Interview of Marguerite Marie Gagnon




Interview of Marguerite Marie Gagnon at her home at 243 Caledonia Trailer Park on May 4, 1987. Mrs. Gagnon was born on August 31, 1914 in South Fort George to Edward and Henriette LaFreniere. Mrs. Gagnon gave birth to twenty children losing ten of these children. Her children live in the Prince George area. She has twenty one grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Forrest: What is your birth date Mrs. Gagnon?

Gagnon: August 31, 1914.

Forrest: Where?

Gagnon: South Fort George.

Forrest: What was your maiden name?

Gagnon: I had a lot of problems with that. When I was going to school they told me my father's name was Flemeau. When I applied for my pension, they couldn't find me. I phoned Bishop O'Grady and told him the name of my godparents. He found it right away but it wasn't Flemeau. It was LaFreniere.

Forrest: The same as the LaFreniere subdivision. The Certificate of Baptism is Marguerite LaFreniere. The 'father's first name is Edward and Mother's name is Henriette Simon confirming the first day of August 1914. Baptized by Rev. L.H. Rivet O.M.I. The sponsor was Mrs. Yargeau, Sacred Heart Church, Prince George.

Gagnon: I couldn't read or write and barely spoke English. The older people couldn't say LaFreniere.

Forrest: You said that you were raised by Grannie Seymour. She was your mother's mom or your dad's mom.

Gagnon: My dad's mother.

Forrest: Did she change her name?

Gagnon: She was married to Antoine LeFreniere, her first husband, my dad's father. Previous to that, her maiden name was Bouchie.

Forrest: Would your granny's first husband be French?

Gagnon: I have a hunch that he spoke Cree and French. I barely remember him. Before he burned to death in Fort St. James, my sister and I went up to visit him. I wasn't really that close to him as he didn't speak my Indian language.

Forrest: And that is what?

Gagnon: My mother is Carrier and that's what we speak. My grandfather spoke French and Cree.

Forrest: Your father has a French name. Was he native?

Gagnon: He was a son of Antoine LeFreniere and Margaret Bouchie.

Forrest: They would have been French.

Gagnon: They spoke French. My grandmother spoke Indian too.

Forrest: Your mom?

Gagnon: Spoke Indian.

Forrest: She was native.

Gagnon: Yes. Her father was Charlie Seymour as they call him now. Her mother's name was Anne Labrandt. They have the book in Quesnel. I have to go and see her and spend a day with her. She was at the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council one and I was talking to her. She has the book, "A Tribute to the Past". There are a lot of Bouchies in there. I said I'd like to get down to the bottom of that. She said she couldn't leave it. She's  looking for her ancestors. She said if you happen to go to Quesnel, you can spend a night with me.

Forrest: You said you were born in South Fort George. What was the position of the family? Were you the first or second or third born?

Gagnon: My mother married my father who was married before and his wife died. When she married him, I'm the oldest in the second family.

Forrest: Were the other children in the family with you? Did your mother raise them or were they somewhere else?

Gagnon: Yes. Grannie looked after them and later mother took over.

 Forrest: After you were born, did you have other brothers and sisters?

Gagnon: There was quite a few of us but only the true four  brothers and sister, Annie, was next to me. She died. There were two or three boys and they all died young.

Forrest: About how young? Babies.

Gagnon: Most of them must have been babies because I can't remember them. From my Dad's first marriage, his oldest girl was Evelyn Baker.

Forrest: Is she living in Prince George now?

Gagnon: She died six or seven years ago in Surrey but we buried her in Fort George where her mother is buried. She had a brother, David. He accidentally shot himself when he was hunting at Six Mile Lake. He fell with a gun and shot himself. My mother remarried after my father drowned in 1917.

Forrest: So he was drowned when you were just a wee baby, when you were three.

Gagnon: Yes, I can remember him in waves of dreams.

Forrest: What do you remember of him?

Gagnon:  I remember when he left that morning. He was never to come back.

Forrest: What was he doing? What did he work at?

Gagnon: He was working with my uncle, Captain O.F. Brown, on a boat.

Forrest: That boat would be where?

Gagnon: It was running from Quesnel to South Fort, where the new bridge crosses to the Industrial Site. You can still see parts of the old log house down below on the other side of the tracks. It's more towards the river. I remember that's where we were and the river was high almost level with the bank. It was in June. It was dark when Dad was leaving us. Mother had my young sister in her arms.

Forrest: Is that where your house was?

Gagnon: That's where mother and dad were living. I can remember dad leaving because he carried me down to the bank. Uncle was waiting with the boat. I don't know if it was a big boat. I knew it was a boat of some kind. It wasn't the small ones. That's where Dad left us. That's all I remember. I was crying and my little sister was crying. The boat had left. Next thing the boat was coming. We were twenty two miles down the river with my great aunt, Grannie Seymour's sister, Jennie Weisner. I used to call her Grannie Weisner. Her and her husband were twenty two miles down the river. They called it Hudson Bay Garden. From the time Dad left what happened I don t know. We were standing on the bank of the Hudson Bay Garden down the river. Mrs. Weisner was holding my hand. Mother was carrying my sister. The boat went away up the river on the other side. I remember Grannie telling my mother that there was something wrong. Your brother-in-law never goes up on the other side of the river as the landing was below where she was. Mother never said nothing. It must have went way up and then came back. The whistle would blow every now and then. The old lady kept on saying that there was something wrong, something terribly wrong. Mother was holding my sister when the boat pulled in. Dad was the one that was supposed to jump out to tie the boat but instead Captain Foster jumped off the boat holding onto the rope which didn't mean nothing to me. Captain Brown came out of the boat, put his arms around my mother and said something to her. I remember she dropped the baby. Uncle grabbed her before she hit the river. Everybody was crying. I was crying but I didn't know why.

Forrest: When you said the two or three boys died, did your younger sister live?

Gagnon: She lived until she was about five. She got blood poisoning on her foot. The doctor was going to amputate and mother didn't want that done so she died.

Forrest: How did your Dad die then? Was he lost overboard?

Gagnon: That's what I heard. Nobody got the full details.

Forrest: When you said Captain Foster and Captain Brown, were they white?

Gagnon: O.F. Brown was married to my aunt, my Dad's sister. She stayed with me towards the end until she died.

Forrest: You were saying about Captain Brown.

Gagnon: He was married to my Dad's sister, Minnie Seymour. His older children and I started school in South Fort. We were the only Indians there outside of the Yargeau's but that was later. Everybody would run down and we'd watch the people getting off or on. The children used to say here comes Nigger Brown which meant nothing to me or his daughter. This kept on as we were going to school. One day I asked Uncle, "Why do they call you Nigger Brown, Uncle?" He said it wasn't a very nice name to call a person but he said my father was a nigger and my mother is a Coast Indian.

Forrest: Where was he born?

Gagnon: He didn't say. That's what he told me. He tried to explain to Bernice Olsen, his oldest daughter and I. It didn't mean too much to us. It was just a funny name. Then Grannie later told us not to use words like that. I said they always call us dirty Indians. She said, "You're not dirty, you're clean. Kids are ignorant, they don't know much. Maybe they get it from home. Don't pay attention to them. Treat them nice and they'll gradually come around." We did and they did come around later.

Forrest: His children, are they still living in Prince George?

Gagnon: One, Earl Brown. He lives on Range Road. He had a big family.

Forrest: Another thing that interests me. You said you were born in South Fort George. Was that a reserve at one time? When I say reserve, was that native land that you were born on?

Gagnon: I don't know. It could have been before my time.

Forrest: Were you born at home?

Gagnon: Yes, I was born in Grannie Seymour's old log house.

Forrest: That was where?

Gagnon: At the end of Queensway. It's an open place. It always has a For Sale sign on it.

Forrest: Is there a house on it now?

Gagnon: There's nothing left there now.

Forrest: That's which end of Queensway?

Gagnon: Closer to the hill was Granny's house.

Forrest: In South Fort George.

Gagnon: South Fort. Going down Queensway right to the end of Queensway when you come to the sharp turn to go up the hill. You know where George William's house is?

Forrest: I'm in South Fort George. You go over the slough towards the new bridge.

Gagnon: You pass South Fort George slough right to the end of Queensway .

Forrest: Where the new bridge is?

Gagnon: Going towards the new bridge. The space is still there. I don't know if it's sold or not.

Forrest: There could be a Heritage House called "On Rose Street".

Gagnon: The building all went. That's where most of us were born. I guess Grannie was a midwife.

Forrest: The area on the bank of the river where you were born is right across from the Carefree Taxi, in that strip along there. That was Grannie Seymour's.

Gagnon: It was her brother-in-law's house. On the tombstone in Fort George, it has Joseph Dupage, her brother-in-law's land. The only way we knew him was Dapage. There's a street in South Fort called after him.

Forrest: Where was Grannie Seymour's house?

Gagnon: He had a house where you turn, about the middle of the big place. He had a big log house and a smaller log house where Grannie stayed.

Forrest: On the same property. Where did you live? Your family? You mentioned that you were on the river and your dad took off.

Gagnon: That's away down where the new bridge crossed on the other side.

Forrest: That would be where the corner is. What was your house like?

Gagnon: It was a log house but not big. I just remember being there. The next thing we were taking a boat after Mother got the news. We didn't go back to the other place. We ended back with Grannie Seymour.

Forrest: You lived with Grannie Seymour for how long?

Gagnon: Quite awhile. I was with my mother on the Miworth Reserve. She was with her parents. My grandmother was quite crippled with arthritis. The old man was in good shape.

Forrest: That was who?

Gagnon: Charlie Seymour. We were up there but we were left with Grannie. We went to school from there.

Forrest: You said that Grannie Seymour was your dad's mother. When you were at Miworth that was your mother's mom.

Gagnon: Yes, my mother was up there too.

Forrest: You said he was Charlie Seymour.

Gagnon: Charlie Seymour was her father. My grandmother, Ann, couldn't do things for herself.

Forrest: How come Grannie Seymour was also a Seymour and yet your mom's dad was a Seymour. That really interests me.

Gagnon: We have a rough time explaining this thing. The kids can't seem to grasp it but we know what happened. Grannie used to wear a little cap all the time. She interlined it with heavy flannel because she had a steel plate in her head where grandfather kicked her head and cracked her skull.

Forrest: This is Grannie Seymour. Her first name is Margaret. That's the well known lady in Prince.

