Grandma's Stories
Tupa's Indian Stories and Me

Shelley Marichal

© Copyright 2018 by Shelley Marichal

Photo of Shelley's great grandparents, Francois Suprenault and Sophie Stinweskit.
Francois Suprenault and Sophie Stinweskit., Shelley's great grandparents.


By Shelley dit Versailles, Marichal, Marsel, Bevz

My grandmother was a product of Okanagan and Blackfoot Indian and French background. The wisdom passed on to her from her parents and grandparents transcends time and brings new meaning to my life as I continue to grow and experience the world around me with my own family.

As a child, I used to love to sit and listen to the stories of the past that my grandmother would pass on to me. To my knowledge they have never been written down and have been stored away in my memory of treasures. Whether they are 100% truth, I don’t know and it isn’t important to me. I often reflect back and realize that sometimes she had a glint in her eye with a smile breaking through under her story telling. I am sure that she elaborated on certain details just to see me squirm.

What I have grown to know is that there is truth in everything, just seek it and you will find it. If nothing else, these stories helped pass away what seemed like endless journeys and winters as I was growing up. I also learned valuable life lessons and a healthy respect for nature and animals and how to survive in this ever changing world.

I love my Indian culture and have taken great strides to remembering the values and teachings that have touched my heart and contributed to who I am today.

Berries and Buffalo

I remember growing up in the Lower Similkameen/South Okanagan and living with my grandmother and on this particular occasion we were driving down to Oroville, Washington to see relatives. As we were passing Vaseaux Lake, McIntyre Bluff came into view and I remember being mesmerized by the height and the jagged edges as only a child is. My mouth was hanging open and it was as if I was at the end of the world of this valley with a cliff jutting out in the middle of it.

My grandmother said it was the face of a wise old Indian and couldn’t I see it? I looked and looked and shook my head. My father stopped the beat up old car so that my grandmother could point out the outline along the bluff and sure enough I could see the old man’s face. It took my breath away and that is all it took for my imagination to take off.

That’s not all”, my grandmother added as we climbed back into the car to continue our journey southward. She couldn’t resist and seized the opportunity to tell me her story of the bluff.

As a child she recalled how her people would prepare for the annual buffalo hunt. It was a great event to be celebrated and it required days of preparation and traveling time. The buffalo hunt was an important part of their winter food source. After packing and traveling from what is now known as Cawston, B.C., they would travel over the mountain from Osoyoos to the bluff.

The Indian women and children would set camp near the bottom of the huge cliff. The Braves and young men would prepare for the hunt. The young boys who were on their first hunt would be most excited as this was a chance to prove themselves and gain acceptance into the hunting parties so that they no longer had to be with the women and children.

The women would sharpen their knives and build drying racks out of small branches and trees using willow wisps or leather strappings to bind the racks together. They would use skins and sturdy poles to construct smoking facilities to cure and prepare the meat to last through the winter. The children acted as couriers and everyone was working together in unison to prepare for this great event.

The Indian Braves would herd the buffalo towards the top of the bluff. Once they were cut off from any route of escape, they would create a frenzy of hooting and hollering that frightened and confused the animals. The cacophony resulted in chaos and created a stampede. The buffalo became uncontrollable and charged blindly across the plateau. The sound of the herd was like that of an earthquake. The cliff would rumble so loudly that the women and children below would thank the Great Spirit for a good hunt.

Within minutes and then seconds the sound would die away as the buffalo ran off the end of the precipice not realizing until it was too late, the price for their panic. And then quiet…..until the crashing and smashing of bodies below. Their deaths were almost always instant. If they did not die on impact, my grandmother said the woman were quick to lend a hand, because it is not good for animals too suffer and it will result in poor hunts in the future.

It was a prosperous hunt and a great day! The woman and children would pick and eat the intestines off of the rocks and bushes below she told me. It was a great treat! Then for dessert, they would eat the “olallies” (berries) left unharvested off of the bushes. Mother Nature provided everything fresh and ready!

Then the work would begin as they skinned and gutted the animals, preparing the meat to last the winter without spoiling. Everything was used, nothing was wasted. My grandmother said don’t kill what you don’t eat.

The skins would make great winter clothing, bedding and moccasins. The skins would also be used to store and transport the meat.

It would be a good winter and no one would be hungry.

The Bear and the Tree

I don’t ever remember my grandmother being superstitious, but I do remember her having a great love and respect of nature, an avid outdoors person who never missed an opportunity to hunt, fish and harvest berries, roots, herbs and flowers. She always felt that nature had a lesson to teach us and we must heed its messages and sometimes warnings.

There was a particular time when a bear visited our small, one bedroom dwelling that housed our family of seven, at the time, including grandma and grandpa. We had no running water, but drank and cooked with water we fetched out of the stream that ran not more than 30 feet from our door. The outhouse was the scariest, as at night, we had to go from the back door what seemed like miles to relieve ourselves. I loved the wood heat that emanated from the two old wood stoves we had; one for cooking and one just for heating our humble home.

We had this old wood shed made from homemade strips of coarsely cut lumber made from the trees that had been harvested off of our property. My father and grandpa took an old saw and cut from side to side the full height of the tree to create a very course lumber to use as the wall of the shed. Very often it had game hanging in it to prevent birds and other wild animals from getting to the hard earned meat and spoiling it not to mention thieving our hard earned food.

One particular fall, I remember getting up early and sitting by the stove, warming my feet. We had windows throughout the small quaint home so that we could see outside. I remember glancing out the window and seeing this enormous black bear meandering through the property as if he owned the place. I remember yelling, “grandma, bear, bear”!!! I was fascinated by its slow lethargical swagger, wandering as if it had all the time in the world and wasn’t afraid of anything. It seemed to have huge muscles that bulged with every movement and those claws. I swear they were as long as my fingers. His nose wrinkled every time he sniffed and he gave a huge yawn that showed his enormous teeth that looked like giant fangs that could snap off my head in a single bite.

I looked at my grandmother worried that our deer meat would soon become bear meat as in the bear’s dinner. She didn’t show any fear or concern. We sat quietly and just watched. The bear continued sniffing around and continued to the edge of our property and lazily stretched itself to full height up against a tree. I watched and wondered what the heck is he doing? Didn’t he know that there was fresh meat in the shed? What a stupid bear? He was missing out on a free meal.

The bear began scratching down the side of the tree. I really thought by this time, he was out of his mind and now was our chance to get the gun out and shoot him! My grandmother hushed me and said just wait and watch. He continued scratching the tree until the bark was gone which only took about three strokes. Then he lowered himself to the ground in one sweeping motion and appeared to stop and glance our way. Time seemed to stand still for an eternity as I held my breath. It was as if he was looking deep into my soul and suddenly I wasn’t afraid. Then he turned and headed back towards the creek and up towards the mountain.

I asked my grandma, “What happened?” She asked me if I learned anything. I said “no”, and I didn’t understand why she was asking me about learning given this current crisis. Well, it turns out that I learned that I did not have to kill out of fear. I must be patient and see what the outcome is and never act out of panic unless absolutely pressed to defend myself. She went on to tell me that the bear had claimed our property and us as its territory. It was a very special gift. He was now our protector and that we should never kill or eat a bear. Since then, I have visited many Indian communities and I cannot even fathom eating bear meat as some do. It would be like eating my cat or dog.

This experience has resonated with me my entire life. Later, I had asked my father about the incident and he smiled and said, he wasn’t sure about my grandmother’s interpretation of the story, but had once killed a bear and would never do so again. When I asked him why, he told me that because after he had skinned and hung the meat, it so much resembled a man that he quickly disposed of and buried the carcass. He would never hunt bear again, let alone eat it!

