DHC: Today we are interviewing Mr. Dave Calliou who is one of the oldest- timers in the country, and we’ll ask him to tell his own story.
Calliou: I was six months old when the old man pulled in here, and ever since then I’ve been here.
DHC: And was that around Grande Prairie?
Calliou: Well, no. This side of Grande Prairie . . . Flying Shot.
DHC: How did it get its name?
Calliou: Flying Shot? Years ago, you know, there was a lot geese and ducks there. Us people, we shot the ducks and geese when they’re flying.
DHC: Were your people the first people to settle there?
Calliou: I don’t know who is the first of the white man, but there was nothing but us people you know . . . . . Like myself, that’s not an Indian. We always called myself a breed, half-breed.
DHC: So then you are part white?
Calliou: Yah . . . .
DHC: Cree? Were you Cree, or what tribe of Indians?
Calliou: Well, my old man, he’s part French.
Calliou’s Son: Cree, Cree Indian, Cree. The other side is Cree Indian.
DHC: Somebody told me that your family is part Iroquois — the Indians from the eastern part of Canada. Like Jack Thomas, for instance — he’s part Iroquois.
Calliou: Well, I don’t know exactly, at all. My grandfather came from northern Manitoba. Cree, Cree Indians then. That’s where he started from. With a wagon. That’s how come that he kill the grizzly, and there’s where it’s wrong too, that, story about the people being behind him. It wasn’t him — it was his brother, his half-brother, that was with the old man when he was hunting horses, and they had this dog that he had with him all the time, he heard this dog barking and he said, “You stay here; wait for me with the horses.” He got out with his gun – a muzzle-loader at that time; now you can sling those guns that he had. Now he went a few feet and he seen this bear coming towards him. He had no chance to run. He didn’t have a chance to run! The kid had followed him and the kid yelled, “Dad, he’s going to get you.” So the kid jumped behind a tree and when he did this, well, the dog grabbed the bear, and of course that’s something a grizzly is scared of — a dog. Of course when he reaches over the old man with — but then he always carried . . . big knife; slashed the bear in the guts; four times he done that before the bear dropped. And then he got on the horse and went to the nearest camp of Indians that were camped there. I heard my grandfather tell this many times. He went over here and said “I’ve killed a bear,” and he said, “Do you fellows want it?” He said, “I don’t want it.” And the Indians said, Yah, he’d killed him all right, he said.
How many times did you stab him? He said “Three times.” But he was wrong; he stabbed him four times, that’s how scared he was. So that’s where that story was wrong in that book
ou can ask anyone – any old people – any at Kelly Lake, I guess, or different parts of the Peace River Country and they’ll all tell you that same story. He did kill this grizzly with his knife.
Son: The old fellows, they’re all gone. Yah, but we know that some of the older ladies …
Calliou: Yah, specially the older ones.
Son: But it’s a known fact, with the old people.
DHC: Where did that fight take place? In Manitoba, was it, where he killed the bear? Or up here?
Calliou: No, no, that’s between here and Manitoba, on the way coming down. . . . with a team and wagon, that’s the way they moved up here.
DHC: What is the truth about their starting out from as far away as Manitoba to come up here? Did they know they were coming to the Peace River Country, or were they just traveling to see what was ahead?
Calliou: Well, now, you’ve read enough books, and you’ve read enough about the Indians and studied enough about them to know that when a certain area is trapped out or hunted out they let that go. They keep moving to where they feel that the fur is and hunting is good, and let that part over here build up again. And this is what they kept doing. As long as there was nobody out west, they kept coming west, as far as I could gather.
DHC:Weren’t there other Indians here? As I understand it, there were the Woods Crees, and the Plains Crees and the ….
Calliou: Well, most of them were, yes.
DHC: Yes, Beavers and some Sikanni, but the Beavers kept the Sikanni out; they were not very friendly. I often wondered why the Eastern people came. I have heard that it was because of the Northwest Rebellion – the Riel Rebellion, and that, when they started out from Manitoba, they were running away. Some say that they were running away because they had been involved and were afraid of being punished. Others said they were getting out of there because they had tried to create a settlement and a government and a good way of living and the rebellion upset their plans. Were they in disgrace, and so they didn’t want to live there any more? They just moved on?
Calliou: Well, as you know, each place that the Indians at that time, you still see it, each place that the Indians goes to, one place is Flying Shot, as you’ve got two families, that was where they settled. There was a lot of game and trapping south of there towards the Wapiti, and geese and ducks as you say.