Gagnon: Yes. When the plate turns cold, both sides of her eyes would almost close. She would run from headaches. Her cap was on her until her death. They put it on her to bury her. When he done that, my dad and her sister, our Chief's grandmother from Shelly.

Forrest: That Chief is who?

Gagnon: Peter Quaw. His grandmother was Virginia LaFreniere. Grannie had two, my dad and her daughter. She left after what happened to her head. She was living in South Fort. It was common law with my mother's oldest brother, Billy Seymour. That's where the Seymour comes in. She was my grandmother to start out with and ended up being my aunt. She is more grandmother to me. She had a big family. Therefore, Billy Seymour was put off the reserve because he lived common law with a married woman. He was disbanned from the reserve.

Forrest: That was the reserve from?

Gagnon: Fort George. The priest wouldn't allow her in the church but she prayed on the outside of the church fence. She went there every Sunday with her children.

Forrest: How many children did she have?

Gagnon: The ones I remember are Mrs. Minnie Brown and Sarah Pinker. She was married twice. Her first husband was Pat Ireland. Then she married Percy Pinker. Her youngest sister was Sophie. She was married to Harry Long. He worked on the railroad. Then Aggie Baker. She was married to August Baker from Quesnel. She had a daughter by the name of Nellie who died young and a daughter by the name of Philemon who wasn't married and died young. She had a little boy, Billy. He died when the Spanish flu hit. He died from that. Those are the only ones I remember but she said she had a set of twins too.

Forrest: They could have died young.

Gagnon: All together she claimed she had fourteen children.

Forrest: Your mom went back to her dad who was Charlie Seymour in Miworth.

Gagnon: After my father drowned, she remarried later on to my stepfather, Arthur Gracey. She had two daughters and two boys, the oldest was Charlie when he went overseas and got killed. Mother died in 1929 after her dad. He was the first to die in 1923 in Miworth. Grannie didn't live that long after.

Forrest: That was your mom's mother?

Gagnon: Yes. She died and they are both buried in Fort George which only left my uncle, Frank Seymour and his wife living.

Forrest: Would that be a different part of the family than Margaret Seymour? Your mom's dad was Charlie Seymour and your Grannie Seymour who is Margaret Seymour? Who is Billy Seymour? Are they different Seymours?

Gagnon: No, that's the family. Charlie Seymour's oldest son, George Seymour, got drowned in Fort George Canyon. His next son was Billy Seymour, Granny's husband. The next one was Duncan Seymour. Seymours originated in Shelly. Frank Seymour was the youngest of the boys. My mother's oldest sister, Christine Seymour, then my mother, Harriett Seymour, and the youngest girl Theresa died quite young.

Forrest: So Seymour and Simon, would that be the same?

Gagnon: When they phoned me from Ottawa about my children getting re-instated, I said there was a big mix up and I don't know how you're going to straighten it out. When I spelled it out, she said it meant Harriett Seymour in English. She's French.

Forrest: So the Simon is really Seymour?

Gagnon: Yes, that's what she told me. We are trying to trace back on our great grandparents as to where they came from, who they were married to, etc.

Forrest: I see what you meant when you said that your Granny Seymour then became your auntie.

Gagnon: She married my uncle.

Forrest: When you went to Miworth Reserve, you lived there with your mom for awhile?

Gagnon: That's where we lived after my dad drowned until school age. I went to school off and on.

Forrest: What school did you go to?

Gagnon: South Fort George.

Forrest: That's when you stayed with Grannie or Auntie Seymour?

Gagnon: Yes. That old school is burned. I don't see it anymore.

Forrest: That was South Fort George School?

Gagnon: Mr. Gower was our principal. He used to come around and check our work. Later on Mr. Williston was in Shelly School.

Forrest: Ray Williston.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: When you went to South Fort George School, what grade did you go to?

Gagnon: I went for one term and the next term I would be with my mother. Off and on it was back and forth. I barely made my grade three when mother moved to Shelly because my stepfather had a job at the sawmill.

Forrest: In 1927 she moved from Miworth to Shelly. They were two separate reserves or are they under the same band.

Gagnon: It's under the same band. There is Chilako, Miworth and Shelly.

Forrest: Was South Fort George a reserve?

Gagnon: That was a main reserve.

Forrest: That's no longer there.

Gagnon: The only thing they have is a cemetery.

Forrest: That's right in the park.

Gagnon: Yes. That was the Main Reserve.

Forrest: What do you remember about that? Do you remember if there were houses or log houses?

Gagnon: I don't remember. It was sold before my time. The priest got the chief to sell it.

Forrest: To whom?

Gagnon: The railroad I guess.

Forrest: When you were in Miworth living with your mom on the reserve, what were the houses like?

Gagnon: They were nice.

Forrest: Were they log cabins?

Gagnon: No, lumber houses. I can't remember any houses on Fort George Reserve but we used to visit a grave every Sunday, our dead people. It was all fenced in at that time.

Forrest: Those graves are still there, aren't they?

Gagnon: The graves are still there but the tombstones are all smashed when they were bulldozing it over. That had to be the Hudson Bay Post they talk about now because we used to play after they prayed at the cemetery. We would get out of the cemetery and they would sit around on the grass reminiscing about how the reserve was. We would get in front of this old building with nothing in it. When they talk about Fort George Hudson Bay Post, that must have been it.

Forrest: Is this when you mentioned earlier about the Hudson Bay Garden?

Gagnon: That's twenty two miles down the river.

Forrest: What was that?

Gagnon: It was towards Quesnel. Maybe they were growing vegetables for the Hudson Bay.

Forrest: You remember it being called Hudson Bay Gardens.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Did you ever visit it?

Gagnon: That's where we were when we were picked up after Dad drowned. I don't know how we got there.

Forrest: You just remember it.

Gagnon: It was just like when the flu hit. We were at Grannies at South Fort. There was snow and ice was just freezing over the Nechako River. Grannie told my mother to get the kids out and back to Miworth. The sickness is so strong, you can even smell it. The fog was so thick and you could smell the burned candle. Do you know where the Connaught Hotel used to be?

Forrest: How old would you have been then?

Gagnon: Away before school.

Forrest: Just a wee one.

Gagnon: This part I remember because we were going to the station to take the train. Mother was pointing to the Connaught Hotel, Pat Moran's. She was telling my cousin they were using that for the hospital and it was full of people dying and some alive.

Forrest: Which Pat Moran?

Gagnon: He used to be a magistrate.

Forrest: His son is Pat Moran and his grandson is Pat Moran. He owned the Connaught Hotel. They used that as a hospital.

Gagnon: That's what my mother was telling my cousin.

Forrest: Your Grannie sent you back to Miworth. How did you travel?

Gagnon: We were going to the train when she was talking about the Connaught Hotel. When we were getting on the train, we were all lined up. It might have been a doctor. He was scraping our arm with a piece of bone that would scratch through the skin. He would dab something on. When we got on the train, it was dark. We got off across from the reserve.

Forrest: You would take the train from Prince George to Miworth.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Where did it run to?

Gagnon: Rupert, I guess. We got off there and instead of going around to Ferry Landing where the road was, she told my cousin that we would head straight across between the islands. I remember holding mother's hand. She handed my little sister to my cousin who was carrying a lantern. The ice sounded like it was breaking but we were walking across. When we came up the hill on the reserve, there were lights in all the nine houses. The air felt good up there, not like in Prince George. It was smelly and thick. We went into the house and my grandfather had all the mattresses right across the room. He had a big steel heater. Everyone was sick. I thought the people were sleeping. Grandpa took off our overshoes. He told my older cousin, Dominec to wrap his feet. He took my coat off and wrapped my feet with a warm towel. He heated flannette sheets and wrapped me in it and put me on one of the mattresses. He did that to my cousin Dominec. He laid Dominec next to me. I looked at my mother and she was holding her head. My cousin and grandfather were taking her coat and boots off. I don't know what happened. We knew there was snow as we walked through it and across on the ice.

Forrest: With Miworth being the same band as Shelly, where did you get your food from? Were people still trapping and killing. Where would you store your food?

Gagnon: They had cache on stilts and they had smoke houses which were loaded down with dry fish and dry meat in the winter and summer. You could go and eat anytime. Dried berries were rolled up and hung.

Forrest: Just like they have in Fort St. James museum. Would that be for everyone on the reserve or would each person have their own?

Gagnon: Yes. It was a family thing. The chief's wife is the one that had the big cache. Everybody fished in the fall, children, old women and daughters. Some of the men worked. The women did all the work.

Forrest: Did they have fish traps up the Nechako?

Gagnon: Yes, at Chilako.

Forrest: What would they get?

Gagnon: They would get the fish, bring it home by raft and fill all the smokehouses.

Forrest: Who would share out the food?

Gagnon: It's all put away in the chief's cache, like vegetables or whatever is growing. It goes into his cellar. Nothing was locked. If you happen to run low on flour, you would take a pan and get what you need and bring it home.

Forrest: It wasn't just what you caught like the fish, meat or berries.

Gagnon: They even did a lot of sewing. Even us kids set snares for coyotes and foxes. They would skin it for us. We can't keep the money. It was given to the chief. They would put it all together and buy flour, sugar, coffee and tea. They bought everything in big lots.

Forrest: What was your house like? What do you remember doing as a kid? You lived at Miworth off and on. What sort of games did you play? Did you make your own music or entertainment?

Gagnon: We played dolls. We had to be taught things so there wasn't much time to play. We might play tag or hide and seek.

Forrest: What were you taught?

Gagnon: When we were fishing, we fished for little ones. We watched the older ones cutting salmon. Then we would follow with the little fish. When they saw that we cut and dried it right, then we could get the bigger ones. All winter we went sliding but had our wood to carry . We carried water. We would sit around in the evenings after supper and they would show the girls how to do bead work. The boys would make bow and arrows or carved little boats.

Forrest: Would this be in each one's house?

Gagnon: Yes, we were in our own house. All of a sudden they would tell us to go and see one old person. It could be an old woman or an old man. We would usually go to the chiefs. We wouldn't talk to him unless we were spoken to. You don't dare talk to older people only when you're spoken to. We would go there and his wife would let us in. We would circle around him on the floor. He sat on a big chair. He would tell us a story. Grannie started that story. Uncle Pete's dad started that story. It would go over a whole winter as it was a continued story. It was about this guy who was so good, a spiritual thing. He did things that no person on earth could do and the only one who could do it. It was a Bible story. It's our Indian story legend as they call it now. I was fifteen when the old Chief died in Shelly and another chief took over. There was no beginning and no ending. We asked later on if the guy died. There is no ending. He will always be there but you can't see him. My cousin picked up the Bible and said if we revise it, it's the same thing as this Bible says. It's something I would tell my kids from the time they could understand.