The Healer and the Bee

It seems we never truly appreciate people and their gifts until they have left us and we have the time to reflect on how they impacted our lives.

My grandmother was truly a gifted person and she was a natural healer. I recall as a child standing on a chair doing dishes in the kitchen as I was too short to reach the taps or into the sink. On this particular day, I was just finishing washing the dishes and had turned off the tap (We had purchased a new home down the road that had running water). I didn’t feel anything land or crawling on my skin as I was finishing up. As I went to get down from the chair, I heard a crunch and felt something squish behind my knee as I came down off the chair.

That was when I felt it. The sting, the pain….I screamed. As I stood on the floor the bee was trapped still attached to its stinger on the part of my leg that is directly behind my knee. I was yelling and screaming as if I was dying. My mother came barreling around the corner and quickly saw the problem. She grabbed the bee and pulled it out, the stinger remained stuck in my leg. My leg starting swelling, and then my body. She quickly stashed me in the car and we headed to Penticton. The hospital was about 35 to 40 minutes away from where we lived.

We made it to the hospital and the doctors gave me something to help with the swelling and then sent me home. All seemed to be well, but then the swelling started again the next day. We went back to see the doctor again and he tried something else then sent me home. The next day the swelling continued again. This scenario played out almost daily over the next two weeks until we went to see my Grandma.

She told my mom and dad to send the girl to me tonight and I will take care of the wound. So I made it through the day and went to spend the night with her. I will try to recall as well as I can what she did to me or for me, but I still can’t quite figure it out or truly understand everything that happened that night.

She had made for me a bed of ice. I was made to lie on this bed of ice forever it seemed. She then had some herbs on a stick that she burned over and under me. After I cried because the cold ice was more than I could bear she finally let me get up and off the ice bed. I lay on my stomach as she applied a salve to the area where the stinger had penetrated my leg. She then wrapped it with some soft gauze. Finally, I was permitted to sleep on a warm and comfortable couch by the fire.

I awoke fairly late the next morning at about 11:00 am. I can remember, all of the swelling being gone. She told me I could not bend my leg, or ride my bike for at least three days. The intense itching and redness were gone. I obeyed her as I was taught to do and sure enough within the week, the leg was healed and the swelling had stopped. I truly believed my grandmother was a witch that had performed her magic on me. I remember having nightmares after that of her wearing a black outfit with a pointed hat, flying on a broom, silhouetted against the moon.

As a child, I looked back on that night and hated it. The ice made me so cold I ached. The burning scents and her strange murmurings had scared the daylights out of me. I also remember that I was healed. She was able to accomplish what the doctors could not. I used to tell my grandmother that this was her voodoo magic, because I could not comprehend what she had done to my leg to heal me especially since modern medicine did not have a solution.

As I grew older and began to see things in a different light, I realize that she probably used some of her herbs and flowers to create a salve that was able to bring down the swelling and extract the poison and the stinger that was still lodged in my leg.

My respect for her and her stature have grown immensely as I truly understand that her magical abilities were actual natural healing talents that need to be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Olalla and the Olallies

The early years of my childhood were spent in a small village called Olalla. This is eventually where my great great great grandfather, a Métis and his Blackfoot wife had settled and established a ranch and later a sawmill with their son, Joseph and his Okanagan Indian Wife, Julia. I never thought much about the name as it had always been there and I had grown up with it. As a matter of fact, I can remember the first time I realized the place that I lived had a name and that it was named after the berries we used to harvest every year.

My grandmother told me to get prepared to go pick berries one day. I asked her what kind of berries we were going to pick. She told me olallies. I was confused. I remember that I was very young and white people or settlers called the berries saskatoons, huckleberries, salmon berries, etc., but I had never heard of olallies. I remember asking her if the berries were named after the town, but she told me that the town was made after the berries.

I thought she was pulling my leg and teasing me with one of her stories. It was not long after that I learned that the Buffalo Berry (Olallie) was one and the same and she had not been stringing me along this time. The Indians had used it to garnish their buffalo meat. My grandmother used to whip it with water and call it Indian Ice Cream because it would work up a light frothy substance. She told me it was great Indian medicine for every sickness you could imagine from something as severe as a heart attack to simple indigestion. She said pregnant women would eat the berry to induce labour and expedite the birth process.

In my adult life and upon relocation to North Central British Columbia, I soon learned that this same berry was called the soap berry. Today it is canned and given as gifts and sold to tourists who can’t seem to get enough of it. I know that it is one of my favourite desserts and I can’t get enough.

As for its medicinal purposes, I have learned that my grandmother’s wisdom in the field of natural medicines was incredible. I have begun to grow, gather and harvest the same berries, flowers, twigs, herbs, leaves and tree bark to prepare her recipes and utilize her natural healing skills. I use these regularly in my own families’ daily medicinal needs to find that they work very effectively without the need for antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs that can be costly and ineffective.

Fish in Hands

As a child growing up in the Okanagan and not in school yet, I found myself with what seemed to be a lot of time on my hands. I remember I would wander outside trying to entertain myself in my environment accompanied by a pet such as a dog, cat or whatever we might have rescued at the time.

This particular day was a warm spring day. The run off from the snow was creating high water in the creeks and rivers. There was also an abundance of fish as the banks were lined with dead trees and eroded banks where the fish would hide and eat off the vegetation and insects that came their way.

I remember building myself a little pool of rocks with an opening so that the fish could get in and not out. As a child, I had little patience, and soon got tired of watching and waiting for a fish to get caught in my trap. I soon made the decision that if I did not catch a fish and put it in my trap I might never get to see it work and that was not going over so well with me as I had worked so hard to build my pond and I wanted to show off to my grandmother.

I waded through the stream to a spot where the water did not run too swiftly. I made sure that it was close to the dead wood, and the branches hung over the water shading it, making it a nice relaxing home for the fish. I slowly bent over and put both my hands in the water. I managed to hold very still. I did not have to wait long for the fish to become curious and come out of hiding to start nipping at my skin hoping that it was food. I held very still waiting for the fish to swim in between my hands. As the trout moved into position, I quickly grabbed it with both my hands. I had him. He tried to move back and forth as only a six inch rainbow trout could, but I held firm. I was not going to lose him.

Once I was sure he was safely secured and not going to slip through my fingers, I slowly started to wade my way back to my fish pond. I made it, fish in tact, held under the water of course so that he would not suffocate, and dropped him, none to gently into my pond.

Once I had secured the fish in my pond, I ran back to my grandmother’s house yelling of my conquest. “Grandma, Grandma, come quick, I caught dinner with my bare hands”. My grandmother was always there for us and I can never remember her not coming when we asked. She followed me to the creek where, swelled with pride, I showed her my prize catch that was to feed all of us for dinner. “See Grandma, I can survive in the wild and catch my own food and I didn’t even need hooks.”

My grandmother didn’t tease me this time. She looked at me very solemn and kindly and told me what a great provider I was and that I should take great pride in my skills and my patience. Indeed, I would be able to take care of myself if I was ever lost and alone in the wild.

As we sat on the bank admiring my catch and my pond, she told me that she thought the fish was a little young, like me, and might have a family that was missing him. Perhaps it wasn’t his time to be on the feast table and we might want to let him go before his family swam on without him.

She told me how important it was for the fish to go to the big water to grow larger and have many more babies so that there would be many more fish to eat. Sometimes we had to give back to the fish so that we could have more to eat when we needed it.

