Nor­way, Scot­land, France, Eng­land, Ire­land and first na­tions all play a role in the de­tec­tive work that swung from the Hud­son’s Bay Co. to pub­lic li­braries and lists of B. C. tribes

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Irum­maged through Mother’s tat­tered boxes and found a faded black and white pho­to­graph of a young cou­ple. The woman, with slightly darker com­plex­ion than the man, wore a long black dress with a wide belt and shiny buckle. She rested her hand on the shoul­der of a seated, mus­tached young man. I could see his vest un­der a suit jacket but­toned only at the top. With one leg crossed over the other, his shoe laces criss­crossed up in­side cuff- less trousers.

Fam­ily mem­bers thought she may have been of first na­tions her­itage.

I stared at them. They seemed to look back at me.

“ OK, Momma Louisa, maybe you can tell me about this pic­ture?” I held it up.

“ Oh, that. They’re my par­ents all right, Nels and Anne.” She glanced at the pic­ture then gazed out the win­dow. “ He was sel­dom home. When he did come home, we had to learn to speak his lan­guage — French.” “ Was he from France or Que­bec?” “ Don’t know.” She turned away and closed the dis­cus­sion.

I per­se­vered, “ What about your mother? Just look at her lovely tex­tured dress. See? It has a slight flare. And look at her long sleeves, puffed at the shoul­der.” Mother fid­geted. “ Her hair’s in a bun. She looks pos­i­tively re­gal.” I waited a long time for a re­ply. “ I never for­gave her.” “ What did she do, Mother?” She sighed with ex­ag­ger­ated pa­tience. “ Nels was away so much, we couldn’t af­ford to live in town, only out in bush coun­try. My four broth­ers went hunt­ing and fish­ing for food. My sis­ter and I had to take turns fetch­ing wa­ter from the creek.”

“ That’s not so bad.” I hoped to keep her talk­ing. Mother thought a lot and spoke very lit­tle even when she felt well.

“ She knew it was bear and cougar coun­try. I was only a kid but she made me go alone a half mile to the creek . . . I ran all the way. . . branches hit my face. I al­ways spilled the wa­ter. She al­ways dis­missed me with a wave of her hand and mut­tered gib­ber­ish.”

“ Was it a di­alect, Mother, what tribe?”

“ Oh, she was just try­ing to scare me into be­hav­ing bet­ter. She knew no na­tive lan­guage that I know of. But she fooled some folks, maybe.”

The con­ver­sa­tion was over. And Mother’s life was over be­fore I learned any­thing more.

But I re­mem­ber Mother’s pen­chant for climb­ing the hills on camp­ing hol­i­days to look for bushes of soopo­lalie. She bent a branch over a cloth spread on the ground, then, with a stick, she tapped the berries free. At home she beat them into a foam for dessert. Ex­cept Mother was the only one who could tol­er­ate the acrid taste. I sug­gested adding su­gar but she shud­dered a neg­a­tive re­ply. To m e, t h e b e r r i e s s h e c a l l e d hooshum tasted like raw, pureed rhubarb spiced with Ep­som salts and tur­pen­tine.

At the B. C. Archives, one of­fi­cial pa­per showed that my grand­mother, maiden name Greene, orig­i­nated in Nor­way. This in­for­ma­tion mud­dled my pre­con­ceived idea that she was of 100- per- cent first na­tions de­scent. I would have to search Nel’s an­ces­try. But how? I had no more names for clues. Delv­ing was new to me.

I found an old list of B. C. tribes in the Cloverdale Pub­lic Li­brary. But when I phoned or wrote to the bands’ offices for in­for­ma­tion, it seemed they did not want to share what in­for­ma­tion they had or had no staff to search their books for my fam­ily’s records. Also, some of them re­jected me with non- replies or si­lence.

Staff at one Metis or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fice I con­tacted about both my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents were kind but un­help­ful. They re­quired of­fi­cial proof of my lin­eage from a Metis. I had none, only oral sto­ries.

A rel­a­tive sug­gested re­search­ing church records when­ever I learned dates and de­tails.

I even in­quired un­suc­cess­fully at the in­fa­mous res­i­den­tial schools.

Try­ing to es­tab­lish my ma­ter­nal her­itage, I learned, re­quired dogged res­o­lu­tion.

Be­cause my dad died many years ago without leav­ing in­for­ma­tion about his Scot­tish an­ces­try, I de­cided to trace his ge­neal­ogy.

I wrote to the Hud­son Bay Co. in Win­nipeg for copies of staff records dur­ing the mid- nine­teenth cen­tury, the ap­prox­i­mate time my great­grand­fa­ther, Don­ald McAu­ley, may have been an em­ployee. They sent, on in­ter- li­brary loan, a reel of the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees. At the lo­cal li­brary, I cranked the tape, frame by frame, through the ma­chine.

Af­ter many af­ter­noons, I found Don­ald McAu­ley writ­ten in neat script in one of their filmed ledgers. He im­mi­grated to Canada in 1832, prob­a­bly via Liver­pool.

