Friday, July 6, 2018

Lac Seul Sojourn: We're All Fine Here

How quickly the unexpected and unfamiliar can become normal.
Such was the case with my mother and we five children
at the Garrick family's log cabin at Two Point River on Lac Seul.

On Thursday, June 22, 1961
My mother wrote to her mother-in-law, Myrtle MacBeath:

We are all fine in Lac Seul.  It is beautiful here,
and the children are having a marvelous time.
We find all kinds of turtles on the beach.

Adult Western Painted Turtle

I want to thank you for the lovely sunsuit
you sent me for my birthday.

It fits me fine and is the only cool thing
I have to wear when it is hot.

My Mother (in her new sunsuit) 
with Bertie (playing in the sand)
Somewhere on Lac Seul, Northwestern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The children all loved the pudding you sent them.
Donnie and Barbie took theirs to bed with them.

The Imaginary World  (List of Ice Creams and Desserts)
The Imaginary World  (Jello Box (Canada) w/ car coins - front)

I have two sauce pans of rhubarb cooking now that the children picked this morning.
Louise made a cake yesterday and iced it with icing sugar and fruit cocktail.

The boys, Fritz and John, are very good to us.  They are 22 and 37.
They wired the house for us and brought me up an icebox and radio.

Mrs. Daley, the minister's wife,
has been very good to us.
She loaned me a lot of linen, a coffee pot,
the list is endless.

Mrs. Daley and Fritz Garrick
Two Point on Lac Seul, Northwestern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Well, Sunday we went up to the reserve to church.
The Indians are much different here than in Lansdowne House.
They dress the same as we do.

There is a lot of intermarriage here.  Fritz and John are half-breeds.
Their mother is Indian and doesn't speak any English.
(The boys just caught a trout bigger than Roberta).
She is a very nice person, though, and very fond of the children.

Donnie (7) with John (22) and the Big Trout
Outside the Fish House
Two Point, Lac Seul, Northwestern Ontario, Canada 
June 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I must close now, for the boys are going to Hudson and will mail this.

With love,
Hudson, Municipality of Sioux Lookout

I've never forgotten the generosity of the Garricks and the Daleys:
People who had so little, but who didn't hesitate to help
my mother and we five children abruptly dropped in their midst.

My mother managed quite well in Two Point after the initial shock of finding herself there.
We kids flourished in the warm and caring attention of the Garrick boys and Kokum.

Six o'clock often found several of us waiting on the dock
for Fritz and John's fishing boat to return,
as we anticipated an evening of croquet and stories with them
until our mother dragged us off to bed.

Many times I was lulled to sleep by the sound of Fritz, and sometimes John,
chatting with my mother at the kitchen table
over a last cup of coffee or two before calling it a night.

The Garrick's fish camp contained a number of grey-weathered outbuildings,
some of which we didn't enter.
One was a workshop that contained a generator which the Garricks used 
to provide intermittent electricity for the workshop and their home.

When Fritz and John "wired" the log cabin for us,
they strung an electrical line across the field to our cabin from their home.

We never knew when we would have power,
but it was rarely for more than an hour or two at a time.
Whenever we did and Mom could catch us,
she would made us sit down on the floor in the front room
and listen to a classical music record on a record player
Dad had brought Mom when he came for a visit.

Fortunately, the radio ran on batteries,
and I listened to it every moment I could.
It brought us the news of the outside world;
but more importantly, it brought the Hit Parade.
Pat Boone's Moody River became the soundtrack for my Lac Seul sojourn. 

MOODY RIVER ~ Pat Boone (1961)
You Tube ~ MrRJDB1969

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Eastern Passage, Across from Tiverton
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  Adult Western Painted Turtle:
     My mother was likely referring to the Western Painted Turtle.  This turtle is found primarily in
     Northwestern Ontario, in rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes with muddy bottoms and basking sites.