As I look back things are clearer now. I guess that my trout was actually a salmon and needed to return to the sea to grow so that it could come back and lay eggs for more salmon to keep the balance of nature in tact. She taught me about conservation while building up my self esteem by praising my abilities to catch fish in the wild. She was truly a wise and kind individual.

Today with the shrinking salmon population, due to over-fishing and development, I truly appreciate and am proud of her ability to recognize the delicate balance of nature and our livelihood requirements. I am so thankful that she passed this conscientiousness on to me so that I can do my best to contribute to that balance so that my children will also be able to partake and enjoy their own growing experiences in nature.

My First Moccasins

I used to love the smell of tanned hides. Grandmother used to tan her own hides. I remember her sinking them in the river with stones where the water did not flow swiftly. She said it made the hair on the hides come out easier.

Once she retrieved them from the water, she would scrape the hair off of them and put them in some stinky stuff (I believe she used a lime mixture) in barrels or old horse troughs, tubs, whatever large containers she had. She had an old paddle that she would use to stir her hides in their secret recipe. After a time she would take them out of her concoction and wash them. Then she would stretch them and attach them to hand made racks tied down with leather strips. That would be planted all over the yard. Once stretched and partially dry she would rub them down with some kind of animal fat or oil, depending on what she had available. Every so often she would go out and stretch the hide and tighten the leather strips to keep it taut. If it looked like it was going to rain she would cover them up so they would be kept dry.

She would sell larger skins for clothing and drums. She said deer skin was best for drums; cow hides broke too easy and didn’t have as nice of a sound. Then she would make moccasins.

I remember waking up one Christmas morning and finding the most beautiful moccasins left for me. They were so soft like velvet. I hugged them and carried them around in my nose for days, before I would put them on my feet. I didn’t want them getting dirty and losing that soft buckskin finish. They were the most beautiful moccasins in the world. No one made moccasins like my grandma and it was what made me look forward to Christmas every year.

Great Grandpa Joe and the Great Indian Race

My Grandmother’s father was known as Great Grandpa Joe (short for Joseph). In my mind he was a legend in his own right. He was very entrepreneurial and progressive thinking and living in many ways.

He had set up the first sawmill in Olalla at what was known as the Marsel ranch. The sawmill was a lot of work and prospered. Lumber was in great demand at the time as the Okanagan Valley was prospering from ranching and agricultural as the orchards were thriving attracting many new immigrants to settle in the rich fertile valley.

In addition, he owned land in Penticton on Ellis Street, which was very unusual for an Indian of his time. He ran a stable where he housed travelers’ horses as they came through the Okanagan Valley to work in Naramata and Kelowna. The workers would travel by paddle boat from Okanagan Lake to points North and East. As if a sawmill and stable business were not enough, he also carried mail back and forth from Penticton to Keremeos. He literally carried the mail by foot from Penticton to Keremeos some 48 kilometers. As time and prosperity permitted, he was able to acquire his own horses for travel. He also acquired cattle for the ranch as another source of income and food for his family.

As the Penticton thrived, celebrations were held. On this particularly occasion Great Grandpa Joe had the opportunity to enter a race against some white men and another Indian Billy Krueger. The grand prize was a 100lb sack of flour, a side of bacon and a small tent. My Grandma told me that Grandpa Joe was very competitive and there was an ongoing rivalry between him and Krueger. Grandpa Joe raced in his bare feet with no shirt on as the temperature was at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit and that was in the shade. The distance of the race was 10 miles on an old dirt track used for horse racing. The competition was intense as Krueger would get ahead and Grandpa Joe would fight back to gain the lead. In the end, Grandpa Joe gained and maintained the lead to win the race for his prize.

I used to think Grandma was telling stories that might be somewhat exaggerated, however, I found this particularly story recounted in the Okanagan Historical Society’s annual report under the title Indian Progress. I laughed and shook my head when I read this story at the Penticton Library. My Great Grandpa Joe was famous! 1

The Turtle in the Tub

There was never any shortage of wild animals in our care that I can remember, especially in winter. This one winter, I remember was very cold. I knew it was cold, because all of the ponds and lakes had ice and we could actually skate on them. This had never happened before.

This one particular winter, my dad was driving home, via Yellow Lake, Highway 3A instead of Green Lake Road. It was very cold and icy and as he was driving he felt the tires clip something on the road. Being my father, he stopped to investigate. Sure enough not far behind the car was a turtle on the side of the road.

The poor turtle had not hibernated for winter. He was freezing on the side of the road. My father picked him up and brought him home. We filled the tub with water and quickly put Rocky into the water. Yes, we named every animal that we rescued. It helped us to relate to the creature and form an intimate bond to ensure the best care possible. With everything settled and Rocky comfortable for the night, we went to sleep.

We awoke the next morning and being kids, the first thing we did was go to the bathroom to check on Rocky. Well, we were in for a surprise. Rocky had laid an awful lot of eggs during the night and turned into a Rockette. Well, we left the eggs for about a week hoping that they would hatch. When nothing happened, we asked Grandma, what’s going on why are there no turtles. Grandma explained that Rockette did not have a Rocky to fertilize the eggs and there would be no baby turtles. We were devastated as we had to pick up the eggs and no we did not make soup….we had to go bury them in the frozen back yard with our small funeral procession of four plus the many eggs.

We kept Rocky (Rockette) all that winter and in the spring we made a pool in the yard for her out of rocks and plastic. My Grandma drilled a hole in his shell and wired him to the pool so that she would not wander off and get hurt by vehicles or animals.

We fed her berries, flies, lettuce and vegetables. Soon fall was approaching and it was time to say goodbye to Rocky. We took her down to the creek at the end of the road, where there were sandy banks that she could burrow into for the winter and let her go. We never saw Rocky again, but there were baby turtles that we would play with from time to time.

Squirrel in the Chimney

Squirrels were a very common rodent that lived among us as we were growing up. Grandma used to get mad when we always fed them because she said they would nest in the house.

It was another cold frosty morning and we were getting up running to get kindling wood and paper to light the stove and warm up the house. We heard this loud scratching noise. We thought we had a rat in the house. We tried to find the source of the noise and then it would stop. As we waited and listened, we heard it again. We walked quietly towards the sound that was emanating from the wood stove.

Grandma sshhhed us as she usually did. She slowly inserted the burner lifter into the stove plate and peaked into the stove. There was a squirrel in our stove! Aaah, how did it get there? Grandma quickly put the burner cover back on and went and got an old blanket. We watched as she slowly removed the cover and stuffed the blanket into the stove around the squirrel. It was scratching, screaming and chittering. We all watched anxiously wondering what was going to happen. She successfully snared the squirrel and put it in a large cardboard box with a screen over the top of it.

The poor squirrel happened to be a flying squirrel that had flown into our chimney the night before. He had burned his little paws badly on the hot coals. She sent us out to collect branches of evergreens so that she could line the box with materials that the squirrel was comfortable with to make it feel more at home. She placed a bowl of water and some seeds, with honey, milk and bread in the simple cage.

It took quite a few weeks for the little paws to heal. She had made up some sort of bandage with her salves and wrapped them around his little paws. He would chew at them and she would reapply her treatment each time he gnawed them off. By springtime he was fit and we were permitted to take the cage outside and release him. Off he zoomed up a tree and it was amazing to watch him spread his four paws and like a kite the wind would inflate and stretch his skin and he would glide from tree to tree.

