Indigenous peoples have and continue to be stewards of the land, and have forged a strong relationship with the land and their ancestors in important ecological ways. It is urgent that oral traditional knowledge and the wisdom of the Elders be preserved for generations to come and be shared with the young people of today, and it is important that they learn good environmental practices and the sustainability of the ecosystem and the land. The Elders also told stories about how they came to live in this area, and how they worked and survived on the land. This project would have been impossible without the collaboration and wisdom of our Elders from the Cree, Beaver, and Dene communities.
George was born in 1932, and raised on the Saulteau First Nation. His parents were the late Philip Davis and Madeline Desjarlais. Trapping and hunting, near Jackfish Lake and Graves Creek, was his way of life. George’s wife was the late Janet Campbell from the Kelly Lake area. They didn’t have any children, but raised foster children. George worked in the logging business at portable sawmills in the area, using crosscut saws, and horse logging. He also worked for farmers in the area, stooking bundles in the fields and picking rocks. Their mode of transportation was by team of horses and wagon. They often rode horses the 7 miles to school. George was a hunting guide in the mountains for 40 years. He also participated in the rodeos, and was a bareback cowboy. They rode for money, not trophies or buckles.
Melvin’s geat grandfather moved to Moberly Lake from the Prairies, and the stories Melvin knows about the area come from him. Growing up, Melvin trapped and hunted about ten miles, as the crow flies, from Moberly Lake. When he hunted up there, he trapped animals that included muskrats, squirrels, and marmots. Marmots were also referred to as whistlers, and taste like pork. When Melvin was trapping and hunting he would spend winters there. Any meat he caught we made into dry meat, so that it would keep. In the wintertime, some meat could just be kept outside so it would freeze. Growing up they didn’t have stove- they cooked over a cook fire. Depending on where they were, they would cook over campfires and in teepees. Most of the cooking was done over the fire.
Virginia was born near the Moberly Lake Bridge in 1924. Her mother was Madeline Desjarlais, and her dad was Philip Davis. They lived at the east end of Moberly Lake, called ‘Sagitawa’. They lived in a log house near her grandparents, Eva Calliou and James Desjarlais. When Virginia was seven years old, her family moved to the ‘flats’ area. She went to school for three years. It was a long way to go, so they often rode horseback to school. Her dad was a trapper. In February 1945, she married Pierre Lalonde. She raised 14 children, and lived at Moberly Lake all her life. Virginia and her husband were trappers, and trapped to survive. She still tans hides the old way – soaking, stretching, fleshing, scraping, and smoking. She makes moccasins and mukluks with the hides.
Howard has never heard of anybody finding sweet grass around Moberly Lake, they usually just get it from down south. When they were little kids going to school in Moberly Lake, they used to walk the two or three miles to school. It didn’t matter how cold it was, they walked. Finally they got a team of horses and it was like our school bus. Howard would drive the team of horses to school and pick up all the kids in the west-end. He lived in Cameron Lakes most of his life with his Auntie. When he was thirteen he started riding bulls. Howard quit school in grade eight when he was fifteen and started working. It seems like he hasn’t stopped working since he started. Now Howard just stays home and looks after his family.
Lillian’s maiden name is Crying Man. She was born and raised in West Moberly in 1939. When she was sixteen years old, Lillian married Oliver Gauthier, and moved to the Saulteau First Nation, near Moberly Lake. She raised nine children. Her husband worked in sawmills, and also lived the traditional way of life by hunting and trapping. In the summer they took the whole family and went to the trap-line to hunt and fish. They still tan hides and make moccasins, and continue to enjoy the traditional way of life. Lillian loves living here, and says she will never leave.
When Mathilda went to school, it was not in the same place where the Moberly Lake School is now. She had to walk nine miles to the school, which was down by the lake. When some children were being sent to residential school, Mathilda was a small girl and doesn’t really remember. Mathilda never went to residential school.
Della was born and raised at the east end of Moberly Lake, in 1950. Her grandfather Dokkie was the one and only hereditary chief of the West Moberly Lake First Nation. Her father was Cree & Iroquois, Mr. Fred Napoleon. They sustained and lived off the land, and lived a traditional life. Della was taught at an early age to know the traditional culture and the contemporary way of life. Sharing was very important in her family. She went to school at Moberly Lake, and transferred to Chetwynd to graduate in 1971. She then went to post-secondary at Northern Lights College. She graduated with fashion design at AVC in Grouard. Della also enrolled in the Cree Instructor’s program at Muskwachees College in Hobbema, and just recently completed a Fine Arts degree at Enowkin Centre in Penticton. Currently she is attending the University of Victoria in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program. Della has two beautiful daughters who are professional career women.
Earl’s family is Cree-Métis, originally from the Red River area, in Manitoba. He was born and raised in Paddle Prairie, Alberta. Nearly 25 years ago Earl moved to Moberly Lake, after marrying Penny Davis. They have four beautiful children, whom they are very proud of. Both Penny and Earl love living and working in the mountains. Earl’s interests have always been related to the traditional way of life: living off and learning the history of the land, and hunting and guiding in the beautiful mountains of northern British Columbia. He truly enjoy living and working with the people of the Saulteau First Nation, and the Elders of this community. Earl gives thanks to the holy ones that have gone before us for the many gifts of the land, the water, and the sun.
Simon is a Cree from Sturgeon Lake First Nation, near Valleyview, Alberta. He moved here to the Moberly Lake area in 1938, when he was 17 years old. Simon lived with his half-brother Slim Garrbitt. He used to play the fiddle for the dances. Trapping was their way of life. Simon married Victoria Belcourt when he was 26 years old. They raised eleven children at Jackfish Lake. He worked at the sawmills, and did construction on highways to support my family. He walked all the way to Parsnip River, near Pine Pass, with a saw on his back. Simon used to haul freight across the river by hand. They used to walk everywhere. In the old days they didn’t have to carry water with them; they could drink from any stream or pond. They had to break wild horses to ride.
Victoria’s maiden name was Napoleon. Her mother was Eva Campbell and her dad was the late Felix Napoleon. She was born and raised in Moberly Lake. She has lived here all her life, and went to school at Moberly Lake. To make a living, she worked for families, babysitting, cleaning, washing and ironing clothes for $1.00 per day. Victoria hunted in the mountains from the age of 14. She was 18 years old when she married Elmer Davis. Victoria raised nine children. Her husband was a caterpillar operator, building highways, and he worked in the mines for 22 years. He also was a hunting guide in the mountains, during the summer months. They also trapped squirrels, marten, fishers, and coyotes. Victoria canned berries and planted a garden to support my family. They dried, canned, and smoked the mea to preserve it. When Victoria was younger, she competed in the rodeos – barrel racing and cow riding. For nineteen years she cooked on oilrigs and guiding camps in the mountains. Victoria now has seventeen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. She continues to live the traditional ways, by catering to functions, gardening, canning, hunting, and fishing.