Female Western Painted Turtle

2.  Rhubarb:
     Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial that has been cultivated in many areas in Canada.  It can run
     wild like a weed.  As a kid I often found it growing around abandoned homesteads in Nova Scotia.
     We picked its reddish green stalks for free.  My mother cooked them with sugar and water to make
     stewed rhubarb for a dessert, sometimes serving it with whipped cream.  I make a rhubarb and
     strawberry crisp that Terry loves.  It kills me to spend $3 to $4 for rhubarb that I used to pick
     for free.
Rhubarb Stalks and Plants

3.  Pudding:
     A gift of boxes of pudding from Nana was a big deal, because our family had few pennies to spare
     for such luxuries at this time in our lives.  The pudding she sent was Jell-o Instant Pudding which
     required no cooking.  She may also have sent a box or two of Royal Instant Pudding.  This always
     tickled we girls, because we delighted in tormenting our brother Roy by calling him "Royal
     Instant Pudding."  Although Roy enjoyed the pudding, he did not enjoy the teasing.  Roy's actual
     name is Royal, hence the niggling with "Royal Instant Pudding."

4.  Hudson:
     Hudson is an unincorporated community about 17 miles (26.8 kilometers) from Sioux Lookout.
     Located on Lost Lake on the English River, it is included in the municipality of Sioux Lookout.
     Historically Hudson has depended on its sawmill and tourism.  The mill has repeatedly been
     bought and sold, open and closed.  The Garricks had a small home in Hudson.  One day, when
     I was twelve, I sold a lot of Girl Guide cookies in the Hudson sawmill.  Wikipedia

5.  Reserve/Church:
     The "reserve" refers to the Lac Seul First Nation's treaty lands given to them as a signatory to
      the 1873 Treaty 3 between the Ojibwa First Nations and Queen Victoria.  Wikipedia 

       "Church" was likely Saint Mary's Anglican Church.  lacseul.firstnation
      Mrs. Daley was probably the Anglican priest's wife.

6.  Half-Breeds:
     Today this term is derogatory.  Fifty years ago, in Canada, it referred to someone who was of
     mixed First Nations and European ancestry.  Métis is the correct term, and Canada's Métis people
     were recognized in the Constitution Act of 1982 as one of Canada's aboriginal people.  Wikipedia
     Thanks to Debra (She Who Seeks) for giving me helpful insight into the complicated legal
     and colloquial Métis terminology (See her comment below).  Fritz and John thought of themselves
     as Métis, rather than Ojibwa; but, their roots are Anglo-Métis rather than the French Métis.

7.  Fritz and John's Mother:
     I only ever heard Fritz and John's mother referred to as "Kokum" which means "Grandmother"
     in Ojibway.  She understood English, but refused to speak it, and her sons understood Ojibway
     but refused to speak it.  Fritz told me toward the end of his life that his mother's grandfather
     was a Scot with the last name of Wesley who was the manager of a Hudson's Bay post on James
     Bay.  I haven't been able to track down any information on him yet.  Kokum was very kind to us.
     She never allowed us to take her picture.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House, Nakina, and Sioux Lookout
Northern Ontario, Canada

Lac Seul
Northern Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

Location of Hudson and Sioux Lookout
Northwestern Ontario, Canada
Google Maps  Map Data 2018

Distance Between Hudson and Sioux Lookout
Northwestern Ontario, Canada
Google Maps 2018  Map Data 2018

The Métis Nation of Ontario and Its Nine Regions
Region 1 is the Northwest Métis Council and includes the Métis of Lac Seul.  


  1. Goes to show great people sure are out there. Helping out when you guys were just dropped there sure proves that. Sounds like they enjoyed you there as much as you enjoyed having them around. One big fish indeed. Hopefully you didn't run out of batteries and lost your Moody River haha. Sure must be annoying to pay for rhubarb after finding it so easily for free.

    1. Happy Friday morning, Pat! Is there any rural home in Nova Scotia that doesn't have rhubarb growing somewhere around it? LOL

      Fritz, John, and Kokum did enjoy having us there. It's really lonely in the bush. The three of them loved children, and they treated us like their nieces and nephews or grandchildren. Neither Fritz nor John had children, and they and Kokum came from large families.

      We did not run out of batteries! My mother eagerly listened to the radio for news of the outside world, but she let me listen to WLS Chicago and its rock and roll music all the time. Truthfully, she enjoyed the music as much as I did. I remember how shocked we both were to learn of Ernest Hemingway's suicide on July 2nd over the radio. To this day, I have an oversupply of batteries of all sizes in my pantry. I can't break my ingrained isolated Canadian habits.

      Have a good one!

    2. I sure see it a few dozen times a day when out and about in not just the deep dark woods haha

      Always good to be prepared and never run out of batteries. Back up generator is always nice to have too.