Fish by the Tail

When Ashanola Creek was not so famous for its Cathedral Groves, we used to fish there regularly. It was always a great family outing as we packed up our fishing gear, food and all loaded in the back of dad’s old Fargo truck to go fishing. There were at least 4 to 10 kids anytime in the back of the truck with Grandma, Dad and Mom in front. I look back and I am amazed that we never got into any accidents falling out or otherwise, given the amount of time we spent in the back of that truck because we could not afford another vehicle.

I was very young at this age and could not yet put my bait on the hook properly. We did not have the fancy fishing gear such as bobbins, leads, fly hooks, and fancy lures that are available now. We used worms, bread, corn, berries, fish eggs and whatever else Grandma recommended.

Grandma’s bait always worked. It is like she knew what the fish were eating today. Well this was to be a day when no bait was required. I remember my dad carrying me and wading out to a rock in the middle of the creek. He placed me on top of the rock and waded to the next rock. He told me to throw my line in the flowing water back and forth. I tried very hard to mimic his movements as I wanted to catch a fish really bad. I hated it when I went fishing and never caught anything. I was the youngest and my job was always to gut and clean the fish. I had to start catching fish so that this task could be passed down to my younger brother.

I hadn’t been casting and yanking too long when I felt something on the end of my hook. I remember my dad telling me that when I felt that I must pull quickly to make the hook catch and stick in the fish’s mouth. Sure enough when I felt the tug, I pulled as hard and as quick as I could. I did not have a fishing pole with a reel. I had the old-fashioned wooden stick and had to quickly wrap my line around my pole as I reeled my fish in. I didn’t have long to wrap the line around the pole when I saw my fish. But much to my surprise and my dad’s there was no hook in the fish’s mouth. The hook was deeply embedded into the fish’s tail. It was not going to get a way. This fish was my right of passage to the next level. The level of fisherman and not fish cleaner. I kept winding that line madly around my little pole.

My dad and grandmother could not quit laughing. Grandma brought the bucket while dad, wrestled the hook out of my fish tail. I had to go to shore with Grandma and knock out my fish with the wooden pole on a rock. I had done it! I had graduated to fisherman. No more cleaning fish. Grandma said it was the right size and would make a fine meal. Yes she reassured me that the cleaning rights would be now passed down to my younger brother. Whew……was I relieved.

Quail and Ice

A lot of people think of quail and dinner I know. This is not a story about quail for dinner. Quail families were very common and abundant when I was growing up in the Valley. We would often see them run with mommy at the front and the little chicks trailing behind like a small train from bush cover to bush cover.

We never bothered them as we were taught to respect and love animals and birds. We did not eat quail as a family. We ate grouse as it had more meat and less bones as I recall my grandma saying, “quail was too boney and not enough meat for the amount of work”, when there were plenty of grouse around. Besides, grouse were easier to catch, they were such stupid birds, and we could sneak up on them and peg them with a rock in the head. To skin them we would step on their wings and pull on their feet and vavoom, instantly clean breasts; no plucking and fussing. Grouse stew was the best. So the quail were safe from our family as long as grouse were abundant.

It was another cold icy winter and dad was out hunting. He came home from a successful hunt with something special in his sweater for us. In the house he came with this package. Out came the cardboard box and the screen once again. Into the box went a momma and five babies. They were barely alive. Their little bodies were vibrating with movement as they tried to breathe and warm themselves. We got a flannel sheet and some warm milk and honey with berries and nuts and placed them in the box. Then we put a blanket over the makeshift cage so that they would calm down and sleep. We put the box as close to the fire as we dared so that it did not catch fire, but would provide as much warmth as possible, especially for the babies.

It was a long night as we waited to see what would happen to the babies. The next morning, two of the baby quail had died. My Grandma gently removed them from the cage. The momma was pecking and biting at her quite ferociously, but grandma talked in a very soothing voice to her and she seemed to calm as if she understood and she went back to her other chicks letting the dead ones be taken away. The four of us were sent on grave patrol to dig into the cold frozen ground and bury the babes. We were told to put rocks on top so that no animals would dig them up. We performed this duty with a solemn fortitude that we thought the situation warranted. My older brother said a few words and back to the house we ran to the warmth of the fire.

The winter was long as we nursed the birds back to life and health. They grew used to us and as we let them out to run around the house, they would follow us and peck at everything they could find. When spring came, momma quail, started chittering and whistling away. We knew it was time to let them go. Out the front door they marched as we opened the screen into the yard and scurried away into the underbrush.

This routine of rescuing animals had become so common to us that we never mourned when it was time to let the animals go. We always felt happy because they were going back to their home where they were most comfortable and we always knew we might see them again and that they were happy.

Tadpoles and the Frogs

We loved to go to Armstrong Lake on the Penticton Indian Band Reserve. On hot summer days, when the lakes were crowded with tourists, we would head up to Armstrong Lake to be away from the crowds and Eurasian Milfoil to fish, catch turtles and frogs and swim in the clean clear waters.

We would take lots of food and cook what we caught and spend the weekend camped on the empty shore. Old Charlie Armstrong (as my grandma) called him would come and visit and we always asked his permission to stay as it was Indian land and we were guests. He was always kind and generous and welcomed us. Grandmother would always give good fish to him in return for his generosity.

We would play for hours with the water skeeters that skipped across the still calm waters and wade into the reeds to chase the tadpoles. We used to squish the tadpoles between our fingers until we understood what they really were, baby frogs.

This particular weekend we took an ice cream pail with us and captured a whole bunch of tadpoles to take home. The plan was to let them turn into frogs and sell them and release what we did not sell into the creek at home. We were always looking for ways to make money from the tourists as they traveled through. We once charged the kids in the neighbourhood five cents to see our new baby brother. Babies were rare at the time. My mom caught wind of it and made us give all of the money back.

Anyways, we brought the tadpoles home and filled up a few buckets with water and divvied them up between the buckets so they had room to grow. Well, this particular summer, we were going away to Vancouver Island to visit family. Being young we did not understand how quickly tadpoles turned into frogs and off we went on our family vacation. We were going salmon fishing and that was about all we could think about.
Well, needless to say we had a great time salmon fishing catching 35 to 40 pound fish, which Grandma said was the most delicious. We canned our salmon, smoked it, froze it and came home with our catch.

As we drove in the driveway, we noticed that the ground was moving. Dad parked the car and we all jumped out to try to figure out what was going on. Well, the ground wasn’t moving. It was covered in frogs. Dad had squished many of them as he ran them over. While away our tadpoles had grown up and invaded the house and yard.

We were not too popular with our mother that day. Dad and Grandma just laughed as the four of us ran around with buckets trying to catch all these frogs. We had to take them all to the creek and let them go as we had missed selling them during the tourist season.

Wild Horse Chase

As a child it was not uncommon for us to walk across Uncle George Shop’s field to our old swimming hole. The field seemed endless at the time and had some scattered brush which might pass for small trees and an old wooden bridge spanned the creek. Just a few feet downstream are where our favourite swimming hole was.

The water slowed and was calm, deep and clear. The banks were soft and sandy so that we did not hurt our feet when we waded into the creek. Grass grew on the far side and you could see it being pulled by the current in a waving motion downstream, kind of like long hair in water.

Life was perfect as we lay on our towels digging our feet into the wet sand watching the clouds roll over our heads. We would imagine and name different images that we saw in the clouds. It was a game to pass away the hot summer afternoons. The only way to beat the heat was to head to the creek.

On this staggering hot day, we were not the only guests to the creek. There were some horses on the other side of the creek. Horses were nothing new to us, we grew up with them and thought Uncle George had brought them down from the hills or from the stockyard.