You see, they flew across from…. There’s a string of lakes — Bear Lake and Flying Shot, etc. There’s a string of lakes and these ducks and geese just flew across, and these people, stayed, O.K.? The white man came along and wanted to move in there, which they did. To get away from them we’d keep moving, keep moving. And that’s how they were moving.
Now, you’ll find them as far as the end of Moberly Lake, and you’ll find them at Kelly Lake. They can’t go any further, there’s no place else, and pretty soon they’ll be pushed out of there too, so that’s the whole story, that’s how they keep moving.
DHC:I’ve been down to Kelly Lake. I don’t see why they are going to have to move out again. It seems that they are making a pretty good permanent settlement there.
Calliou: Well, it has been there as far as I can remember. There’s been a settlement there, but now I think it will happen. Somebody with a lot of money — some syndicate with a lot of money — will come in there and will say, “Well, this is a good parking area so we’ll give that guy five hundred dollars for his little place and if he doesn’t sell– you know, this is the way, it’ll be taken over, in due time. When this country — when this city of Dawson Creek and a few other cities are populated to the point where they need recreation. That’s where they’re starting now.
DHC: At One-Island Lake and places like that?
Calliou: And, and they’ll go in there, and, like I said, people with money will gobble it up. They’ll have the whole thing and of course, the Indian — I don’t know where he’s going to go this time. I mean probably just out in the sticks, I don’t know. As you know, the Indian’s way of living is hunting. In fact, right to this day this is what they know and so therefore they’ve got to go someplace where they can get hunting to make a living. This is the whole thing, I mean the poor Indian has never been taught how to put a plow in the ground or to watch and see the potato grow. He was never taught that. They were just told, “Here’s a square piece of land. Make a living there.” They don’t know, they don’t like that; they don’t know.
Son: They don’t even know how many acres.
Calliou: No, they don’t know an acre from just a piece of ground, eh.
DHC: When they took reserves, I don’t think it was made clear to the Indian, and I don’t think the Indian understood, that he was supposed to settle down there and keep a cow and some pigs and make fields. I don’t know what he was giving up. They gave him five dollars or ten dollars. He didn’t understand what a reserve meant.
Calliou: No, that was before the reserves.
DHC: Your people weren’t on treaty, were you?
Calliou: Oh, no.
DHC: You’ve never been on treaty.
DHC: Around Lac Ste. Ann, before you people left there, were they on treaty? Or was that just like homesteads?
Calliou: That’s what was called a Free Grant.
DHC: Oh, it was a grant of land. Special pieces to special people or just a large area in which everybody lived?
Son: No, no, the thing what you’re saying is, no, they were never on, his father and so on, back were never on a reserve. Never were. What he’s talking about now is pre-emption. It’s land that they got besides the homestead. They could pick a homestead and afterwards they got what we call a pre-emption, another chunk of land, possibly another quarter.
DHC: That’s the way we did in Saskatchewan.
Son: Well, that’s what he’s talking about now.
DHC: So you owned your own land.
Calliou: And I’m going to ask you something now. The first white man come up in this country, the first white man we seen, can you tell me what’s his name?
DHC: Well, the first one that came through here that I know of was George Dawson (Calliou chuckles) but that doesn’t say that there weren’t white men before him. They must have come in from Dunvegan and others, but he’s the first one that is recorded.
Calliou: Recorded here, then.
Son: Billy English.
Calliou: Billy English, the first white man we seen in this country.
DHC: Well, who was he?
Calliou: Billy English.
DHC: Billy English. Well,. when did he come? Before Dawson?
Calliou: Oh, yes, Oh, yes. Before this town, before Grande Prairie, into the Grande Prairie area.
DHC: Dawson came in 1879. Well, there was no Grande Prairie then and no Dawson Creek, but there must have been trapping.
Calliou: Oh, yes.
DHC: So there must have been trappers in here. What about old Pouce Coupe?
Calliou: Heh. Couldn’t tell you.
DHC: I’ve got several different stories about him, but we was not a man from around MacLeod Lake. That man never was here. Some people try to tell me that he is the Pouce Coupe that the village is named after. He was never here, and our Pouce Coupe was never over there. He was a Beaver Indian. I just wondered if you knew about him.
Calliou: I don’t remember. There was a lot of Beaver Indians in this country.
DHC: Did you ever know Wolf, the one they called Wolf? What kind of man was he?
DHC: He was a Beaver? Was he as bad as he was made out to be in the book about “The Untamed Beaver Indians”? It made out that Wolf was a terrible person, but some people who lived east of Pouce Coupe knew Wolf and said he was a good fellow, a good man, a good hunter. He had six wives.