Forrest: This is something that kind of stopped. Did you go to La Jacques yourself? Were you sent there?

Gagnon: I was sent there.

Forrest: This is when you missed out on the stories and this type of teaching.

Gagnon: no. We already learned it here. I hear a lot of students putting La Jacques school down. I have nothing against it. We were poor during depression years in Shelly. We had a rough time. My stepfather was working but the cheques were no good.

Forrest: You went to Shelly when?

Gagnon: 1927. My mother died in 1929. That's when my brother and I were put in La Jacques school. We had no business there but the old priest was kind enough to take the both of us. He knew my dad and my mother. Indian Affairs or nobody would pay for our keep there. There would be three or four of us to a bed. We were lucky if we had enough warm blankets at home and never enough to eat because you couldn't afford to buy anything. You can't live on plain wild food. You get tired of it. When we got to school, it was like Buckingham Palace to me. Everything was clean, steam heated. Maybe we didn't get the very best of food but had three meals a day. We had lunch at ten o'clock, bread, jam and skim milk and at three o'clock in the afternoon. We were full and didn't get hungry. Our clothes were supplied.

Forrest: What were you being taught?

Gagnon: At that time you couldn't afford to go to high school. You had to be a non Indian to go to high school. After grade eight you couldn't go.

Forrest: How long did you go to school?

Gagnon: I went to school until grade seven. Then it was time for me to go home and get married.

Forrest: When you were young, what sort of discipline do you remember?

Gagnon: My mother would take a whip after us. You wouldn't dare slap as your hand is too heavy for a little child. When mother was going to strap me, I would run and my aunt would run out and grab me. She told me every time you do wrong and you're going to get a whipping, you start running and the ground is going to open and the devil will grab you because you did wrong and have to be punished. The great spirit isn't going to take your part. One time I started to run and I thought about that and closed my eyes. I had to go back for my whipping.

Forrest: You said Grannie Seymour never did that. She just talked to you.

Gagnon: The four little ones never once touched my sewing or anything. I could leave it anywhere. When they were small and they would try and reach for it and you say no. If they keep on, we always had a willow and would hit them on the knuckles.

Forrest: Is that what Grannie Seymour did?

Gagnon: Yes. It stings but breaks no bones.

Forrest: You said Grannie Seymour used to talk to you rather than raise her voice or yell.

Gagnon: Yes. She never ever yelled at us. She would sit us all down. My aunt died and we were all crying. I tell them today that when my grandmother died that you can't explain to a child. It took me a long time to understand death. When I was telling you about the Spanish flu, we went to bed and when my cousin woke me in the morning, he said the leaves are out. There is no more snow or no more ice. We thought we had slept over night and woke up with the winter going by. We didn't know. He helped me out of the bed and the rest were still sleeping. I said, "Let's go and see old grandma." We used to call the Chief's wife grandma. She used to give us fried bannock and Roger's syrup. I was hungry. He took me by the hand. There was little puddles here and there. When that cold air hit us, we felt good. We were barefooted and in night clothes. When we stepped in the ice cold water, we felt much better. We went through the reserve at Miworth to the last house. The food was all dried up. There was nobody. We wondered where they went. He said maybe they went trapping. We stopped at the old Chief's house. We stood by the door. We called and opened the door. There was no answer. Nobody was there. I was really cold by then. We walked out and my aunt came out of the smoke house. She started to cry. She said that we wouldn't live but would die like the rest of them. She picked me up and my uncle grabbed my cousin and took us in the house. They warmed our feet in the oven. They were both crying and we didn't know why. We told them we went to the last house and nobody was home. My uncle asked if we didn't hear the church bell ringing night and day.

Forrest: How long had you slept?

Gagnon: The whole winter, November, December, January, February, March, April and May. Seven months went by and we thought we had slept over night.

Forrest: You had been that ill.

Gagnon: I guess so. We don't remember a thing.

Forrest: How many people died on the reserve.

Gagnon: There was hardly anyone left. There were my cousins, grandfather, Uncle Frank and my mother.

Forrest: Everyone else had died. Do you remember any medication  being given to you by the Native ladies when you were young and what they used?

Gagnon: Grandpa told us that he nor my uncle never got sick.

Forrest: When you were sick, what did your mother or grannie give you?

Gagnon: The second time the heavy flu hit us at Shelly, Uncle Frank told my cousin's wife and I, that we would have to look after all these people. They were all down. Before you even get a headache, mix rum with pure lemon juice. We wanted to put sugar in but they said to take it hot. We had to keep the fires going. It was almost a week. We had to use a feather with bear grease so their lips and throat wouldn't dry. They couldn't drink. They were in a coma. Grandpa told us that he had boiled a big pot of juniper tops. When my uncle and aunt brought us back to the house after they warmed us up, they put us back in bed and told us never to go out again. They said we would be lucky if we lived. My aunt took a cup of juice from the pot which was the juice from the juniper. It was strong. I wanted water.

Forrest: Would this be the juniper bark, not the juniper berries?

Gagnon: The tops. It was hard to take. Grandpa had set a net in the slough which was a nice lake. He brought some fresh fish back. We couldn't have cold water but had to drink the juice. Grandpa came back. I was crying as I was hungry. He said he couldn't give us anything solid. He was boiling this fish. The broth we had to drink. No solid food. They couldn't figure how we walked through the water and all the way to the other end of the reserve before they caught us.

Forrest: You went away to La  Jacques. Would you come home in the, summer or did you stay at LaJacques from the time your mother died and you were left?

Gagnon: I had to leave school when mother took sick. I had to help around the house with my little sister and brother. When she died my stepfather couldn't look after us. He had to find another place to live from Shelly as he wasn't working.

Forrest: Was he allowed to live on the reserve? Was he native status?

Gagnon: No, he was English.

Forrest: He was allowed to live on the reserve.

Gagnon: No, it wasn't on the reserve. It was Shelly. My brother and I were put in LaJacques school. My youngest sister was left with my cousin on the reserve. The next sister was left in South Fort George with her godmother, Mary Paquette, not these Paquettes but a Paquette from Quesnel.

Forrest: I thought they were the same family.

Gagnon: No. Art, my youngest brother, who was starting to walk when mother died was left with my mother's first cousin, Mrs. Boyd. My brother and I went to LaJacque. I think they were getting us ready to become mothers and what we were supposed to do and how to get along with other people.

Forrest: Did you come home in the summer?

Gagnon: Yes, two months in the summer to help with the food. They gave us that privilege but there were no other holidays.

Forrest: Who did you stay with when you came home in the summer?

Gagnon: Usually with my grandparents.

Forrest: Did you stay with Grannie Seymour when you came home in the summer?

Gagnon: When I came out of LaJacques school, I got married right away.

Forrest: I meant during the summer months.

Gagnon: I went there in January. I put that term in and stayed at my uncles where my mother told me to stay until I Was married. The next year when I came back on July 2nd, I stayed at my uncles and helped the blind woman. The next year in May she came in and said I was getting married tomorrow. The bishop's coming off the train but I didn't know who I was going to marry or anything. She went to town and bought me a dress. The next, morning I got cleaned up and dressed and went across on a ferry to the north side of Shelly to the church. We got in the church and the priest and my husband-to-be.

Forrest: You never saw him before.

Gagnon: I saw him and talked to him as he was in LaJacques school too but that's all.

Forrest: Who had arranged this?

Gagnon: The woman that was married to my uncle, the chief and the priest.

Forrest: Who was it that you married?

Gagnon: Collin Fraser.

Forrest: How old were you?

Gagnon: Seventeen.

Forrest: You had been at LaJacques school from what age?

Gagnon: I went there in 1930.

Forrest: You were only there one year.

Gagnon: I'm really thankful for that one year.

Forrest: I thought maybe you had gone there for a long time. What was the wedding like? Were you in shock with all of a sudden one day telling you that you were being married tomorrow? What did you do? Did they have the house planned where you were going to move?

Gagnon: no. We got married and I had to stay at my aunt's place until they found a place for us that was livable.

Forrest: Did he know he was getting married?

Gagnon: No, it was arranged.

Forrest: How did he feel? How old was he?

Gagnon: We were about the same age.

Forrest; Was his family from here?

Gagnon: His mother was from the Miworth reserve and his father came from Alberta or Northwest Territory. Both were dead. He was like me, no mother or father. It seems that was why they put us together as we were both orphans.

Forrest: Did he speak the native language?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: That's Carrier.

Gagnon: Yes. When his mother died, his father took off and left him and his two sisters living in an old cabin where Spruceland is now. The father couldn't handle it and jumped on a train. A white woman next door found the kids. The little boy that was an infant died right away. That left my husband and his two sisters. They had no place to put them so Mrs. Ramsay decided to get the priest to put them in school.

Forrest: What surprises me in my experience with native people and when you read, I always felt the extended family with the native that this was never a problem. I've always experienced in talking to native gals that a grandmom takes the grandchild if something happens to mom or dad so you don't have this problem of a child being without parents. Why is it in your case and your husband's case that they were sent to LaJacque rather , than the extended family on the reserve taking you?

Gagnon: That was done for us to learn another way of life not only our way. This is how I always think. If we didn't go to LaJacque school, we would live in the old way and not getting ahead. By going to LaJacque school we learned the Indian catechism and also English. We spoke English but they never stopped us from talking Indian. We could talk Indian if we wanted to.

Forrest: That's what I've heard from other people who have attended native schools that they weren't allowed.

Gagnon: That's not true at all. The nuns would show us how to do things. We worked in the kitchen for one week, nothing but baking. The next week they put us in the kitchen to learn how to cook.

Forrest: When you were married at the age of seventeen, you went that night to your uncle's place. What happened to your husband? Was he working?

Gagnon: No, not until later. Even if he left and went somewhere, we wouldn't say anything because we're not supposed to ask a guy what he's doing or where he was. Most of the men were never home, only at hunting season they might drop around. They would all go out and kill a moose or something, then we would bring it in.

Forrest: You were brought up in a matriarch society with all the women together. In the winter where were the men?