Something didn’t seem right with the animals. They were unsettled and stomping their feet and snorting. We thought some wild animal had disturbed them…we didn’t know that the wild animal was us. All of a sudden the horses started stampeding right through the water and over the bridge crashing through everything as they came. My girlfriend jumped to her feet and grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s get outta here!”

I was confused and didn’t understand as I was looking across the creek to see what had disturbed the horses. I had been around horses my whole life, all of 8 or 9 years at this point and had never been chased by wild horses. I quickly realized that they were the aggressors and were after us to chase us from what had become their watering hole. We fled for the bridge.

Whew…, but how long would we be stuck there. I looked from underneath the bridge to the white fence which seemed like miles away, but was probably only 100 feet or so away. I knew that we could never outrun these horses, and they were angry. They were not leaving. They kept running back and forth, whinnying and rising on their hind legs. I felt real fear for the first time in my life. I felt that I had no control over the situation and knew that these animals that I had loved and ridden were a real threat. I was shaking I was so scared. My girlfriend who was three years my senior said we are going to run for the fence. I told her I could not, my legs were locked beneath me and I could not move. She said, we had to or we would be there all night. She pointed to the brush halfway and said we head for that, take a breather then for the fence.

It is like the horses knew our thoughts. She held my hand and we ran and they chased us right to the brush. I remember crawling in between the trees and watching them rise on their hind legs fully believing that their hooves were going to come crashing down on our heads. I held my arms above my head for protection, but they missed.

That was it, I was finished. I told her I could go no further. I was sure that I was going to pee my pants I was so scared. I told her she had to go for help, because I wasn’t going to make it. She told me, “No, we were going to stick together”. If she left me there was no telling what might happen. She held my hand and I closed my eyes and we ran. I could hear the thundering hooves and smell the dust and the horses. I thought this is it, we are doomed. It was like we crossed an invisible line. We got close to the fence and jumped through. The horses gave up the chase.

I had left my towel at the creek. I didn’t even care. I knew my mom would send me for it later, but I was never going back there until the horses were gone. Once out of danger, we both sat down and laughed until we cried. I felt so foolish as my friend started teasing me. I was so thankful for her. I really learned a valuable lesson that day. I should not show fear in front of horses. They sensed it and they acted upon it. They claimed our territory and with the colts running around felt they had to protect their young.

I told my Grandma what had happened and she was very angry with Uncle George. She told him that we should have been warned about those animals and they needed to be corralled. She probably didn’t say it quite as nice as that, but Uncle George did as Grandma said. That was the end of the wild horses.

Rattle Snake Den

Growing up in rural British Columbia, we had the run of the wild. Our playground was the entire back country of Olalla. We used to love weekends when we would fill our bags with apples and peanut butter sandwiches. We never worried about water as we could always drink from the creeks we crossed.

We loved to go up the mountains behind our home. We discovered many things, some good and some not so good. All taught us valuable lessons and reminded us that no matter now much we thought we knew; we didn’t know it all.

In those days, we did not worry about people kidnapping kids or anything, because there was no one around, especially where we wandered. You could barely hike some of the trails we had discovered, let alone access by vehicle. We felt safe and totally oblivious to the outside world around us. The day was all about the next adventure.

One day we discovered an old mining shack. A lynx was living underneath it and we left food for her and her kittens. One day we accidentally invaded a hornet’s nest and did we have to run. After many stings and tears and moving like the wind, we headed home to lick our wounds and have Grandma put some vinegar and some of her salves on them to heal. Another day our dog found a baby rabbit and we brought it home and fed it until it was able to be set free.

We had countless adventures and this day was just another exciting adventure in our lives. We always hiked out back and had been taught that there was a rattle snake den. We thought Grandma was just telling us that to scare us and keep us within a certain distance from home. So we set out to find the fabled den, expecting to find nothing but shale and rock.

We wandered along the creek until we found a tree that had fallen across so that we could cross without getting wet. Once safely across, we cut across the meadow and started winding our way up the mountainside. We didn’t try climbing of the shale beds as we thought it would be too hard and we would slip more than gain any real distance. As we made our way over rocks, brush and around trees, we would stop for a breath and look out at the valley below. Standing on that mountainside, everything else seemed so small and irrelevant. Everyone looked like ants milling about in their cars that resembled hot wheels. It reminded me of our dinky toys that we used to play with. I felt awed by the distance that we had covered.

We had to get to the top of the ridge where the rocks were and sun shone keeping them warm as that is where the den was rumoured to be. Grandma said that the snakes used to sun themselves out on the rocks in the heat of the day and go down into the den in the cool of the night. They all slept together to keep each other warm. She said there were many, many snakes in the den. We continued our journey upward and on we went. My brother was a great navigator. He never got lost, or if he did, he never showed it.

Finally, we were nearing our destination; just a few more rocks to climb up and over. Up went Ray, and over the top. I was scare that I would slip and fall. It was very steep and if you didn’t place your feet in the right spot it was a long ways down. I couldn’t be a scaredy cat though; he would never let me live it down. I swallowed my fear and put one hand up and one foot into a nice enclave in the rocks. I slowly started going up and then moved to the next hand hold. Ray peeked his head over the ledge and held out his hand. I grabbed at it thankfully and he helped pull me up to the ledge.

We sat down for a well deserved break, looking around us strategizing where to go next. We decided we should go in one direction until we could not go any farther and then if we found nothing, we would backtrack and head in the other direction. We gathered up our food and pack and headed south along the ridge. We hadn’t gone very far when we found what we were looking for.
Ray reached back and held his hand up and said listen. Sure enough, we had alerted the snakes. We heard the sound of not just one, but many rattles going back and forth not too rapidly, but enough to take notice. We couldn’t quite see where we were as the ridge curved and a pine tree was growing out of the curve and blocking our view. The trouble with rattle snakes is they blend in very well with the rocks and are hard to locate unless you catch them moving. The sound was enough evidence for me that they existed and that there was more than one. My brother, being more adventurous than I, was not satisfied. He said it did not count unless you saw them. I said, no way, I was not going any further. He slowly made his way towards the bend in the ridge and quickly scrambled up the pine tree. He had a good look and saw them basking in the sun on the hot rocks; big fat ones, thinner ones and even baby ones. He said the babies didn’t have full developed rattlers yet.

Being the nurturing person that I was I told him to get down and let’s get out of there before we got hurt. He eventually scrambled down and we headed back the way we came. By this time, we were getting tired from all of the excitement and decided we needed a quicker way down. The shale looked pretty good from where we were standing, so we followed the ridge north to where the shale slides were and jumped on for the ride.

Down we went, the whole valley sounded like rocks sliding as it echoed off the walls of the mountain. It was eerie and we stopped so the rocks would stop and all was quiet again. We were sure the whole neighbourhood at the bottom of the mountain could hear us and there was something empowering about that. So off we went laughing and racing down the shale beds. It took no time at all to get to the bottom of the mountain. We jumped in the creek to cool off and drink the cool water. It was another great adventure in the day and life of Shelley and Ray, but our stomachs were growling and it was time to head to Grandma’s for some apple pie.

To this day, there is still a rattlesnake den on the East side of Olalla.

Cookie the Coyote

My grandmother and father instilled in me a love of animals and the importance of them to our lives. Not only for food, but for company, protection, friendship and to protect the balance of nature. It’s no wonder that the adoption of this lost pup fit right into our lives.