Calliou: Must have been a good man! (Laughter)
DHC: If he was a good hunter he needed all those women to do packing and to make the leather and keep up with him. Now then, your family lived at Lac Ste. Ann. What happened there? Did it get too crowded? Too many people and so some pulled out and came up this way?
Calliou: No, they heard that there was a good hunting place, good trapping country. That’s why they come here, from Lac Ste. Ann.
DHC: And I gathered from the book that you were reading, that your people seemed even then to be ranchers. Did you go into cattle, horses, or mostly trapping, or what?
Calliou: Oh, we had some horses and cattle, and in the wintertime, trapping.
DHC: I’ve heard that when some of the white people came in here, very early, the Indian people were raising good cattle. Black Angus — really good cattle — not just scrubs. They were really ranching and making a living for themselves.
Calliou: Oh, yes. That’s not the custom of the treaty Indians and Beaver.
DHC: As far as I know, the Beaver Indians weren’t ranchers.
Calliou: No, they weren’t.
DHC: But the half-breeds were.
DHC: Um-hm. Did you have a large herd? Did you run lots of cattle?
Cal: Oh, during that time we had about 60 head I would say.
DHC: That’s a fair-sized ranch. And did you do guiding and that sort of thing?
DHC: With the big surveying parties and Mounted Police and so on?
Cal: Hunters from outside come up here to hunt, and I worked for them . . . for three years I think. . . . . .
DHC: Did you like that kind of life?
Cal: Oh, yes, because that’s what I was doing ever since I was a kid.
Son: He worked for a Mr. Brooks out at Wembly, Carl Brooks, he was killed in an airplane just out of Porcupine Lake there. My father was with one outfit of hunters and Brooks the other. They used to fly the hunters into Porcupine Lake and that’s where Carl finally got killed. They just overloaded the plane.
Cal: You know they had different outfits; and Brooks ran one outfit, and I ran the other one; they had three outfits.
DHC: Did you have any big adventures?
Cal: Yah, that’s going back, those years
DHC: Did you work with Sundermann?
Son: That was me.
Cal: Yes, that was you.
DHC: Who was it? Kelly Sundermann, that went out, or was hired to go to find that young fellow who tried to walk over to Prince George around 1930? That was Kelly Sundermann wasn’t it? But I’ve not been able to find out anything about Sundermann.
Cal: See, both him and his brother, got to be an outfitter too. Sid Sundermann, but he was never as well known as Kelly. Everybody knew Kelly. During the war when sugar and everything was rationed I used to come with Kelly here to pick up sugar behind these hotels here — hundred pounds bags, you know. Just so he’s have enough for the trip, because you couldn’t buy sugar over the counter. You had to have tickets.
DHC: I was the ration officer at that time here. I had to give out the tickets.
Cal: Is that right?
DHC: And that was quite a job.
Cal: Well, the war started in 1939 or ’40. In ’42 I worked for Kelly. During the time I worked, there was the one thing I found. There was a difference between a white man and an Indian public. What hotel it was I don’t know, but he bought a brand-new pick-up. I done the driving so he said “Pull the truck behind the hotel” he said, “I’m getting a hundred pounds of sugar.” Okay, we went into the hotel — in back of the hotel — I went to pick up this hundred pounds of sugar to carry it across to the other side of the street to put it in the truck. The guy that gave it to him said, “No, don’t let him do it.” He said to the boss, “You take it,” The boss said, “Why?” “Well,” he said, “If he takes it, the people will notice and they’ll think he’s stealing.” If you take it’ll be all right. That’s right, that’s no lie, that’s right. They didn’t trust the Indian at all. What I’m saying is, they wanted Kelly to carry it across there so’s he wouldn’t be noticed, but if I carried it I’d be noticed. Sure.”
DHC: Well, you know when we first came here in 1936, the Indians used to come in from Kelly Lake and from the west. As I recall, I don’t think there was any feeling against them, I think they were self-supporting. They were treated like white men by Harper, and the Co-op, weren’t they?
Cal: Well, by Harper and a lot of guys. Don’t forget Mr. Harper was here a long time. He was in business and one thing I will say about that Harper, I think, he knew that your money or mine was just the same and that’s how he used people.
DHC: That’s what I thought. I know, there were several Indian families.
Cal: How many, how many business men or people are you going to find like Mr. Harper? Now you take my cousins, Joe, Pete, Sam, Johnny. When they came here in the spring, summer, anytime, if they wanted money they went to Harper. There was not one of them boys that ever went to school; not one of them could read or write, but old Harper gave them money, and in the winter they came back with furs. I think he done a lot of business that way.