Gagnon: I don't know whether they worked or not.

Forrest: In the summer were they home?

Gagnon: Hardly, they would come and go. One time we couldn't get hold of my husband when I lost all my kids with the poison water at Mitchell's ranch. We lost fifteen children in one week. We had to go to work. There was no way out. There were cattle up on the hill. Creosote was mixed in the water that we were drinking down below. All of a sudden the kids started passing out.

Forrest: These were your own children.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: You were still married to Mr. Fraser and you had how many children?

Gagnon: I lost four children, five with the one I was carrying. My little girl died out there.

Forrest: This was where?

Gagnon: W.M. Mitchell Ranch.

Forrest: Where is that?

Gagnon: That's where they have the John Howard Society for the inmates before they get out.

Forrest: Out the Hart Highway.

Gagnon: Beside Summit Lake.

Forrest: You were living there.

Gagnon: We used to go out there from May until September to clear land for a millionaire woman.

Forrest: You went out with your hubby.

Gagnon: No, he wasn't home.

Forrest: You went out with yourself.

Gagnon: With my cousin and her husband.

Forrest: How many children?

Gagnon: I had four and was carrying one. The kids started getting sick. A few men who were working there started falling out in the field. We didn't know what happened. Finally around seven, Mrs. Mitchell went for a doctor. My little girl had died five minutes before Dr. Lyons came. He said she was poisoned. The rest of the kids were sick and were taken by Dr. Lyons into hospital. We lost fifteen children.

Forrest: Whose children were they? There were four of yours.

Gagnon: Other peoples, all the little ones.

Forrest: They were dying of what?

Gagnon: Poisoned water. They were dipping cattle in the creosote and water and letting it go and that's what we were drinking.

Forrest: It went in the well.

Gagnon: Na, it was a creek coming down. We drank that water yearly but didn't know they were dipping cattle in it. When Dr. Lyons found out, he was mad.

Forrest: How old were you then? You were still comparatively a young woman.

Gagnon: Yes. The bodies were shipped to Shelly by train where we picked the little bodies up. We couldn't locate my husband anywhere. We didn't know where he was. Late the next fall he came home. I thought he was drunk. He was staggering but he was dying. He was sick then.

Forrest: What was he dying from?

Gagnon: TB.

Forrest: There are two points you raised here that I find really interesting. In what you read and talking to native people I always thought the women and the family traveled with the men as they went around hunting. When you read stories about Hazelton and Fort Ware, I thought the women moved with the men when they went hunting.

Gagnon: Sometimes.

Forrest: What did you live on? Where did you get money from? Were you still status? Did you get money from the reserve?

Gagnon: no. We put in our gardens, fished and picked berries. We tanned hides and sewed. That's what we sold.

Forrest: What did you grow for vegetables? Did you buy the seeds in town?

Gagnon: Seeds were given to us by Indian Affairs. The first house would grow nothing but turnips, the next family would grow potatoes.

Forrest: You would be given seeds by the person from DIA.

Gagnon: We would look after our gardens.

Forrest: Was it kind of boring if you grew nothing but turnips?

Gagnon: We would grow one thing. When we started weeding, we would go to the first house and help. Men had nothing to do with weeding. This was woman's job. We all worked together. When we fished, it was the same thing.

Forrest: The women fished rather than the men.

Gagnon: Yes. We fished and dried our fish. We were told how to do things by the old people but the little ones were looked after by the old ones.

Forrest: You were fishing in the Fraser.

Gagnon: The main fishing place was at Salmon River. They had a big smoke house. The older people would go up first.

Forrest: Was this on the Fraser?

Gagnon: No, Salmon River. They put a fence across and made two traps. When the older people got tired they came back and looked after the little ones and the younger set would go out.

Forrest: That would be mainly women.

Gagnon: All women.

Forrest: That really intrigues me. When I've seen natives fishing in Morrice town and down on the lower Fraser, it's all men.

Gagnon: Now it's all men that does the fishing. We wouldn't depend on the men as they didn't do things for us.

Forrest: Your hubby died when you were how old?

Gagnon: I had my oldest daughter and son when he died. They were born after the poisoned water. I got $3.60 a month for my two kids and myself from DIA Widow's Pension.

Forrest: What year would that be? Your eldest one, the one you were expecting when the four died.

Gagnon: The doctor put me in the hospital and aborted me as the baby was dead.

Forrest: That's five you lost. Then you had another one. What was his name?

Gagnon: I had a boy and then a girl. My daughter was born in 1939 and my son was born in 1940.

Forrest: Your husband would have died in the early forties.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: You got $3.90 a month to look after yourself and two small children. Where were you living?

Gagnon: I didn't live in Shelly after my husband died because I was worried about the life I would live there. We buried him and I took my kids and left. I stayed at Grannie Seymour's. She baby sat for me while I worked.

Forrest: Where did you work?

Gagnon: Cleaning for different women like Dr. MacKenzie's mother.

Forrest: When you said your children were taken to the hospital in Prince George by Dr. Lyons, where was the hospital?

Gagnon: It was a hospital that had lots of steps going up. It was before the army hospital. When the soldiers were shipped here and they had the army camp; where Simon Fraser is now, that was the army hospital.

Forrest: The Simon Fraser Hotel.

Gagnon: No, the Simon Fraser Lodge. That was the army hospital. They demolished the other ones when the war was over. They used the army hospital until they built the new one.

Forrest: That's where your children had gone. Where was the big steps?

Gagnon: The first old hospital. It wasn't far from where the army hospital was. It was more into the bushes.

Forrest: Was there only one doctor, Dr. Lyons?

Gagnon: No, Dr. Lyons and Dr. Ewert.

Forrest: That's the old Dr. Ewert.

Gagnon: After those two, there was Dr. Treefrie, Dr. MeLaren, Dr. MacArthur, Dr. Chambers and Dr. MacKenzie.

Forrest: You worked for Dr. MacKenzie's mother.

Gagnon: Yes, I used to clean the house for her.

Forrest: Then you remarried.

Gagnon: Before I was remarried, I worked and that's when I lost my status. The Indian Agent told me that I had no more Indian rights. You can't go back on the reserve. I asked why. He said he had enfranchised me. I didn't know the meaning to it. He said because I didn't spend two weeks out of a year on the reserve that I lost all rights. I signed papers he wanted me to sign. He said that I was on my own from here. I said that was better than $3.90 a month anyway Mr. Moore. I told him I would manage. My sister and I went to the Mitchell ranch again and cleared land.

Forrest: Your sister was?

Gagnon: Doris Olson, now Doris Larsen. We moved into town after we got paid. We were paying $5.00 a month for a three bedroom house right across from where the Princess Theatre used to be.

Forrest: That would be on what road?

Gagnon: There's a real estate building and a yard for cars. That's where the house was. We had electricity but had to carry water from the back.

Forrest: Was that a well or a tap?

Gagnon: A tap.

Forrest: You paid $5.00 a month and the two of you lived there.

Gagnon: Not only two of us. I was looking after a guy's wife until she died. She had three little girls and one little boy. Every time we went to move from the house, they would cry. I asked my sister what we should do. She said we will have to keep them. We didn't know anything about welfare then. We moved into that house after we came back from the ranch. I took the kids. I didn't know where the father went. He disappeared. I had my two kids and my sister had two little girls. My sister Mabel was working at the Shasta Cafe. Doris and I got jobs cleaning out the Princess and Strand Theatres. I would do that one day when she was home with the kids doing the washing and the next day she would take over. We switched around like that. There was always food left over at the restaurant and the old Chinese guy gave it to her. She told him we had a bunch of kids. That's where all this food came from.

Forrest: That's all co-operative. You all helped together.

Gagnon: Yes, we had to look after these other kids.

Forrest: You don't get that now. The story you were telling me from when you were at Miworth is that everyone worked together.

Gagnon: The problem with people today is that there is too much hate and greed. My family asked me what I meant. I said if I ask you to do something for me, you ask me how much are you going to give me, even little ones. We worked when we were young carrying water and splitting wood. We would go through the reserve to see who didn't have wood or water in the house. Not once did we ever think of money. Once in awhile we would have fresh bannock and we'd put syrup or jam in it. That's big pay for us. Today you can't get along with anybody. I hear people saying to their little kids not to play with white people. They're no good. The white kids are told not to play with the Indians. It hurts to see them like that.

Forrest: When you got your job at the Strand and Princess on alternate days, how long did you work there?

Gagnon: We worked there for quite awhile.

Forrest: For a year?

Gagnon: No, more than that. We did everything we could. We had to buy clothes. We didn't know anything about the Salvation Army until I met a woman in town that I knew. She wanted to know what I was doing. I said we still had the McNeely kids. She wanted to know where the father was. I told her I didn't know.

Forrest: Were they white?

Gagnon: They were white kids, Ukrainian. She said to come with her and wanted to know how I was managing. I told her. She said you can't do that. She took me to the government building. She spoke to a guy who worked there. I didn't know it was welfare. He called me in and started questioning me. He asked me how long I had done this. This was going into the third year. He wondered if the father had even inquired and I said, "No". He asked if I had my own kids and I said, "Yes, and my sisters". He asked how we managed. I said that my sister was working in a cafe and she brought all the leftovers home. We fed the kids even if we had to go without. I told him we were having a rough time with the clothing.

Forrest: How many kids were there?

Gagnon: He had three little girls and a boy, then my two were six and my sisters two were eight. He told me to come back the next morning at ten o'clock. I went back and he handed me a cheque which was over $400.00 which was a lot of money at that time. I asked what I was going to do with it. He said to cash it and buy groceries. He gave me a voucher to take to the children's store, Lamberts, to get children's clothing. I was to get the children their clothes and shoes. I asked him what the rest of the money was for as we can't use all of it. I didn't know what to do as I didn't have that much in my hand before. I cashed it and went to the store and bought everything by the cases. Things were cheap then.

Forrest: What store did you go to?

Gagnon: Overwaitea on George Street.

Forrest: It was called Overwaitea.

Gagnon: Yes, and they deliver. He asked if we were running a camp and I said no. It was the first time I had a chance to buy groceries like this. I took the voucher over to Parker's and bought clothes.

Forrest: Was Parker's a clothing store?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Where was that?

Gagnon: It was on George Street, next to I.B. Guest. I loaded everything into the taxi which cost fifty cents from downtown to where I lived. My sister looked and wondered how I got it all. I said they had given me a big cheque and I couldn't spend it all.