On one of our usual scouting trips as they came to be known as we always returned with something or a great adventure tale, we came across what we thought was an abandoned pup. My brother and I didn’t touch it because we were taught that if human scent was left the parents would usually kill or ignore the baby. We made note of the area where the pup was and headed for home. We thought we would check on it in a couple of days to see how it was faring and see if mom was around.

A few days later while wandering looking for adventures, we came across the pup again. It wasn’t in a den of any depth, but a pile of large dead tree logs and branches that looked like they had been washed up during high water and just left on the landscape. The pup looked like it was starving and dehydrated.

I grabbed it and placed it in my jacket pocket to keep it warm and we headed for home. We got back to the house as quickly as we could without too much difficulty and put the pup on the kitchen table for Grandma to see.

We wrapped it in a flannel sheet and put it in a wooden box and placed it by the stove. Grandma made some powdered milk and heated it and put it into an old baby bottle. Once it was warmed up she showed us how to nurse the pup.

She was white and golden graham coloured in a patch arrangements not the usual colour of a coyote. Grandma said that she was half coyote and half dog of some sort. We got to keep her and called her Cookie because that is what she reminded us of.

She became part of the family until neighbours started complaining. Eggs were disappearing from hen houses and finally a chicken was killed. We had to give Cookie to one of our cousins who lived further away from people so that she could run wild and not steal eggs or chickens. We were never sure if it was her or not, but we didn’t want anyone shooting her and at that time that is what people did to protect their livestock.

Sometimes we can make animals our friends, but we can’t take the nature out of them.

Pocahontas and the Burned Baby

It’s funny looking back in life and you wonder where you picked up the nicknames that had been part of you as long as you can remember. I always knew that my hair hung well past my bottom growing up. It was one of those things that both my grandmother and father forbid to be cut. Very often it was strung in two braids down the each side of my head or one long one in the back with a piece of elastic or leather tying it off at the end so that it would not unravel.

I never knew that I was native. I didn’t know that there was any such difference in peoples skin colour. I didn’t see any difference between me or anyone else I was growing up with until two incidents occurred.

The first one was when my uncle came home from the military on furlough or leave from Jamaica. He brought us each a gift and for me he brought a doll. As I looked at the plastic wrapped doll he brought me I started screaming and burst into tears. When my grandmother and parents asked me what was wrong I cried, “my baby’s burned, my baby’s burned”. They burst out laughing and I cried all that much more.

My grandmother tried to explain to me that this was a “negro” baby from Jamaica. I could never get past that the baby was burned and I would have no part of it. I couldn’t bear to touch the poor child and my grandmother disposed of it for me.

The second incident occurred when I first started school and my father put me on the bus and told me not to tell anyone that I was native. I was confused as a dark hair, fair skinned, blue eyed child my ethnicity was not physically visible unless you knew the family, then you knew the racial identity. My cousins were dark skinned, with dark hair and dark brown eyes, their racial ethnicity were clearly visible. This was my first indication that we were different than anyone else. My second indication was when I was home my dad called me Pocahontas all the time. When we traveled he called me by my name.

Needless to say I was confused as it was OK to be a Negro baby but not an Indian baby. Later in life I have come to understand discrimination and racism in an entirely new way, but have never let it get in the way of living the life that I have wanted.

Bucking Cows

Being young, invincible and mischievous we were always up to something and hopefully we didn’t cause any trouble for anyone in our endeavours to entertain ourselves.

At this particular time, we had moved to the big city of Okanagan Falls and all of a sudden had an entire new world to explore. We were wandering the meadows down by the stockyards and came across some lone cattle. Being the tough girl-boy that I always believed I was, I always took the bait and rose to the challenge when my brother and his friends baited me.

This particular day, it was calf riding. For some reason the guys were too scared of the cow, but then again they were city folk (in my eyes). I had no fear of cows and proceeded to show them how superior I was to their inferiority complex.

The boys held the cow as I catapulted myself on board. The reaction was instantaneous as the cow started bucking like crazy. With nothing to hang on to it didn’t take long for me to go plummeting off the back of the cow and to be severely kicked in the family jewels as the boys would call them. It was a very painful and heartfelt lesson. I would not cry and let the boys know I was hurt. The highlight of my day was that I finally knew what family jewels were, but I now understood why the boys did not want to ride the cows.

Cousin Kenny & the Rodeo

No story would be complete without talking about my cousin Kenny MacLean. Our family had a history as great horse people. The Similkameen/Okanagan Indians were lithe and small in stature about five and a half feet. They are great athletes and good horse people. My family was very successful in the raising, training and showing of horses. Kenny was the most famous.

As long as I could remember and I was born in 1962, we went to the annual rodeo whether Okanagan Falls or Keremeos. The Marsels and MacLeans were always participating in many venues such as barrel racing for the women and bronco riding for the men, as well as cattle roping, herding and suicide races for both the men and the women.

I tried to think of the best way to tell a story about cousin Kenny, who we often called Uncle Kenny due to the age difference as he was born in 1939 and I was born in 1962, but I can’t think of a better way than was told by Kevin Krueger in a Requiem to a Cowboy. My early memories of Kenny are from seeing him at the rodeo and the ranch with Auntie Bess (his mother).

Kevin Krueger, MLA

November 18, 2002
Kenny McLean: Requiem For A Cowboy
Private Members' Statement

 K. Krueger: On July 13, 2002, Kenny McLean passed away. He was considered by many to be the greatest Canadian rodeo cowboy of all time and a true national hero. He was competing in a senior professional rodeo in Taber, Alberta, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 63 years old. Ken was born May 13, 1939, at Okanagan Falls, B.C.
He was a tremendously gifted athlete who could have excelled in nearly any sport. Ken was breaking colts for his father on the ranch by the time he was 12. By the time he was 17 he was on the road, competing in saddle bronc riding against the best rodeo cowboys in the world and winning. He earned one of his first championship buckles at Kamloops rodeo in 1956, Mr. Speaker, when you were a lad, and I was little more than a gleam in my daddy's eye. He went on to win almost every major rodeo in North America at one time or another in his career, including the Calgary Stampede.

In 1959, at the age of 20, Kenny McLean won his first Canadian championship in saddle bronc riding. He won again in 1960 and in 1961 became the first cowboy ever to be crowned Canadian champion bronc rider three years in a row. In 1961 Ken was named rookie of the year on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit south of the border. In 1962 Kenny McLean earned the title of world champion saddle bronc rider. After winning a world championship riding bucking horses, Ken also began competing in the calf roping and steer wrestling. He quickly established himself as one of the best all around cowboys in the world, winning Canadian championships in both steer wrestling and calf roping. He was all around championship cowboy of Canada four times. Kenny McLean still holds the record for the most major championships ever won by a Canadian cowboy, and that was 14. Kenny McLean became the first to be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1976 he received the Order of Canada. He is the only rodeo cowboy ever to be inducted thus far as a member of the Order of Canada.

Ken was acknowledged by other champions as the smoothest bronc rider ever to go down the road. He was also a pioneer in teaching the art to others. His rodeo schools were attended by many would-be stars and even world champions at the height of their careers. Larry Mahan, for example, had already been world all around champion twice when he attended one of Kenny's schools to refine his saddle bronc riding technique.

Retirement was never in the cards for Ken. When he hung up his bronc saddle 25 years ago, he went on to establish a reputation as a top trainer and breeder of performance horses. He also continued to rope and steer wrestle on the regional circuits. He was a role model, mentor and teacher to several generations of rodeo athletes at both ends of the arena. Kenny was much more than a great rodeo cowboy. A thoughtful and articulate man, Ken was always a great spokesman for the sport he loved. When he served on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association board of directors, he fought hard to increase the rodeo purses, the actual prize money available, so the cowboys could keep pace with rising travel costs.

