From an interview by Lee J. Phillips, 1973
Cross-posted: 15-016: Alexeis Gauthier
Alexeis Gauthier was born in 1903 and has lived all his life in the Moberly Lake area. He didn’t go to school as none was available. His mother was part Cree and Beaver Indian and his father was Cree. Years ago most of the Indians around Moberly Lake were Beaver Indians. Mrs. Gauthier is 65 years old and speaks Cree. Mrs. Gauthier belonged to the Callioux family. She was a sister of Mrs. Willie McLean, Marcelina Desjarlais, Pete Callioux, and others. .
Alexeis Gauthier still owns and traps a line on Tuscola Mountain that his dad owned and trapped on. For years they crossed the Sukunka River in a dugout canoe even in high waters and this method was used till recent years. In fact I watched the two younger boys by the lights of my car late on an evening in spring of 1960 cross in this fashion at Twidwell Bend. I nearly had heart failure but they were unconcerned as it “was all in a day.”
Alexeis and Florence Gauthier raised a large family — Johnny (who has been Chief on the Reserve), Oliver, Norman George, Howard and Eddie, and girls Bertha, Nancy, Joy and Lorella.
As the boys grew up they became very active and well known in Rodeo circuits and always gave a very good accounting of themselves at many a Rodeo. However a sad note struck and Norman was crippled for life at a rodeo in the 1960’s, and had to be in a wheel chair.
George had the misfortune to lose a leg in a logging accident at Boucher Lake during the 1960’s. However if you see him walk you would never guess from the slight limp he has the disability of an artificial limb. I can remember him saying he’d still ride –this just shows an unbeaten spirit — and he drives his car well.
Johnny has a large family and lives on the reserve. His son Jimmy has made a name for himself on the Rodeo circuit too. Oliver also lives at Moberly and has a large family. Howard, Eddie and George make their homes on the reserve too when the necessity of finding work away from home permits. Bertha and Fred Letendre raised a large family at Chetwynd but they are scattered wherever making a living dictates. Nancy (Mrs. Spiers) and Joy (Mrs. Grunwald) live on farms at Progress and are actively engaged in Gymkhana with their children. The Grunwalds have three of the prettiest and nicest girls you could meet anywhere. Loretta sticks closer to home.
When asked if he knew Chief Wabi, Alexeis said he had spent a lot of time with him as a boy. He lived at Bond Siding and at the last at Arras. He lived by himself. He never spoke English, just Cree.
“He was just like an old Swede, blonde hair and blue eyes and always had tales to tell”, is the way Alexeis described him. He [Wabi] told stories many years ago of men digging holes for oil (seismograph) and of a dam on the Peace River that was going to be.
Alexeis said, “How did he know? He must have dreamed it. It is hard to believe, as there was no one working at that time and they never knew anything about these things, and he told us all about it”.
When asked if he knew Mr. Twidwell he said, “Yes, he’d spent a lot of time with him as a boy too, when he lived at Baker’s cabin, and he trapped with him lots of times.”
He told of his wife and himself taking a dog-team to trap in the mountains — they were living at Jack Fish Lake at this time. They made a camp three miles from Mr. Twidwell’s cabin, and then went to visit him. There was no sign of him or his dogs anywhere. Alexeis said he felt sure he [Twidwell] must be dead, as there was six inches of snow [on the porch] and the cabin was locked on the inside.
Alexeis tried to call him and realized he’d have to be strong to get in. After awhile he heard him [Twidwell] open the door so he could get in. Mr. Twidwell had three dogs inside with him and they’d been inside for two weeks. He’d just been laying there — no fire and no wood. He’d rolled himself in a blanket. His feet were swollen up, as apparently he had been logging before and had foot trouble and then he froze them.
Alexeis tried to talk to Mr. Twidwell and tell him he’d take him home, but he believed he was going to die. Finally Alexeis explained to him that he had good dogs and a toboggan. He built a fire and got some wood and water for morning.
Alexeis finally got him out of the cabin and took him across the snow three or four miles on the south side of the Sukunka to his camp. They stayed there four days before going to Middle Forks in the afternoon about three o’clock.
He could hardly walk but wanted to pay me some money he had buried in a can under the dirt floor of his cabin. This was money made from trapping.
Alexeis refused to accept and told him he’d help him as long as he could–saying “I’m not hard up and as long as I can walk I can help.” The next morning he left home again as he got a horse to ride. Someone else went with him and they left for the hospital in Pouce Coupe.