. There was a store there and other houses. This was were I made my first communion".
"In the spring we arrived back at Ile-A-La-Crosse. My father was brought in because he was sick. My father died in June. After he died, my mother was worried, wondering what she'd do about us and about how she was to make a living. I was seven years old that year. She took us home to Sucker Point where my father's parents lived. My Grandfather had cattle and a garden which meant a lot to us".
"Fall came, my mother was once again worried, for we had to be moving along. Frank Gunn came to pick us up. There were four of us. There was my older sister, myself, my younger sister, and the baby, who was born just three months before my father died. We moved to Knee Lake. We lived around the area through the winter months in tents. My mother hunted and trapped as she taught herself. At Christmas time, we would go to Patuanak so we could get picked up to go to Ile-A-La-Crosse with my grandfather".
"In 1923, my grandfather said I couldn't go back. I had to go to school. So he put me in the mission school. He paid the priest with a mower-a thing that horses pull to cut grass. I didn't like being in school, but, I stayed for two years. French was all that was taught. There were no grades like they have today. We were taught catechism, and a few of us learned to read".
" Marcel Gunn was going to take my mother out to Haultain Lake. He was her brother-in-law. I left the school and went down to watch them leave. I was crying. My mother gave me a licking to go up".
"In September, while we were being taught, someone came to tell us we had to go berry picking. We were so happy to go out. The nun that taught us and three other little boys drowned. They were Belanger's son, Sister Arcand's brother and Charles Natomagan. The other children got to shore safely".
"Father Moraud and Father Rossignol, with help from the brothers, used to go fishing or kill cattle for us to eat. If it wasn't fish or cattle, we would have ptarmigans to eat. We always had vegetables to eat, for they had gardens".
"When spring came, my mother took me out of school. We moved up north. She did the fishing and hunting for us. There were no such things as nylon nets then. She used to make her own nets. I don't really know what kind of thread my mother used, but it was thick. When she was done making this, we had to find something for floats. We used to go look for really dry wood, from an old "burn" - where there had been a forest fire - and cut up this wood for floats. Then we would go look for rocks along the shore to use as "leads".
"In the fall, around Dipper Lake, my mother did a lot of fishing and drying of fish. Sometimes she dried about a thousand fish. When freeze-up came, she hunted rabbits and ducks, then stored them all for us during the winter. She also stored the berries which were picked during the summer. There were no sealers then, so, she used to dry them. Then she would put them in big jars and store them in holes in the ground. She also put some away in birch bark baskets. With all of this, she was able to keep us alive through the winter months".
Group of Young Girls - Ile-A-La-Crosse.
"When the fur buyers came in, my mother used to sell her furs to the one with the highest price for fur. I remember this very well. She used to buy food then, buy what we needed".
"Now that we were getting old enough, we helped with the wood and other things. Pretty soon my sister got married. Not long after we moved again to Ile-A-La-Crosse. We went to our old house. Then I turned eighteen and I was ready to get married."
"I married Joseph Kyplain, Celestine Kyplain's son. They were living at Halfway Lake, where I was going to live. We stayed there for a while. After my first son was born, my husband told me we had to go up north. He had to go trapping. We had no family allowance or social aid to help us. People had to look for food to survive".
"We used to go fishing at a place called "where the fish go up the river in winter". The name was in Chipewyan. I went fishing with Virginia Gunn while her husband, Harry Gunn and my husband went to Cree Lake. We were alone for almost two weeks. Virginia and I did the fishing with three dogs. This river wasn't frozen in the winter time. So, to get across, my uncle chopped a big tree across the river".
"Virginia would throw the net while I was on the other side. I tied my side of the net on and she did the same on her side. She told me to go up the river for about ten minutes, throw a stick and then go back. There were a lot of fish. You could just see in the river. We could hardly bring the net out, it was so heavy. It had trout and whitefish".
"When we got to Three Rivers, one year, my sister had a baby girl. She was picked up by plane, so we were left alone with my aunt and uncle. One of their daughters passed away while we were at Three Rivers. She was buried there for two weeks. Then, when the ice broke up, we took the body and we came paddling down the river. I was taking care of it. When we stopped to camp, we buried it overnight until we got to Patuanak".
"My husband didn't come with us. He said he didn't have enough furs. So he stayed behind with a white man who was also trapping there. Since it was his first time in these rivers, he told me to chop a tree along the river to mark where we had camped. Coming down this way, he could find his way".
"This river is full of portages. Sometimes you will not even go a mile when you have to portage again at big rapids".
"We may have paddled about two long days carrying the girl's body, when we got to Last lake as it was called. There were some people living there. But, they were not home just then. We found some fish drying in the sun and some berries that were in birch bark baskets. So, we ate. We stayed there overnight. The next day we moved along. We had to camp again, for we were waiting for Knee Lake to open up. We stayed there about a week".
"The lake opened towards the south side. We dug up the body again and moved on. We got to Primeau Lake that day. There we met some people coming from Pinehouse. They were Napolean Caisse and a boy clerk. They gave me a ride to Dipper Lake. where my mother was. Virginia and her husband took the body on to Patuanak".
Native Family at Foster River...1926