He also had a deep appreciation for the heritage, music and stories of the west. He toyed a bit with writing song lyrics and exploring the family history of the McLeans. In everything he did, his competitive drive was never far below the surface. He also had a subtle sense of humour and an intense competitive drive. As his wife, Paula, once remarked to a friend: "You don't want to play scrabble with him. He's got the whole dictionary memorized."

Kenny McLean was a hero to many up-and-coming young people in the rodeo and ranching community. At the Williams Lake Stampede in July of 2001, Kenny McLean was inducted into the B.C. Cowboy Hall of Fame. He wasn't there to accept the award in person as he was competing at the senior pro rodeo in Hamilton, Montana, working toward yet another world championship. Ken won the world again in 2001, capturing the senior pro world calf roping championship at the finals in Reno last November. Forty-five years after winning his first buckle, Ken was in the arena and well mounted with his rope in his hand when his number was called - a true champion right to the end.

This tribute was written by Mike Puhallo, a cowboy poet from our area, a man who has gained a reputation continent-wide, perhaps worldwide, for his poetry. He wrote a tribute poem to Kenny McLean, which I'll read:
"Today the west is a little less western. A great cowboy has been called home, and a hint of sadness hangs in the air wherever true westerners roam. For this man was the best of the best in the arena or in the hills, a salty hand in all that he did, a master of those old vaquero skills. It is still the dream of every young cowboy, who lives by spur and rein, just once to hear somebody say: "He rides likes Kenny McLean."

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and adios, Ken.
 J. Wilson: It is with sadness that we acknowledge the parting of a great rodeo contributor. The sport of rodeo is one of the most dangerous sports that we have. However, it continues to grow, and it is followed by a great many people.

The people that have made this such a truly great sport are people like Kenny McLean. There is hardly a ranch house in British Columbia, western Canada, or the western U.S. where the name Kenny McLean does not come up fairly often around the table. His reputation has grown to the point where he is recognized not only by the people that follow the rodeo circuit but by all people that are in the ranching industry.

We have to remember that the sport of rodeo grew right along with the ranching industry in Canada and the U.S. That was the relief. That was the enjoyment that the cowboys could get after working hard through the week. They would get together and have a little fun on the weekend. This is where it's gone today. It has become a year-round sport.

I had the privilege of meeting Kenny McLean one time around the campfire at the Quesnel rodeo. I think what will always stay with me is.... It wasn't the fact that when I was introduced to him, his reputation had preceded him, but it was the manner of the man. He was quiet, he was respectful and he was humble. These were the traits that set Kenny McLean out, apart from the fact that he was a tremendous athlete, which he had to be to reach the level that he did. He had the ability to listen to people, and he always had the desire to try to help you out by showing you something, teaching you little tricks that perhaps you hadn't thought of or you didn't know. That was one of his unique characteristics.

We can attain great heights through competition. We can become the best at what we do. The hard work and dedication that goes into that is really important. But when someone shows that this comes from the spirit and from the heart.... What you do doesn't necessarily make you great. It comes from remembering your humility to others and your respect, and by sharing your knowledge with other people.
To me the best way I could put this is that to all of you hockey fans out there, the name Gretzky rings a bell. He is recognized as someone who has really achieved. To all you hockey fans, Gretzky is the Kenny McLean of the hockey world.

With that I would pay tribute to a man who truly has done a remarkable job, not only in the sport of rodeo but with his life.

K. Krueger: My thanks to the member for Cariboo North, a rancher and a cowboy in his own right.
Mike Puhallo wrote a poem the night Kenny McLean was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame, and it goes like this:

"It was Falkland Stampede, 1960.
I would have been seven then,
when I climbed to the top of the arena fence,
to stare across the pen.
I couldn't see him, so I asked my dad:
"Can you see Kenny MacLean?"
"He's the one in the red shirt, son, just measuring up his rein."
With awe and wonder I watched him nod,
then spur that horse in the mane.
Thirty years and more have passed,
but that memory will always remain,
'cause when I was a boy of seven,
 my hero was Kenny McLean.
Now I sit in the stands on a Saturday night;
it's the Canadian finals, you know.
But for me the most important event
wasn't the rodeo,
because one of the men being honoured tonight
by the Cowboy Hall of Fame
was the best bronc rider that I ever knew,
a cowboy called Kenny McLean,
and high in the stands is a middle-aged man,
who for a moment
is seven again!"

Kenny McLean's wife, Paula Jo McLean, is a rodeo athlete in her own right. She was leading the circuit in the senior pro barrel racing when Ken died. She said to Mike Puhallo at his funeral: "McLean would kick my butt" - she didn't say "butt," but she wouldn't want me being unparliamentary - "if I quit now." She went on to win the senior pro rodeo world championships in ladies barrel racing, breakaway roping and ribbon roping. She also won the all-around championship. She ended up with four world championships in one season, a season that she dedicated to the memory of her husband.
Mike writes of Paula Jo McLean: "It's been said that adversity brings out the best, which explains the temper of folks forged in the west. 'McLean wouldn't want me to quit,' she answered with tears in her eyes,' to friends and well-wishers who came to say their goodbyes. He was the best in the world and suddenly gone. She loaded the horses and she carried on." Mike adds in his eulogy: "The west is where dreams are a challenge that's meant to be rode." Thank you. 

I think what is so memorable about Kenny is that he gave me pride. If he could do so good out in the world then so could I. I think of him often in my mind’s eye and remember sitting on the fence at the Keremeos Rodeo watching him with fascination and a swelled chest and bragging to anyone that would listen that he was my cousin.2

Great Grandma Julia & The Apple Crate

I was too young to remember this story, but my Grandmother Melena and others have recounted it too me in their own versions, this is how I remember their interpretations.

As a baby, still only crawling, we used to visit Great Grandma Julia up at the Old Marsel Ranch. It was just northwest towards Penticton, not far from Olalla.

I remember the old farmhouse. It had two stories. I thought Great Grandma Julia had been very rich to live in such a grand house. It used to have wonderful smells; the smell of burning wood, apple pie baking, roast turkey and of course tobacco from her old pipe she used to love to smoke.

Great Grandma loved to cook, make her own medicines and smoke her pipe. She had great home remedies such as her own bug lotion, sun burn remedies, and concoctions that helped with colds, ear aches, stomach aches, head aches and whatever else ailed you.  
Her husband, Frank Surprise (Francois Surprenant) had been known for planting the first orchard in the Similkameen in Cawston, B.C. Richters later acquired the acreage from him. Needless to say, she loved apples and had apple trees planted around the ranch. When she harvested the apples, she would keep them in an old wooden crate by the stove. Her house was never without fruit.

My mother and father would put me on the old hard wood planked floor and let me crawl around with my blanket. Being curious as I was, I crawled to the old apple crate and had to position myself right inside. Once comfortably sitting, I grabbed an apple the 
Photo of Shelley's great grandparents, Francois Suprenault and Sophie Stinweskit.
Francois Suprenault and Sophie Stinweskit., Shelley's great grandparents.
size of a softball and with the only two teeth in my mouth latched onto the apple. Well it must have got stuck, because there was everyone in stitches with this baby with this apple, almost as big as her face making a fuss. 