Forrest: Where was the government building then?

Gagnon: Where Kresges is.

Forrest: George Street was the main street and Kresges is now on Third.

Gagnon: George Street was the main street and Third Street only went as far as the old Bank of Montreal.

Forrest: Northern Hardware used to be the Post Office. Kresges used to be the Government Building.

Gagnon: Yes. Where Bowies is now? That used to be the Liquor Store. That was later. The first Liquor Store was on George Street.

Forrest: The main street was George and then part of Third.

Gagnon: In the basement part of the government building was the jail.

Forrest: This was maybe one of the first social workers that gave you the cheque. What finally happened to the kids?

Gagnon: He couldn't locate the father but he could place the kids in foster homes. We said okay as we had to go to work. There was no way out for us. We told the kids that someday we would see them.

NOTE: Mrs. Gagnon gave me this date a booklet called "Grannie Seymour's Herbal Hints 1852 - 1966". I have run copies of this off to be submitted to the Prince George Public Library in conjunction with the Pioneer Tapes and/or for the Fraser Fort George Regional Museum. These booklets when originally run off were to raise money for the headstone for Grannie Seymour's grave. Mrs. Gagnon indicated to me that they had run off one hundred and fifty in the initial run at SpeeDee Printers. After these were sold ran approximately thirty more off.

Today I am continuing the interview with Mrs. Gagnon dated May 11, 1987.

Forrest: When you said that your mother died and you went to LaJaques school, how old would you be?

Gagnon: My mother passed away on December 16th.

Forrest: You would have been fifteen. When your mom died, you weren't living on Shelly Reserve. You were living at the part of Shelly that is near Giscome.

Gagnon: No, the sawmill side, the south side of Shelly.

Forrest: That would be the Northwood Pulp side of Shelly.

Gagnon: On the south side.

Forrest: The Giscome side of the Fraser, not the Hart Highway side of the Fraser.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: You didn't go to any of your family members.

Gagnon: Not at the time. Grannie was alive but my step father couldn't look after us. He didn't have a job so my brother and I were put in LeJaques school.

Forrest: Do you remember what your mom died of?

Gagnon: I think she died of TB because she was bedridden from August until December.

Forrest: Was she at home?

Gagnon: Yes, she was coughing. The doctor never bothered putting them in hospital.

Forrest: Did they take medication?

Gagnon: No, they just left them. They would die at home. The doctor never came to see what they died from like they do now.

Forrest: Was there any medical help given to your mom?

Gagnon: No. They said she was sick and better off in bed at home. That's where she was.

Forrest; How did they pay for the doctor? Now we are used to medical and a person with Indian status is under our medical coverage, what happened then?

Gagnon: This puzzles me now when I find out the way things are with the Status and Non status. My mother had lost her status by marriage. Before she moved to Shelly the chief from the Fort George Band and all his men got together and built a log house on the sawmill side so that my mother would have a home.

Forrest: You said your mom had lost her Indian status but you had Indian status as a child.

Gagnon: No, we didn't because my dad was a Non status.

Forrest: I thought you last your status when you married so you had your Indian status.

Gagnon: I did have my status back when I got married.

Forrest: How did you get that back?

Gagnon: The guy that I married, his mother belonged to the Fort George Band and my mother had been a former Fort George Band member so the chief said that we were to be reinstated.

Forrest: What was the log house like that the chief built for your mom?

Gagnon: It was nice, had two large bedrooms, a front room and a kitchen. We didn't have any fancy furniture. There was a table, chairs and a cook stove.

Forrest: Was there running water or a well?

Gagnon: No, we took it from the Fraser River. Grannie used to tell us that if the river or stream is steady running you wont get sick from it. She said to pick up the rocks on the bottom of the river and they would be thick with slime. That's where the poison goes. It's by nature that the rocks pick up the poison. That's what I go by. I drink the water from the Nechako River.

Forrest: You had pane glass in the house, did you?

Gagnon: Glass windows, yes.

Forrest: Electricity. What was the light?

Gagnon: Coal oil lamp or if you had the money you could buy a gas lamp. Not too many had gas lamps and they were only $2.98.

Forrest: Did you cook on a wood stove?

Gagnon: Yes, and we had heaters, mostly burning slabs from the mill.

Forrest: You would use wood, not coal.

Gagnon: Just wood.

Forrest: When you came back from LaJacque, you stayed with your uncle. What was his name?

Gagnon: Duncan Seymour, my mom's brother.

Forrest: Where did he live?

Gagnon: He was working in the mill at Shelly.

Forrest: He was living on the reserve?

Gagnon: No, off the reserve. Next to where they built the log house for my mom.

Forrest: Another point I found interesting when I went over the tape was that the day you got married, you said you went across the river by ferry. Was that ferry running all the time and where did it run?

Gagnon: The sawmill site was where the ferry landing used to be.

Forrest: B.C. Police Constable Cook takes the ferry in 1932. Was he in charge of the ferry?

Gagnon: No, he used to go across the ferry coming from Prince George on this side of the road. He would visit all the people on the reserve spending a day.

Forrest: That was the ferry you used to take from Shelly across to the other side of Shelly. Was that the only two places it landed just across the river? It didn't go down. It just went back and forth.

Gagnon: No, it didn't go down. It was run by a cable.

Forrest: A cable ferry. What was the cost?

Gagnon: There was no cost.

Forrest: After seven o'clock at night, it was twenty five cents. Everyone used it before seven o'clock. You said that your auntie bought you a dress for the wedding. Can you remember what kind of dress it was?

Gagnon: It was polka dot house dress. It was quite ordinary, cotton.

Forrest: You said there were a lot of empty houses in Shelly. Why would there by a lot of empty houses?

Gagnon: After the flu went through, it wiped out most of the people.

Forrest: The houses were left empty. This was on the reserve.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: What did the people do? Did they use the houses that were left by people who had died.

Gagnon: They would clean and fix them up. When people get married and have a family, they moved into these houses. They're not houses like now that's just thrown together and within a few years they were tilted over.

Forrest: They weren't log cabins.

Gagnon: No, they were lumber houses like I showed you in the picture of Miworth. It's the same kind of building.

Forrest: Instead of 1x2s, it was sheets of plywood.

Gagnon: No, there was no plywood. It was solid boards. They had board floors. They had it fixed nice. They put a new chimney on it in the thirties and new flooring.

Forrest: That's when you moved in. What did you live on? What did your young husband at the age of seventeen do. How did he earn money?

Gagnon: At first he got a job in the mill on the green machine. I guess it was too hard. for him. It was in the dead heat of summer. There was no roofing. He worked about five or six months. Then I don't know where he went. The men didn't stay home only those that were working in the mill.

Forrest: You had your first baby at what age?

Gagnon: 1931. I was seventeen when I had my first child.

Forrest: In relationship to the birth of your brothers and sisters and your own children, were you born at home?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Who acted as midwife?

Gagnon: Grannie

Forrest: In a lot of the reserves you have one lady who acts as the midwife or was it family members?

Gagnon: Family members but if they were afraid that things weren't going to turn out right, then they would call for Grannie.

Forrest: With your children, were they born at home?

Gagnon: They were all born at home except the two youngest ones and they were born in the hospital.

Forrest: And that was when?

Gagnon: Margaret turned thirty last March.

Forrest: You told me about the four wee ones that died and then the one you were carrying. How many children have you had since then?

Gagnon: That was the fifth one I lost. Then I had Patricia, Robert, David, Joe, Frank, Peter and Clifford, I lost. I also lost one between Joe and Frank. He died right after birth. Yvonne, Marcel, Phillip, Edward, Esther, Marrie, Margaret and Edwin. There was stillbirths too.

Forrest: You gave birth to twenty children. You lost ten children and you had stillbirths with two children. You still look young.

Gagnon: Thank you.

Forrest: Out of all these children, how many are living now?

Gagnon: Ten.

Forrest: Around Prince George.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: How many grandchildren do you have?

Gagnon: There isn't too many.

Forrest: At the present time you have twenty one grandchildren and three great grandchildren. You had the full responsibility of looking after all those children and you worked.

Gagnon: My sister and I worked. We cooked for the camps. The oldest child looks after the youngest. We coupled them up like that so they were watching one another. My sister worked one day in the cook house while I took over the kids and then the next day I would take over and she would look after the kids. We switched around just so we could feed our children. Things were rationed during the war. We just worked for food to feed our children.

Forrest: Did they pay you with food when you worked?

Gagnon: No

Forrest: You worked in the camp so you got your room and board.

Gagnon: When the camps closed for spring or fall breakups, they give us the food that was left over. If there was a lot of meat, we would can it and put it away.

Forrest: What do you remember most of your childhood? The one thing that you said to me was the relationship with the older people that they always gave you time. What other things stand out when you were a child before you went to school?

Gagnon: Between South Fort George area and below Peden Hill. Down below Peden Hill was where Grannie Seymour's sister was married to Pierre Roy, They had the flats. where the trailer court is. Grannie was on her brother-in-law's land and that's where most of our time was spent. We were on top of the hill from the Fraser and Nechako. The men would go across the cut bank between the two bridges. They would go away up around the other way and cut wood in blocks and roll it down.  It would almost hit the other shore. They would split it in four and a bunch of us kids would pull it up with a toboggan. We would pile wood and carry the water, then we could go and slide after the work. They would give us so much time to play but had to be in before dusk. There was a lot of sickness in the air.

Forrest: When you were in your teenage years, what would stand out?

Gagnon: In my teenage years I was with my mother and she wasn't feeling that good. We moved to Shelly in 1927 and 1928. I had to help her at home with the kids. I couldn't go to school. My oldest sister was cooking around Bear River.

Forrest: Is that the same as Bear Lake?

Gagnon: I remember we passed Hansard with a team of horses. She picked me up to help wash dishes and set tables for the camp. That was a help to my mother and my stepfather was looking after mom. I went to work with her. I had a hard time. She was right at my heels telling me everything to do at first. Grannie took us to visit white people in their homes but you were to be seen and not heard. That was my first time out with nothing but white people. It was all white people working in the camp.

Forrest: This would be serving meals while they were eating.

Gagnon: yes. I had to look after the plates. I was shy and I was scared. She kept right after me and about a month later it didn't bother me too much. I worked there with her until the spring breakup.

Forrest: Where was this camp?