  2. Greetings Louise. I like rhubarb crumble! A well-written piece that I enjoyed reading. Glad you got some help off the locals to help you out with your struggles. Did you see much of your Father during this time? Your Mother was a strong woman to look after five children on her own. Blessings to you. Love love, Andrew.

    1. Hi, Andrew!
      I like rhubarb crumble too; in fact, I like all things rhubarb.

      We saw very little of our father during this time. He was frantic for the first week we were in Lac Seul, because he had no idea where we and little information about who we were with. All he knew was that we were with the Garrick family somewhere on or near an Ojibwa reservation on vast Lac Seul. He had never heard of Lac Seul before my mother's unexpected telegram, which informed him we were flying to Anne (née Garrick) O'Flaherty's family's home in the bush rather than staying in Sioux Lookout. Anne, the wife of the nurse in Lansdowne House, was Fritz and John's sister. Anne and Mike had flown to Sioux Lookout for the birth of their first child, and they didn't have time after we flew to Lac Seul to send a telegram to my worried father in Lansdowne House. I will be writing about my father visiting us in Lac Seul in future posts.

      Have a great weekend, Andrew! I hope you and Di have the chance to spend some time together!

  3. Those people were very generous. You weren't as cut off from the world as you probably initially felt.

    1. You're right, Alex. We weren't. A barge visited the fish camp twice a week to pick up fish and drop off groceries and supplies. Other Garrick siblings and Kokum's brother Uncle Pipe were in and out of Two Point. We went with the Boys to church at St. Mary's on Sundays, sometimes playing croquet with the Daleys and Fritz and John after the service. John sometimes took me with him in the skiff when he went to the Hudson's Bay post. The radio the Garrick's lent us drowned the silence of the wilderness surrounding us. The unexpected and unfamiliar quickly became normal, and we felt at home.

      I hope that you and your wife enjoy this summer weekend and are staying cool.

  4. Interesting post! I like how Donnie and Barbie took the pudding to bed with you, LOL!

    I don't think the term "Metis" refers to ALL people of mixed indigenous/white ancestry. Technically (i.e. legally), it refers only to those of mixed indigenous and French-Canadian blood who can trace their genealogy to one of the Metis inhabitants of the historical Red River settlement (now Winnipeg). That's the only way to get official Metis status in Canada today. Anyone else of mixed indigenous/white ancestry should technically be termed "mixed race." You're right that "half-breed" is never used now. So if the mixed blood came from indigenous women and Scottish Hudson's Bay Company workers, their offspring would be mixed race, not Metis.

    Colloquially, however, lots of people just use the term "Metis" for any mixed race combo, but technically it's an unfounded claim for many.

    1. Thanks for the clarification, Debra! I appreciate the information you shared.

      I often find myself tearing my hair out over the nuances of Aboriginal, First Nations, and Métis terminology, especially when I want to avoid offensive and derogatory terms, but remain accurate about how language was used back then.

      Fritz and John did not consider themselves Indian or Ojibwa. It's my recollection that they proudly considered themselves Métis. The discrimination they faced because of their mixed blood was awful, and it impacted their entire lives; in John's case especially tragically (This is a topic of future posts).

      My rudimentary research found that there is an official Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), and Region 1 (Northwest Métis Council) includes the Métis of Lac Seul. Historically, there was a distinction between the French Métis originating from the unions of voyageurs and First Nations women and the Anglo-Métis who originated from the unions of English or Scottish men and First Nations women. Fritz and John were clearly of Anglo-Métis decent because of Scotsmen and Englishmen in their background. I understood that the two groups had merged into a common Métis tradition and culture.

      The legal morass is complicated and makes my head hurt. It troubled me last night when I was finishing this post, because I know that "THE Métis" trace their origins through the Red River settlement; but then there are others who don't (like the Anglo-Métis) but still claim their identity as Métis, traditionally and culturally.

      It's too much for my non-legal brain, and it's one reason of many why I want to hire a researcher in the near future. It's truly important to me to be historically accurate, even though I'm writing a memoir based on my memories, feelings, and emotions.

      And don't get me started on Aboriginal and First Nations terminology. It poleaxes my brain.

      Definitely in the Sioux Lookout I knew over a half century ago, "Métis" was used colloquially, along with half-breed, and they were used in an offensive and derogatory way. Many of the white population of Sioux Lookout at that time discriminated against anyone with "Indian" blood and considered them inferior ~ Some white people were viciously racist. If I live long enough, I'll have a post or two on this phenomenon too ~ LOL

      Have a great weekend with your Rare One. Sending you a big thanks and a big hug!

