We came in across the Swan Hills in the wagons, with horses and a few head of cattle. We forded all them rivers, except at Athabasca there was a ferry. I’ve never moved very far from Grouard, except when working on the railroad, or hauling mail to Whitefish, or for little outfits here I do a little carpenter work.
Interviewer: How did you haul the mail?
P. Belcourt: With horses. I haul mail about seven years. I worked for Frank Belrose, couple of years after that for Arne Anderson hauling mail from Grouard to Whitefish Lake.
Interviewer: Who was buying furs here?
P. Belcourt: The Hudson Bay. A guy by the name of Guy, – his father-in-law is named Monroe. The Hudson Bay burned down over here on the top of the hill, below the Mission, so they moved a store over there, right in front of my place, but it burned down again. After that they quit.
Interviewer: What about this land? Was it owned by the Indian people before you guys came?
P. Belcourt: Well, not exactly, but afterwards I heard quite a bit. Like where I live, Frank St. Roger used to own it years ago. Then there was a big town in Grouard. After that the railroad went across the other way, from High Prairie, and Grouard was broke. Everybody quit Grouard. No more horse freighting to Sturgeon Lake, Whitefish Lake, Peace River. The railroad took everything.
Interviewer: How did Grouard get its name?
P. Belcourt: The first bishop was here was Grouard, and after that they called it Grouard.
Interviewer: At one time the Indians used to come here and get treaty, didn’t they?
P. Belcourt: Oh yes.
Interviewer: What tribe of Indians were they?
P. Belcourt: Oh, just these Sucker Greek people – and Cree. Across the bridge they used to have a camp. Old Laird was Indian Agent at that time. He used to live below here. Four, five, six men with packhorses used to go around and pay treaty – people came here from all over for Treaty money. No cars that time – no airplanes – just dog-team and pack horse.
Interviewer: What did you guys do for entertainment?
P. Belcourt: Well – we had horses – we trapped. But everything was cheap that time. A hundred pounds of flour was $2.50, $2.25. In those days you had to have a couple of packhorses or a wagon to take home $30 worth. Now you can put it in your watch pocket. That’s right.
Interviewer: How did you get your land?
P. Belcourt: I bought it from government. See. The government took the land back from those guys who lost it by the taxes, so I just paid the taxes. I got 77 acres, and I got title for it.
Interviewer: Do you know anything abut Calihapon?
P. Belcourt: Oh, I used to see him quite a lot, but he died thirty years ago.
Interviewer: Did he once own all this land?
P. Belcourt: That’s what they say. I don’t know how big.
Interviewer: Now, how did the Roman Catholic Church get their land?
P. Belcourt: Wherever they came – they owned the land. Same way the Hudson Bay, whether you homestead the land or not. The first mission was down below here – just a log shack. I remember that. Just a log house. Wherever the mission or church comes, they own the land. They don’t take a homestead or nothing. The Brothers could take homesteads. If the Brothers want to sell that land, they have to sell it to the Mission, they have to sell it for $3, that’s all. They get $3 for their homesteads, 160 acres for $3, that’s all. Now I know that – across the bay there a Mission Brother used to have a place right on top the hill. He sold that to the Mission for $3.
Interviewer: I’d like to buy land for $3!
P. Belcourt: Yeah! I’d buy hundreds of pieces for $3!
Interviewer: Did the Indians give the Mission land.
P. Belcourt: No! The Brothers took land. They had to pay $10 for homesteads, 160 acres. They work on it for the mission, mission horses, mission machinery. And when they finish they got a title for it, and then they just signed their name on the title and gave it to the Mission for $3. They can’t sell it to nobody but the Mission.
Interviewer: What kind of treaty did the Indians make? Where did they all come from?
P. Belcourt: Well, like us, we Metis, – lots of them join in. Any time a woman or a man wants to come out of Treaty, I think they get $500. Then they wipe you off, and you’re Metis again.
Interviewer: Lots of people drifted from Lac Ste. Ann?
P. Belcourt: All over, yes. It is quite a big place all right, – I’ve been there two years ago, and that beach is full of houses. When there was that big meeting two years ago, it was a big place, Lac Ste. Ann. It’s not a town just a summer place — but years ago there were lots of Indian people there. But most of the old people have passed away.
Interviewer: What made them move up here?
P. Belcourt: I don’t know – maybe make better living. Lots of fellows worked on the survey in here. They seen a lot of good land, so they come.
Interviewer: What was your father’s name, and did he know Father Lacombe?
P. Belcourt: His name was Julian. He used to talk a lot about Father Lacombe. I don’t remember him, but I remember Father Lisay. I guess Lacombe died before I was born. My daddy used to talk about him a lot. You should ask old Hamelin – he has a lot to tell.
Interviewer: Yes – I am going to see him. Thank you.