Gagnon: Bear River. We had to cross Bear River. We were on this island all winter. My oldest sister and I lived there. My mother was living in Shelly. When spring breakup came she got paid and gave me my pay. She didn't hand it to me. She came back to Shelly with me and she gave the money to my mother to use for food. She didn't have a hard time with food then as the whole reserve were always bringing something to mom.

Forrest: What kind of clothes did you wear when you were at work?

Gagnon: Dresses.

Forrest: You didn't wear a uniform. That was before blue jeans.

Gagnon: You dressed liked a woman.

Forrest: What kind of food did you serve?

Gagnon: They had their meat, vegetables and fish.

Forrest: Would this all be canned or would it be fresh? How would they bring it in?

Gagnon: They used to bring it up to Bear River with a team of horses and sleighs that they used to haul logs with. There were six horses. Fresh meat when it was brought out was wrapped in flour bags and newspaper over it. She would dig a big hole in different places. She would dig a big hole in different places and put the meat in to freeze.

Forrest: In snowbanks.

Gagnon: Yes, sometimes they had boxes with screen doors on it.

Forrest: How would they mark it so dogs wouldn't get at it.

Gagnon: There wasn't too many dogs around. That's how they kept the food until the next week. Then they would bring more food. They had just about everything they have today. Nothing with additives, all pure.

Forrest: You mentioned a couple of times the difference in the meals you had at home and the meal at LaJacque. What food did you have at home? The families were poor.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Were you poorer than some of the white people? Was this because you were off the reserve?

Gagnon: It was depression years. Everybody was down.

Forrest: What kind of food did you have at home?

Gagnon: The people on the reserve would kill a moose. There's a lot of meat in one moose. Today they just kill and kill. That one moose would be cleaned and hung overnight in the smoke house. That's cut up by the people on the reserve. The old ladies would come and trade with five pounds of sugar with the white people. It was a trade not money. The white people that couldn't kill moose or deer traded for tea, coffee and things at home. If you run out of vegetable that's where you get it from. The same with fishing. We'd fish and dry it. Nobody was canning at that time. The fresh ones would be brought in and all cleaned and taken across the river. I would maybe take one salmon and go to the sawmill manager's wife. She might give me a pound of coffee, a pound of tea or some other little thing, maybe flour for that one salmon. They canned their fish. Sometimes we would get a piece of pork and we'd divide it up amongst us. We would all have a little bit. A slab of bacon at that time was seventy five cents. If you got two slabs, you would cut it up so every house would get a portion. This is what the sharing is about.

Forrest: What meals would you have? When you lived with Grannie Seymour and your mom in Miworth, what meals did you eat? You mentioned bannock and Rogers syrup at one time.

Gagnon: Bannock is very filling. Grannie used to bake bread. She would make a big fire, nothing but coals. She put it in the steel pots, cover it and shove it in and cover it up, put some more fire on it. By the time the fire died down, you would take it out and the bread was just nice and brown. If you shoot a grouse, you don't take the feathers off. You would mud pack it. Then you cook it in open fires, the same way Grannie cooked the bread.

Forrest: Would you put it in a pot or right on the coats?

Gagnon: You would pack it with mud and then put it on hot coals and cover it. You put more wood on and by the time the fire dies down, you take it out and hit it with a knife or little ax, the mud pack breaks open. The feathers are stuck on and you don't have to clean. It's clean chicken. You put it in a dish, open it and everything inside is all cooked together. You pull it out and the chicken is there.

Forrest: What was your favorite dish as a kid?

Gagnon: We had a lot of nice things. Now we would be out getting jackpine sap. You take the outer bark off and put your pail right against the tree and the sap rolls down into the pail.

Forrest: What would you use that for?

Gagnon: You can eat it if you want it fresh. It is sweet and tasty. If there are too many mosquitoes, you put the juice on your hands so the mosquitoes don't bite. You can drink the juice. It tastes almost like the juice out of a coconut. It is cream colored and not thick. You wind dry the sap. After this you roll it up in little bundles and put it in birch bark baskets, close it tight and put it away. If you're out hunting and you're in a place where there is no water and you get thirsty, you would take the one bundle and chew it and swallow the juice. This would quench the thirst.

Forrest: Did you collect that when your children were young?

Gagnon: Yes. I still do that when I get a chance to go out. Now it's good because I can put them in containers and freeze them in the freezer.

Forrest: Was that considered a treat?

Gagnon: This time of the year that's what they gave us. They would get a lot of it. We would eat as much as we could when it was fresh.

Forrest: What would you consider a treat?

Gagnon: From the store in the white man's part we would get candies on Christmas and Easter. It wasn't very much.

Forrest: In the house at Miworth you remember getting off the the train and walking across the river on the ice.You could see all the lights in the houses. Was that light by coal oil lamps?

Gagnon: Coal oil lamps.

Forrest: What kind of stoves were in the houses?

Gagnon: The stove was quite long, big steel heaters. You opened it in the front. It had two rings on top so you could cook there.

Forrest: Where did they get the water?

Gagnon: Right from the river.

Forrest: Did you have lots of pets? Did you have livestock?

Gagnon: My grandfather had cattle, teams of horses, chicken sand pigs.

Forrest: Did you have lots of dogs and cats?

Gagnon: Not many. On the whole reserve there might have been two or three dogs and maybe a few cats. They weren't like it is now. Everywhere you look there are dogs and cats.

Forrest: How did you get your food to Miworth when you shopped in Prince George?

Gagnon: By train. They would take it off the train at the station. Sometimes they would leave it if it was rough to get it home. They would take the toboggan next day and go straight across, pick up the groceries and bring it back. Instead of walking away up around the ferry and coming all the way back to the reserve, in the summer they used to cross the river on the other side of the cut bank on the North Nechako road.

Forrest: Is this around Toombes?

Gagnon: This is further back. They had a dug-out canoe. I went with my mother a lot of times. She would paddle across, tie the canoe, then we would walk about a mile from the station packing the supplies down. She would put it in the canoe and pole up the river until we got to the reserve.

Forrest: When you were young and lived in Miworth on and off between the ages of six and ten, what stores do you remember?

Gagnon: There was a CC Reid Store which was a grocery store. Pete Burns had a butcher shop on George Street. Blairs had a clothing store and different supplies on George Street.

Forrest: That was the Main Street?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Were there stores anywhere else?

Gagnon: South Fort George maybe. You go away around Connaught Hill. They cut that down to almost half. The City Hall was at the bottom. There was a rooming house at the foot of the hill where the funeral chapel used to be. Down a ways there was another rooming house run by black people. It was a little candy store front. The next building was a chinese restaurant. The Strand Theatre used to be on the corner from the old Prince George Motors. I remember Isaac Spanner being there. He had a clothing store. On the corner next to the Mac was where Spanners used to be. Next to it was CC Reid grocery store. I don't think there was anything in between as it was bushy there. Next to Prince George Motors was Watson's Drug Store. It had an ice cream parlor. On this side there was a little gas station below the city hall. Passed the gas station was Gibson's Rooms. That was run by a black woman. She made me think of Aunt Jemima the way she dressed. She was a wonderful woman. The Prince George Hotel was next and in the same location today. It used to be Al Johnson's. He built it.

Forrest: The same building is still standing.

Gagnon: Yes, but I think they renovated it. Next to that was Madison's Real Estate. This guy always had a bunch of paper on the windows. The fire hall was next, then the pool room. I.B. Guest wasn't there yet. Pete Burns was right on the corner across from Spanners. I don't know if the MacDonald Hotel was there or not. There was a cafe across from where the Mac is now on George Street. They used to call it Redbird. There was a big tall rooming house next to where the Estoria used to be. It had Nehring (neighbouring?) rooms. Bill Ballis and his brother was running the Estoria. The Canada was there. Straight behind the Canada was Connaught Hotel. Patty Moran had that. I can't remember MacDonalds. There was nothing there it seems. Later on it was up Third. That's when the Drug Store moved. I guess Prince George Motors started building where the drug store used to be. There was a Ritz Keefer Hall built there and it burned down.

Forrest: What stores did you like to go into?

Gagnon: Lamberts and Parker's store for our clothing if we were able to afford it.

Forrest: Where would you buy your groceries?

Gagnon: By the time I was married there was Assman's store. There was a chinese restaurant on Third, the brick building. It used to be Assman's grocery store. Then CC Reid. Later on when we were clearing land at the airport we used to deal at the store behind Spanners. There was a butcher shop called Dan Gallow.

 (tape shut off)

Forrest: The Columbus Hotel.

Gagnon: The paper was saying how old the Columbus was. I remember when we used to come from Shelly. We wondered what kind of store was coming in there. We thought it was a big store. The Europe Hotel was there.

Forrest: You remember the Columbus being built?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: How old would you have been?

Gagnon: I was married and had children.

Forrest: You would have been in your mid twenties. That would have been in the mid thirties.

Gagnon: It took about two years to build and then we saw it had Columbus Hotel. Actually it didn't mean anything too us.. We had never been in the bars.

Forrest: You said you went to South Fort George school. Was that the only school you went to other than LaJacque?

Gagnon: Yes

Forrest: You mentioned that the kids called you names. Were there many native youngsters who went to the school?

Gagnon: A few.

Forrest: Were you all called names?

Gagnon: Yes, but it didn't mean a thing to us. We knew we weren't dirty as we had clean clothes on. Sometimes they called us dirty squaws, dirty Indians.

Forrest: Did all the kids do this?

Gagnon: Just a few, like it is today. To us it didn't mean anything as we didn't understand what a squaw was. Nobody had told us that we were an Indian. Later on it got so bad that I asked Grannie what is was all about. There was Archie Baker, Georginia Baker and myself. She said to pay no attention; let them talk and say what they want.

Forrest: What were the teachers like with you?

Gagnon: The teachers were very good but they didn't hear all this.

Forrest: Was there outside toilets at South Fort George school?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: What was a school day like? You would start at what time?

Gagnon: I never spoke English when I started school but my cousins spoke English but not that much. When we got in school, the teacher knew I couldn't speak English so she showed me the chalk, the blackboard, the brush and pencils. She would name them. I don't know how long it took her to get me to fully understand.

Forrest: Do you remember the names of some of the teachers?