    2. Well, you taught me something today! I'm only familiar with prairie Metis and that means French-speaking descendants of the Red River colony. I've never heard of Anglo-Metis! Or indeed, any Metis east of the Manitoba/Ontario border, so live and learn! It is true that, colloquially, many people use the term "Metis" as shorthand for any mixture of indigenous and european blood and it is indeed a better term than many of the older, uglier names.

  5. Those brothers were good men. Where I grew up in Oregon, mixed blood of Indian was something to be proud of.

    1. Hi, Diane! Fritz and John were good men, and they remained our friends until their deaths. I would have been proud to have "Indian" blood. I was hopeful because some of my ancestors arrived in Canada centuries ago, and I thought we might have picked up some Mi'Kmaq DNA early on. No such luck. The National Geographic Genographic Project analyzed my DNA and determined I had no Native American/First Nations ancestry. :( I have Neanderthal DNA though (Most Europeans and Asians do).

      Have a great weekend, Diane!

  6. What a fascinating childhood you had! Your Mom, I am in amazement at her and all that she did for her children! Did your brother and sister really go to bed with those boxes of puddings? I LOVE that story!
    AND I love the photo of Donnie and the big trout! Big is right, it is huge!

    1. Hi, Kay! Yes, they went to bed with their boxes of pudding. The pudding was that much appreciated. The things kids do! You'd never guess looking at seven-year-old Donnie that she would become a topnotch lawyer in Calgary's Oil Patch and a member of the Alumni Board of Directors for Dalhousie and Acadia Universities in Nova Scotia. This is my second all-time favorite photo of Donnie, and the only one I have that shows my friend John's face. I LOVE this photo! Have a great weekend, and stay cool!

  7. Rhubarb, a firm favourite here, we have the rich red and the green varieties, and generosity from people you hardly have met, that is true fellowship.Your Mum, even more amazing as I red more of your life there.

    1. Hi, Jean! The longer I live and the more I travel, I realize there are wonderful people all over the world. I'm a rich red rhubarb person. I don't know if I've seen the green variety. Rhubarb is delicious, and obviously a hardy perennial. My mother has inspired me more than anyone I've ever known. Here's hoping that you and Hugh are enjoying a lovely weekend, winter or not! Sending you a big hug!

  8. Generosity when it is most needed is SO appreciated! Lovely to see your Mom got it when she needed it.
    Rhubarb....what can I say!? The BEST spring tonic around! I know a little more as to it's 'roots' in Canada. Thank YOU nad thanks to Debra.
    Have a great weekend, Louise.

    1. Hi, Jim! Great to hear from you! People were definitely good to my mother and us. I had no doubt that you and Rob knew all about, and appreciated, rhubarb! Glad you know a little more about the Métis. All these labels and words for people ~ Genetically we are all the same, and I like that! All the best to you, Ron, and Sophie! Take care!

  9. I can't recall the last time I've seen a turtle in the wild, discounting zoos and pet shoppes of course

    1. Hi, Adam! I have seen turtles along Piney Creek, but it's been at least seven years. Victoria, British Columbia has a nice bunch in Beacon Hill Park; they're a little wild. It's sad to think how wildlife is vanishing. All the best to you!

  10. I love your posts!! At our old house, we use to have snapping turtles!! We had 10 acres and I remember taking a walk at night. I almost stepped on the mother, laying her eggs. I was lucky!! I would have lost a foot! Never walked without a flashlight again!! LOL!
    I love rhubarb! As you know! I haven't had pudding in ages! LOL!
    I have a great time away! Big Hugs!

    1. I'm glad that snapping turtle didn't bite your foot, Stacy! You were lucky! I'm so glad that you enjoy my posts!

  11. I love the story about Royal Instant Pudding, with your brother! LOL!

    1. Siblings are something else! Sending you a big hug!

  12. "She understood English, but refused to speak it, and her sons understood Ojibway but refused to speak it."

    Why did they refuse to speak eachother's languages?

    I was in Bosnia and Croatia the year after the war ended in the 90's. Their languages are very similar, but the people steadfastly refused to use eachother's words and I heard from others that no one would say the languages were similar because... I don't know why, but I think it was to separate from the pain. I was an outsider. I don't speak either language, so maybe I am wrong about how similar they were. They seemed similar to me.


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.