DHC: I’ve understood that.
Cal: But you don’t find, you don’t find the people like that every day, do you?
DHC: Well, my husband was in Bissett’s hardware. He operated or managed Bissett’s hardware at that time, and he said that the people he watched in the store were the white men. Bissett did business with the Indians, and I understood that he gave them credit and trusted them for they were self-supporting and good citizens.
Cal: Well, this was true. Again, this is true, that the Welfare system spoiled the present generation and maybe the generation before, I don’t know. Now you take the average Indian, (and I don’t mind saying it), they have no — they have no self-respect. They don’t care as long as — I’ve talked to different people, different businessmen. Well. they want something for nothing. That’s what it looks like, they want something for nothing.
DHC: Isn’t that true of the white people too?
Cal: This is true, but again that does not come to the surface. Like I say, you can carry anything across here from one building to another and nobody would notice you but if I go they’ll all see me. They’ll all think I stole it. Now why is that?
DHC: That’s a good question. I don’t know. In know that I went to school with an Indian family — I came from Saskatchewan. It was still the Northwest Territories when I came. I went to school with a family named the Gregorys. They were half-breeds but the only difference that we saw, was that Joe and Fred Gregory could out-run any white boy that was put up against him; they were all athletic and all fine people. I grew up with them. I don’t think I have any prejudice. But that’s not to say that if somebody comes along drunk and robs my place — white or Indian — I’d not get mad.
Cal: The first white men that we seen in this country was Nicholson and Billy English …
DHC: Nicholson and Billy English? . . . . .and where did they live, around Flying Shot or Grande Prairie? Were they trappers?
Cal: I think so . . . . . . . .
DHC: And where did they have their main camp.
Cal: Pretty close to Grande Prairie, I think. . . . . . .
DHC: Now what year would that be? That would be away back near 1900, wouldn’t it?
Cal: . . . Yes . . . I was pretty young. That is why, in the place. . .
DHC: I must put that down, I haven’t heard that before … And that would be about what year?
Cal: I’m eighty-six year old?
DHC: Well, the police had come through north of here somewhat. Inspector Snyder and, I forget the other one, they had come through the country on their way to Fort St. John and then up north to make the Fort St. John trails to the Yukon, and that was 1898, ’99. But then they didn’t stay, they went right on through. And Jack Thomas — or, did you know Napoleon Thomas?
DHC: I want to get his story, you see, so many people say that Tremblays were the first here. They weren’t. They were perhaps the first family to settle around Pouce Coupe but from what I can make out, the Napoleon Thomas family were here before Tremblay ever came to this country. In the police records of 1898 it mentions that Inspector Snyder had a guide from Sturgeon Lake up to Fort St. John and then that guide went back to Sturgeon Lake. The police party wouldn’t go on from Fort St. John further north unless they could get Napoleon Thomas to guide for them. It’s in the record there that Napoleon Thomas was the best hunter in the whole country, so they sent for him. He was living down here towards Dawson Creek; he went up to Fort St. John and he said, “No, he wouldn’t go with the police because his children were sick.” He said, “I can’t leave,” so they gave him medicine for his children and he returned to Fort St. John. Apparently the family came with him that time. He agreed to go, but he said he wanted ninety dollars a month; and ninety dollars a month in those days were big wages.
Cal: That’s a lot of money . . .
DHC: And he said, “Well, he could make more money than that trapping. He wouldn’t go unless they paid him ninety dollars a month.”
Cal: He probably could, too, because at that time there was a lot of fur.
DHC: So he went . . . . . This was good hunting here, so they said. I spoke to his son, Jack Thomas in the hospital one time — my husband and he were in the same room. He said, “Oh, yes, my father was the person who guided the Mounted Police party and they went on up to the Yukon and across to Alaska and down the coast. They came back by way of Vancouver and, oh, yes, they were — he’d traveled. The police spoke of him very highly, the Thomas family.”
I don’t know whether he was Cree or Iroquois, but it is recorded that he was part Iroquois. I thought that you might be related. But they came from Lac Ste. Anne. As far as I’m concerned, they were the first family here. He took a homestead out west of town, he squatted for a long time and then eventually he took homestead.
Cal: I can’t look that far back, specially around here, I don’t know.
DHC: Before I put it down in writing, I want to know if your people were ahead of them.
Cal: Yes, . . . . we were. [Mr. Calliou stated that his people were in this area before Napoleon Thomas came.]