Gagnon: I just remember Miss Andrews and Miss Andres. When we moved to Shelly she was there. I went to Shelly for one year. We had a teacher by the name of Miss Ellis. She died before the term was over. She took sick one day at the school and a few days later she was rushed to the hospital. The next day she was dead. She was sitting at her desk. We were passing papers to one another to correct. She said she had a headache. We were quiet. When she lifted her head she was crying and said her head was getting worse. She was boarding at the general store in Shelly. Most of the kids walked as far as the store with her and the storekeeper took her upstairs to her sleeping quarters. The next day we had a substitute teacher by the name of Mrs. Sinclair McLean. She said Miss Ellis wasn't feeling that good. One morning on our way to school the storekeeper told us she was dead. I didn't go back to school after Shelly. I don't know why.

Forrest: Did you go to Central Fort George after that?

Gagnon: No.

Gagnon: I didn't start school until I was seven or eight. Then I missed a term. That was going on to the fourth year when I quit.

Forrest: You quit school in grade 4, but you can read.

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: When you attended South Fort School, we are looking at the years in the early 1920's in Prince George.

 Gagnon: I had to be older than that.

Forrest: You were born in 1914. In 1920 you would be six. You would have been going to school in 1924 in South Fort George. What would the kids wear to school in September?

Gagnon: Dresses and skirts.

(..Tape was turned over and part of the conversation is missing...)

Elastic around the knees. It was fleece lined.

Forrest: Would you put them on in the winter?

Gagnon: Yes, they were worn in the winter, the heavy ones. Grannie used to knit heavy socks for us. Some of them looked like candy canes, white and red in stripes. That's what we had to wear and we hated them.

Forrest: Did you take them off in the school?

Gagnon: No, that was the stockings we wore for the cold weather.

Forrest: Would you take them off when you got into school?

Gagnon: No, they were the stockings we wore for the cold weather.

Forrest: Was it cold in the school room?

Gagnon: No, they had a big stove.

Forrest: Why wouldn't you take your woolen bloomers or woolen socks off?

Gagnon: That's all we had on. We had no undersocks. It's a wonder our legs didn't get itchy.

Forrest: How long was a school day?

Gagnon: We'd get there for nine.

Forrest: Would you take your own lunch?

Gagnon: Yes. We would have lunch. It must have started right after lunch as we didn't have much time to play. The grades one and twos left at 2:30 but we didn't leave until three.

Forrest: Did they provide the books or did you buy your own?

Gagnon: The first time I went they had slates which was provided by the school. It didn't last for the whole term.

Forrest: Did you have homework?

Gagnon: No, not until later when we started buying our own scribblers.

Forrest: What about discipline in the classroom? Did they get after the kids? How did you have to act?

Gagnon: You couldn't chew gum or talk. You were there to learn. You couldn't fool around because you would stand in the corner with the dunce cap.

Forrest: They actually did that.

Gagnon: Yes. If the boys still got out of hand, there was a principal in the next room who gave the strap. They behaved good. They listened to the teachers. They were afraid of the teachers. They had respect for them.

Forrest: What about Christmas concerts? Do you remember that?

Gagnon: That was nice.

Forrest: Did you put them on every year?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Were you in them?

Gagnon: Yes, all the kids were in them. They had different plays and singing. We used to make our costumes out of crepe paper. All the parents and grandparents went.

Forrest: You had them right at the school.

Gagnon: Yes, we had a stage in front. Everybody would go because it would be full. They had that in Shelly. They had Christmas concerts in all the country schools right up to my children.

Forrest: Is there anything else about school that you can remember that you haven't told me that you think would be interesting?

Gagnon: I liked everything about it. The teachers were good.

Forrest: What was the difference now and what you remember from thinking back with your grandchildren going to school?

Gagnon: There is too many years difference. Even if you got a strapping from the principal. I'll tell you the word I don't like with the young children is "I hate". That's a strong word for me. You can say I don't like this or I don't like that. Even the little ones are saying "I hate my teacher". This is what hurts me. Grannie used to tell us that hate and greed can kill people. Love and sharing are more important. Those two were the main things that we were taught. Even with the church you shared what you have. Love one another. I can't remember any priest or nun saying that you hate this one or you hate that one. Hate was never brought up.

Forrest: How strong an influence did the Roman Catholic Church, have on your family?

Gagnon: On my part I have nothing against them. They never did any harm to me.

Forrest: What influence? Were Grannie Seymour and your mother all Roman Catholic?

Gagnon: Grannie Seymour was. I don't know about further back. I have it strong in me. It's a good life to follow. You don't hurt other people no matter what they do to you. You overlook it.

Forrest: How much of that is Roman Catholic and how much your own culture?

Gagnon: About the same.

Forrest: We know that there are a lot of Roman Catholic people who haven't the same concept as what you have.

Gagnon: Maybe the younger generation. All they think about is money. My grandson was here the other day. We were playing Romoli. He's only fourteen. He won the sequence. We always put it back. He was just possessed a few little pieces of silver. He started losing so he took the money and took off. In the morning he came back, he was rattling. He said, "Grandma, listen to that sound. I said, "David". He said that's my life Grandma. I asked him if he went to Sunday School. He said when he was smaller. I asked him if he ever watched the show they were showing before Easter, "Thirty Pieces of Silver".

(tape was shut off and some of the conversation was lost)

Forrest: In my question I certainly wasn't meaning to say anything against the Roman Catholic Church. What I was interested in was when you had your native culture which was such a positive thing and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Did this take you away from your native culture in any way?

Gagnon: I guess so. Now they are talking about self governing and I don't think it's really explained to the white people what self government is. Grannie said that they had their own laws when they had the potlatches in Fort George. That's the law of the natives. The priest had put a stop to that. He was going to put them in jail if they did that. (Father Kokla or Father Morris) They dropped it so that part is lost to us. I'm getting to understand a little at a time by going to those workshops. This is what self governing is about. You go by your Indian laws.

Forrest: The priest tried to prevent that.

Gagnon: He did in Fort George. He put a stop to it. Some of the reserves did it undercover so the priests wouldn't know. To me it's a good law from what I'm understanding of it.

Forrest: Basically and culturally and historically the native people would be directed by your chief. When the priest came in, did they become stronger than the chief in your band?

Gagnon: Yes. Even now when I speak to the older people they don't want to talk about it. They are scared.

Forrest: About the native culture?

Gagnon: No. About the priest. We can't talk about it. I said they were all dead.

Forrest: You mean the priest frightened them that much.

Gagnon: Yes. In my time the priest never said anything to us. There are a lot kicking today as to why they taught us nothing about white man's way of living. I appreciated that. I thought that was great because we were living amongst the white people. We weren't all going to stay on the reserve. I thought this was the best way to help us live with other people.

Forrest: But. you in some ways have retained some of your culture whereas some of the native people have not retained their culture. You still speak your native language where some of the younger people have lost. How come you have such a positive way of thinking of things and interpreting this. Would this be the influence of Grannie or mom?

Gagnon: Grannie. We never had time to play, just sliding in the winter and the fun of our play would be berry picking, getting sap, and picking roots. It's a fun thing because you were making something out of what you were doing. You did it with your own hands, something to be proud of.

Forrest: Did you do it as a group with your Grannie, mother, brother and sisters?

Gagnon: Yes, different families.

Forrest: When you went out berry picking, could you describe what the day would be? Would you very far?

Gagnon: They make camp where there was a lot of berries.

Forrest: What would the camp be, a tent?

Gagnon: Yes. We would set a tent close to a lake, river or creek, wherever there was water. They had these big birch bark baskets. We pick in pails right down to the little ones. We'd make pails out of milk cans and put wire on it. You'd see who would fill that little pail first. They would really pick. We would pick blueberries or any kind of berries. Everybody would pick until the baskets are full. They would put big leaves on top to cover them and put that aside until everything is filled.

Forrest: What would you do with them?

Gagnon: Put them in a canoe or raft and raft them out of there. You'd get back home where the smokehouses are. They'd make jam. They don't put sugar in them. They melt tallow and seal it with that.

Forrest: They would put them in jars?

Gagnon: Yes, they put them in jars or the old jam cans. They would put a cloth first and then the tallow on top. It never spoiled.

Forrest: Then what would you do. You said the other day that your dried the berries.

Gagnon: They have cedar racks. You would tie it down, cross stitch it with inner bark of alder while it is fresh,, tie it all the way down on each side. When it dries, it tightens. You overlap leaves on it. You drain all the juice from the berries and put it on the leaves.

Forrest: You mean you would squish the berries or where they had been sitting, you would take the moisture off?

Gagnon: You boil it into jam stirring it and drain the juice off. You make it that thick on the sleeve and put it over.

Forrest: You would cook it first.

Gagnon: Yes. You put it over the fire.

Forrest: I'm sorry. I thought that when you first picked the berries that you dried the berries as they are. You dry them after they were cooked.

Gagnon: You'd cook them first. Every morning you would take some of the juice and rub it on top until a crust is formed, maybe four or five days.

Forrest: This is dried out in the sun?

Gagnon: No, you have it in the smokehouse. You have a little fire under it. This is what dries it. After it's dried, they get birch bark and put it on flat and roll it up like jelly roll and put away in the cache. They would hang it.

Forrest: How would you use those berries in cooking? How would you use them?

Gagnon: In the winter they sliced them for pies. you unroll it and soak it in very little warm water overnight and it's jam for your pies the next day. All the juice that is left from the day, you would jar it. This is what we drink from the first kind of berries that comes out after the sap.

Forrest: Would the juice be a treat?

Gagnon: It's medicine.

Forrest: Did you ever make wine from it?

Gagnon: No. Between sap and berry time, we used to go out and pick a bunch of sarsaparilla roots and Oregon grape. They would wash the roots and boil them. They boiled it in big pots with the cover on. They would boil half. They would jar that. This is what we drank from the time the sap is run out.

Forrest: Would that be used as a tea, not as a medicine?

Gagnon: Yes, instead of drinking a lot of water or juice.

Forrest: When you said sarsaparilla root, was that the soapberry?

Gagnon: No, the Soapberry was different.

Forrest: What is the sarsaparilla root?

Gagnon: It grows about that high and the top of the leaves are kind of brownish. It looks like umbrellas.

Forrest: With the oregon grape, would you use the berries?

Gagnon: No, the roots. You mix the two when they are boiled and we would drink that every morning before we eat or drink water. It has to be lukewarm.

Forrest: Was it good?

Gagnon: Yes, you get used to it. When the berries come, the rest would be left for the winter months.

Forrest: It would keep.

