GABRIEL LAPRETE : My name is Gabriel Laprete. I was born in Peace River, in 1907, on the eighth of October. I know that my granddad came from down East someplace — I don’t know where. He never told me anything. I came about thirteen and a half miles north of Hythe at Valhalla, Alberta. There I took a quarter of land and stayed there about sixteen years, until I got hurt. I had gone to work at mile 110, Alaska Highway, about five years until I got hurt. I had to go to Vancouver to get an operation and after that, when I came back, I went over to Alberta to work for a few months, and then went to Chetwynd where I worked for quite a while until I sawed my face with a power saw. Sawed three of my teeth out besides. Then I worked again, about five years, in the sawmill in Chetwynd. When I got hurt again and my heart started bothering me. Where I got hurt at Mile 110 still bothered me so that I couldn’t lift. So I couldn’t work any more. I was in Alberta when they started the Alaska Highway, but I wasn’t here yet — not even when the explosion went. I’ve been here about twenty years now.
RICK BELCOURT : When you were young did you trap?
GABRIEL LAPRETE : Oh yes! I trapped, at Notikewin, up the Hotchkiss River. They called it Battle River when I was up there. When the Flu came, when I first saw Notikewin, Charlie Brown had a trading post, in 1918. I got the flu there. If it wasn’t for Charlie I don’t think I’d be here today. He sure was a good man. Already, at that age (11 years) I had begun to trap muskrats. My dad had died when I was seven years old — so I was told — and my mother when I was ten. I was adopted by Emile Desjarlais, my dad’s uncle. My great-grandmother looked after me because Emile was a single man then, and lived with his mother about one mile up the river from where the old Catholic Mission was, about nine miles up the river from Peace River Town. That’s where I got my schooling — in the Mission there. From there we moved to Notikewin and Emile got a quarter of land there. In those days they called the rivers the First Battle, the Second Battle and the Third Battle. We used to trap up the Third — now I think that’s called Hotchkiss.
We had cabins up there. The first winter we didn’t had no cabins, we lived in a tipi. The next winter we had one cabin, but we lived in a tent about five miles away. In them days fur was quite high. There were quite a few lynx and beaver. That was how we made our living.
RICK BELCOURT : If you got hurt or sick on the trail what kind of medicine did they use?
GABRIEL LAPRETE : The man that adopted me — his dad was a medicine man. He had kinds of herbs. I knew we had bags of moosehide sewn together, or big bags of bear hides or beaver, and had them filled up with herbs. Ever since I can remember they used to take me around the Peace River hills and tell me what this and that was good for. There were different herbs for different occasions and ailments. They always had something. For instance, one time when we went to school, I was told that I had T.B. So my great-grandmother used to boil me a bunch of herb’s. I used them for about a year, and I got over it. I’ve had lots of x-rays taken and my lungs are real good.
RICK BELCOURT : Can you remember some of those herb’s?
GABRIEL LAPRETE : Yes. Yes. I remember them all.
RICK BELCOURT : What did they call them in Cree?
GABRIEL LAPRETE : (Hesitates) I can’t remember their names but Daniel Supernault might know. I don’t think I should say what they are.
RICK BELCOURT: When you were trapping, what did the women do?
GABRIEL LAPRETE : They used to tan hides, and sew moccasins and vests to sell. Emile Desjarlais got married after awhile. His wife used to do a lot of those things. Coats were a good price. That’s what they used to do, besides the housework. They used to go out in the bush, too. Every fall we would go out hunting. It wasn’t like it is today. You kill only one or two moose, but in those days you would get maybe four or five moose, dry all that meat, and that would do us for winter.
RICK BELCOURT : How did your women dry meat?
GABRIEL LAPRETE : I know how to dry meat. I’ve dried lots of meat and tanned moose hides myself, and made moccasins, but in the old way. The fellow that adopted me learned how to make his own moccasins in the bush. I had to learn those things when I was young so that we couldn’t get stuck when we were in the bush. I still can tan hides.