Grandma Melena said that since then I always loved apples. She said that was a good sign. When an Indian goes in the bush they take an apple because it provides all the nourishment they need and sustains them for a long time. She probably felt it was what we know as providence. In her wisdom, I had been chosen to discover the important truths of how to survive and that was important and a great comfort to her. She always felt that someone was watching over me.

Many years later in my life, I met a Shaman named Frank. He made a living reading people. He told me that I had someone walking with me and it was a man and he had walked with me all of my life.
The Métis and the Indian Princess

Great Great Grandpa Louie on my Grandpa Joe’s side was referred to as the “old man Marsel” or the “old French Canadian”. He was a very reclusive man. He would not permit any photographs to be taken of him. He had changed the family name from Versailles to Marichal and finally Marsel. Grandma said he did it because the priests told him to for his protection. He had originally settled in Kelowna area with a large Metis contingent.

She always had a way of baiting my interest and once I was caught I couldn’t let go. That was it, the questions would roll. For protection from whom I asked?

Here is her version of the story. Old Man Marsel was from Quebec. He was a trapper, hunter, farmer, labourer, or whatever skill was required to survive the day. It was said that he ran with Louis Riel. He was known for his trap lines in the Similkameen Valley. He was very good at trapping wildlife for meat for food and to sell the skins.

When Louis Riel was apprehended and arrested upon his return to Canada, Grandpa Louis crossed the border into the US. He traveled across the US and when he came north through Montana and Washington State he met a young Indian Blackfoot Woman named Arcel (Lizzie).

Arcel’s family had been killed in Montana where it was common for the white man to come and slaughter the Indian Braves and take the Indian women as wives or herd them to a town with orphanages or reserves. In this case, Arcel, was put into an orphanage near Colville, Washington. The Catholic church advised that the orphanage later burned to the ground and there are no records available to confirm or deny this. Arcel was very unique in that she had a red hue to her hair and was fair of skin. She was very beautiful and very young being only 14 to 15 years old at the time. The time my Grandma said when girls got interested in boys. She was a beautiful Indian Princess!

Anyways, Grandpa Louie supposedly kidnapped her by horseback and brought her to Kelowna, B.C., Canada where they worked and saved. I never could understand how he kidnapped her if she was interested in boys. Eventually when the mining boom came to Olalla, they relocated and bought ranch land to raise their family.

Grandpa Louie was a recluse and would not permit anything to be recorded about him or any publications for fear of reprisal from the Canadian government. Church records show the name change from Versailles to Marichal to Marsel via birth and baptism certiciates.

My aunt Doll told me that he used to speak good Indian and sing also.

One thing is certain as I try to trace Grandpa Louie’s heritage, I have run into roadblocks and have been unable to find anything to date. This confirms to me he was a man on the run who did not want the Government knowing anything about him or his family for fear of his previous affiliations.

Residential School

No Indian Story would be complete without including a story about the residential schools.

Great Grandma Julia was a survivor of a residential school she attended in the Hedley/Princeton area. My aunt Doll says she was reluctant and would not speak of the time in residential school other than to say that it was not as bad as Mission.

She did share one story when she ran away from residential school with some friends. Apparently they wandered and came out the other side of the mountain, nearer to Hope I believe. She describes it as a play time and she and her companions wandered with a sense of carefree and freedom without a worry in the world. They were very young; she was about 7/8 and her companions about the same age, no older than 10.

They wandered in cougar and bear country without a worry or care in the world. She remembers gathering wild flowers and drinking and swimming in the river.

As the day passed and the sun started to settle down the other side of the valley and the warm summer air began to cool in the dusk, they became worried and wondered what they would eat and where they would sleep. They became frightened as children do.

They slowly began to make their way back to the school willing to face the punishment that would be given to them as opposed to the wilderness. She said they were punished pretty severely and would not expand on anything else during those years at the school. Some things were not to be discussed.

The Metis and the Mexican

Great Great Grandpa Francois Surprenant was a hard working, kind, entrepreneurial Frenchman. He was born in La Colle, Quebec in about 1843 as per the 1851 Census of Canada East, etc. According to the 1951 Canadian Census he was born in February 1838.
My Great Great Grandfather Frank Surprise aka Francis/Francois Surprenant came to British Columbia Via Sacremento California.  He had left Quebec when he was about 16 and travelled through the US, to pursue the Gold Rush.  When he arrived at Sacremento he was too late and met a Mexican gentlemen name Barslo and they established a pack train with 100 horses.  They came to BC for the Carbioo Gold Rush and eventually settled in the Okanagan/Similkameen Valley (southern B.C.).  They would run their pack horses from Keremeos to Fraser Valley for a living.  Eventually, Frank took up farming and planted one of the first orchards in southern BC in Cawston.  He eventually sold the orchard/farm/ranch to the Richter


I am following up a lead to Quebec where I am hoping that I have found his family it is the 1851 Canada East Census.  His year of birth in the 1901 census is 1838 in Quebec.  I have found a date close basically 1842 in the 1851 census which could be him.  My aunt (now 89) says that at the time the priests were taking the information and did not always get it right.
Other travelers known by him said that he was a very generous and kind settler that lived in a cabin in the mountains (which we believe to be Ashnola or Cawston towards Nighthawk border crossing). Many travelers would cross the border and go to Grandpa Frank’s cabin for food, rest and some good hospitality. If he wasn’t there when they arrived, they were welcome to use his place.


Marigolds and Mosquitoes

My grandmother was a great herbalist or natural healer. She had remedies in her garden and her natural garden that would cure anything and keep the bugs away. I never really appreciated this until now when my skin seems to react to almost everything you purchase out of a store.

She could make a bug deterrent from marigolds and/or lemon balm plants.

She would take about one ounce of fresh marigold petals and one pound of dried petals and put them in a metal bowl. Then she would pour about ¼ to ½ cup of boiling water on them and let it seep until it was cool.

Then she would strain the water mixture from the petals. She would mix it with some kind of oil like vegetable oil and then rub it on us. I can remember it sure stopped my dry skin from itching and I don’t remember having problems with mosquitoes.

Witch Hazel – Black and Blue

My grandma would use the bark from the witch hazel “Hamamelis virginiana” plant and boil it to make what we called “witch hazel” . She would use this to treat our bruises and sprains.

Rose Hips – Treats and Tea

We would pick baskets of rose hips and grandma would dry them in the oven. Some she would dip in lemon then sugar. Some she would steep in tea for us to drink. She said it was good for colds and this is probably due to the fact of the high vitamin ‘C’ content.

Chamomille – Tea

Chamomille grew wild and in droves in the Okanagan/Similkameen and we would gather it. Grandma would tie it together and hang it upside down to dry. She would then put it into freezer bags in the freezer. We would keep some in a jar for tea and honey that we usually drank in the winter on cold cold nights.

Aloe Vera and Houseleeks

What apothecary would be complete without either of these plants? When we came home with cuts and bruises, Grandma would strip off a leaf. Take off the thick skin and lay it gently against our wound and tell us to lie still for an hour.

Our course when we were sunburned she couldn’t cover our entire body. She would resort to vinegar for the sunburn unless she had some boiled Aloe Vera water handy.

She seemed to have a recipe for anything that ailed to us. I rarely remember going to the doctor as a child other than for pneumonia.

1 The Penticton Branch, The Okanagan Historical Society – Indian Progress (copy attached)
2 Don Carlson Photo – 1957 Kenny McLean at Keremeos Rodeo – 16 years old
3 1851 Census attached
4 The Penticton Branch, The Okanagan Historical Society 1867-1967
5 1851 Census of Canada East attached

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