Gagnon: Yes, they would keep it in jars. Grannie wouldn't let us throw the mold away. She would save it for open sores.

Forrest: Where would she save the mold?

Gagnon: She would put it in baking powder cans. If you had an infection, she would take a knife and spread it on.

Forrest: Grannie also saved the mold from bread and bannock and that was used as a salve.

Gagnon: Yes. If you stepped on a rusty nail, she would wash it out with warm water and put a thin slice of pork on the sore and wrap our feet. You could feel it drawing. In the morning she would take it off, wash it and put Jackpine pitch on it. It dry heals.

Forrest: When you went out for several days with your tent, you would pick berries for a couple of days at a time? You would bring all the berries back by canoe or raft? You would come down the Nechako?

Gagnon: Either Nechako or when we were in Shelly we came down the Salmon River.

Forrest: How would you pack them back to your home?

Gagnon: You land below the house and pack them up the hill.

Forrest: What roots did you use to collect?

Gagnon: When you go to the bush, you see all different kinds of roots. I don't know the names in English. Grannie used to show us which root was good and what it was used for.

Forrest: What would it be in your native language?

Gagnon: If I tried to explain it in English, I would have to show you the plants.

Forrest: Did you use your soapberries?

Gagnon: We still do. I make jam as you only need two teaspoons for a big bowl full. You use an egg beater. We used to do it by hand out in the bush. We were getting some in the gravel pit along the edge. The young boys were there with their motorbikes. They couldn't figure out what we were doing. We used to bunch them out, put a plastic bag over them and shake them.

Forrest: What else did you put with the soapberries when you made jam?

Gagnon: Just the way it is. You'd wash it good, boil it, squeeze all the seeds from it and jar it. We would take that to the schools. A couple of tablespoons would fill a big bowl. You would froth it up and put sugar in it for your own taste.

Forrest: When you make the jam, you don't froth it up, you just use the berry?

Gagnon: No, just squeeze the juice from it.

Forrest: When you froth it up, what is it used for?

Gagnon: I don't know. If you have a bad chest cold, especially babies, you would feed it to them.

Forrest: With the fresh soapberry or the cooked?

Gagnon: Cooked and fresh.

Forrest: You said you could use the soapberry for cleaning?

Gagnon: Yes. It cleans every little pore. You wouldn't believe how much dirt there is in your hand.

Forrest: What other berries would you have picked?

Gagnon: Huckleberries. Around St. Mary's there were black Huckleberries, Blueberries and low ones that are dug almost from the ground.

Forrest: Were there any other berries that you remember as a youngster that aren't growing now?

Gagnon: No. Strawberries first, then saskatoons and raspberries. As the berries ripen we save different juice and we drink it as we go along. The soapberries were a treat like ice cream.

Forrest: That's when you froth it up?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Is there anything that you used to pick for medicinal purposes?

Gagnon: Next month you get sap from the popular. Last month we went out and hit the birch with an ax. We would put a little pail under it overnight and it would fill with juice. We used to drink that.

Forrest: How is that compared to the maple syrup?

Gagnon: I imagine it would turn into syrup.

Forrest: You said popular is coming up. With the different saps from the different trees, did you save it in the same way as with the Jackpine sap.

Gagnon: No. These are the only two that we do that with. We would get the jackpine pitch which we saved. I make salve for infetigo or open sores. I melt it down, mix it half and half with bear grease, strain it and put it in jars.

Forrest: What about the willow? Do you use the sap or juice?

Gagnon: You mix the inner bark of the pussy willow and the inner bark of alder. You boil them and make it strong. You strain it, put it in clean jars and seal it with lids or tight screw tops. You keep it in a cool place and drink it lukewarm. You drink it every morning or before meals. That's for bleeding ulcers. I could never drink ice cold things while I was growing up because cold stuff would shock your whole system. It has to be lukewarm. Even on hot summer days we drink lukewarm water or warm tea.

Forrest: The fact that you've raised twenty children and you've worked extremely hard, you look young and are still active. What do you see yourself doing different than your daughters now?

Gagnon: A lot of different things. Sewing, knitting, croquet work. I have to be doing something. My hands have to be going all day. Everything is push button. I pity them if they have to live in the bush which won't be too long from now if things continue. There will be no vacuum cleaners and this and that.

Forrest: People could say you lived a hard life and yet you are relaxed, youthful looking and still so active.

Gagnon: I wouldn't call it a hard life. Now I call it hard. If I had the freedom I had when I was young, I could take a sleeping bag and a little tent and go up anywhere in the hills which you can't do now because it's so deadly. I could set snares on the hills. There's all my food. I can't do that. I have to be stuck in here sitting around.

Forrest: The difference is that you had the freedom.

Gagnon: Nobody was down your back for anything. You did what you wanted. You set your traps and no law said you couldn't touch this.

Forrest: Now a young girl isn't safe walking out on the highway at eleven o'clock at night. Was there ever any fear of a young girl being hurt or attacked by men?

Gagnon: I can't remember, maybe once or twice. If my granddaughter was here with me and said she was going to town, I'd ask her how. I'm going to hitch hike. I wouldn't allow it. You don't allow boys or girls out after nine o'clock because something will happen. They're asking for it. Some of those kids are hanging around the bars, bingo games.

Forrest: Years ago when you were young, was freedom even within the city or were you kept at home and protected?

Gagnon: If we were coming into town from Shelly, my mother would never allow me to come alone. I would have an escort with me.

Forrest: Would that escort be male or an older female?

Gagnon: It doesn't matter whether it was a female or male, somebody older than me. It could be my brother or my cousins. If I went window shopping, they were right with me. If I went into a cafe, they went with me.

Forrest: Did you date when you were a teenager before you married?

Gagnon: I don't know because we never dated.

Forrest: What about entertainment? You mentioned the Strand Theatre. Did you go to shows or dances?

Gagnon: They had weekly dances one week on the south side in the schoolhouse and the next week on the reserve.

Forrest: Was that just for native people?

Gagnon: No, for everyone.

Forrest: Were the white people allowed on the reserve?

Gagnon: Yes.

Forrest: Who used to play?

Gagnon: The natives and sometimes the white guys. There was guitars, violins, accordions, whatever. They played any kind of instrument.

Forrest: When you went to a dance, did you take the little kids and everyone else?

Gagnon: On the reserve it was a house dance. They used it for a dance hall and there's a bedroom. That's where all the kids are put. The old people are looking after them.

Forrest: When you had the dances, it wasn't in a community hall? It was in someone's house.

Gagnon: Yes. In Shelly on the south side, it was in the school and the children were left home with the older people.

Forrest: What entertainment was there in Prince George?

Gagnon: They had dances in different halls.

Forrest: Any bingo games back then?

Gagnon: No, that would have been a deadly gamble to them. I don't know when bingo started. It was at the Sacred Heart Auditorium in the sixties.

Forrest: When did you have the movie theatres?

Gagnon: I remember the Strand when it was on George Street.

Forrest: Did you attend any of the movies there?

Gagnon: No. One time all the parents were in the Chinese restaurant. We were down by the drug store going to get ice cream cones. We were coming back. We wondered what was in this great big building. We heard people talking and singing. We sneaked in through the doorway. There was a stage with live people. It wasn't a picture show. It wasn't too interesting so we went back to where they were waiting for us. That's the only time I remember seeing that. Later on the Strand Theatre was up on Third. We went to the show once a year and that was the First of July. For ten cents you could sit through three shows.

Forrest: What do you remember about them?

Gagnon: It was a movie with no sound. You had to read it and had to be fast to read what they were saying. It was Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy.

Forrest: Can you repeat that? Before Moffat and Lyon Street was in, we used to go up there and pick. It had been a town, Central Fort George. I remember seeing the big water tank on top of the hill somewhere around where the bridge crosses. Later on in the years it burned or they knocked it down. There was board walks for streets. This was all new growth. When we moved up from Aleza Lake, we were on Moffat Street in 1959. There was a gravel pit where the bridge crosses from the Hart Highway. People were talking about shopping centre there. I wondered how they would put a shopping centre in the bush.

Forrest: That would be Spruceland that would be developed and out to the new Nechako bridge. When your children were young, where did you attend church?

Gagnon: The first church I remember attending was on Twentieth going down to the park on Queensway. Maybe around Gorse Street. Later on they built a new Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart, where the new Cathedral is now on Patricia. The kids and I went to that church. When I was living in Shelly, my kids went to the Shelly Church on the Hart Highway side of the river.

Forrest: That one had a lot of destruction at one time.

Gagnon: Somebody asked me what is a first word that a child comes out with. Some would say mom or dad. I would say no. It depends on what you teach them. All the little ones I had from the time they were babies, I had them say a little prayer. I would say it for them and by the time they were able to talk, they'd almost comes out with the words.

Forrest: What would the prayer be?

Gagnon: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph give you my heart and soul. "As they got older I would add a little more until they would finish about six lines. The first word my kids came out with was Jesus as this is what I daily said to them every morning and every night from the time they were little babies. Today all I hear is Mom and Dad and that's their first word. It would be more Mom as Mom is always with them.

Forrest: Can you start the story about coming down the river on a raft with the meat? Were you on the raft?

Gagnon: A raft is made bigger than the canoe. The canoes go ahead with men hunting but all the meat and supplies are on the raft. It floats down the river and we are all on it.

Forrest: Where would you have been coming from?

Gagnon: Goat River and different rivers. They used to call one river Big Salmon which is called MacGregor now.When they come to the portage, we get off the raft that is tied to the shore and I don't know what happens. The next thing we are an the raft again.

Forrest: You must have been quite young?

Gagnon: Yes. The next time we are in South Fort George and Grannie and my mother are hanging the meat up to dry. They would have a bunch of salmon drying also.

Forrest: That would be where she lived off Queensway?

Gagnon: My mother and my aunts were fishing at the time.

Forrest: The men were with you then, your Dad?

Gagnon: No, my uncle and the older people. It was older people  with their grandchildren.

Forrest: Do you remember the weather being different than what it is now?

Gagnon: There was more snow and colder, lower temperatures maybe forty below, sometimes fifty below. You get used to the cold when it first starts and by the time the real cold hits, it doesn't bother you.

Forrest: In closing is there anything that you would like to see with the pioneer tapes or the History Society do a study or research?

Gagnon: That would be nice.

Forrest: In what area?

Gagnon: Especially around the Interior.