Ac­cord­ing to per­sonal files be­long­ing to my late cousin, James ( Buster) Gor­don, McAu­ley was born on the Isle of Lewis, Scot­land, 1816. As a young man at Stor­n­away, he was ar­ti­cled to the Hud­son Bay Co., sailed to Canada, then some­how found his way to York Fac­tory. For his hike from Man­i­toba to Fort Kam­loops, staff is­sued min­i­mal food and sup­plies: 50 pounds flour, some salt, tea, a mus­ket, one pound of pow­der, one pound of shot, an axe and some pots. He headed west, hunted and fished, made fires with flint, met with the In­di­ans and bartered for furs to be picked up later by a voyageur crew. The furs were taken back to York Fac­tory for ship­ping to Eng­land.

McAu­ley was a but­ter and cheese maker. He also tended the com­pany’s live­stock. He met and mar­ried an In­dian princess, Mary Anne War­potkwa in 1868, in a Catholic cer­e­mony in a Pres­by­te­rian church. They had six chil­dren.

On a hunch, my son searched the Van­cou­ver Pub­lic Li­brary’s archives and found a copy of their barely leg­i­ble mar­riage cer­tifi­cate. It set­tled my fam­ily’s ar­gu­ments about cor­rect spell­ing of names. Also, this cer­tifi­cate was our only of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion that Mary Anne was first na­tions.

Mary Anne’s obituary in the Kam­loops Stan­dard- Sen­tinel, Jan­uary 6, 1922 ( with a dif­fer­ent spell­ing of McAu­ley) re­veals some of the cou­ple’s story: MRS. MA­CAULAY DEAD IN CITY

AGE 110 Daugh­ter of In­dian Chief. She was born four years be­fore Water­loo. Her de­scen­dants num­ber fifty- one. Widow of Don­ald Ma­caulay, long in Hud­son Bay Ser­vice in District. There passed away yes­ter­day, at the home of her grand­daugh­ter, the old­est per­son in Bri­tish Columbia, if not in Canada. Mrs. Mary Ma­caulay, aged 110, daugh­ter of an In­dian Chief of Dead Man’s Creek. Mrs. Ma­caulay was born in Sa­vana in 1812 . . . At an early age she mar­ried Don­ald Ma­caulay, who en­tered the ser­vice of the Hud­son Bay Com­pany. He died in 1912, aged 92 . . . Four of their six chil­dren sur­vived. Mrs. Ma­caulay was a woman of strong force of char­ac­ter and re­tained all her fac­ul­ties up to the end . . . she did very fine sewing which was the pride of her man­i­fold de­scen­dants. She came of a long lived race but long out- dis­tanced her fam­ily as to age, her last re­main­ing rel­a­tive, a brother, dy­ing 29 years ago at age 100. Dur­ing her ex­traor­di­nary long life Mrs. Ma­caulay en­joyed re­mark­ably good health. She died with her teeth as white and as firm as when she was 25 years old. Her eyes were of un­usual bright­ness, and never seemed to grow old; she never had spec­ta­cles. She in­stilled in her de­scen­dants at all times the high­est moral prin­ci­pals and was al­ways the essence of com­plete fair­ness. With her, one of the first and most vi­tal ax­ioms was that hon­esty was the best pol­icy. She played a Chris­tian- like part through­out her life said one of her grand­chil­dren, to­day, and if there is a heaven she has cer­tainly gone there. Other sources say that Mary Anne spoke In­te­rior Sal­ish and French flu­ently, and English halt­ingly. She learned some Gaelic from her hus­band, his only spo­ken lan­guage.

One of Ma­caulay’s daugh­ters, Mar­garet, my grand­mother, mar­ried Alex Brown. They had one son be­fore she was wid­owed. She mar­ried an­other Scot, Alexan­der Gra­ham Gor­don. They had five sons and four daugh­ters. Three of the daugh­ters were tee­to­talers. Once, my hus­band, in one of his benev­o­lent moods, gave Aunt An­nie a bot­tle of wine. She poured the “ wicked spir­its” down the kitchen sink. The fourth daugh­ter, Aunt Kit, “ drank a wee drop for her health but only oc­ca­sion­ally, mind you.” I was named af­ter her.

One of the sons was my dad, Malcolm Gor­don, nick­named Toby, a build­ing con­trac­tor, who mar­ried my mother Louisa Anne Per­rault in Kam­loops. They moved to Pen­tic­ton where they raised six of us kids on a fruit farm dur­ing the De­pres­sion. We had food to eat but no money to spend. Dad and his broth­ers played Scot­tish quadrilles on their fid­dles at many fam­ily gath­er­ings. I can still see him, in my mind, paus­ing from fid­dle play­ing, hold­ing his fid­dle down with one hand, bow in the other, and call­ing square dances. There were bag­pipes, too. Even­tu­ally, through the years, the mu­si­cal in­stru­ments evolved to gui­tars and karaoke, and quadrilles be­came golf and other games.

At the last Gor­don clan re­union in Pen­tic­ton, in 2000, 120 rel­a­tives at­tended.

We en­joyed the “ group hug” the most. With the host in the mid­dle, we all spread out in a cir­cle and held hands, while the el­dest guest or an­other cho­sen one broke the chain and started cir­cling in­ward pulling along all the oth­ers. The spi­ral con­tin­ued mov­ing smaller and tighter un­til no one could move. Cheers erupted. The re­verse rou­tine re­sulted in a wide cir­cle, again. They still joined hands and whooped to­ward the cen­tre. The star­tled host had nowhere to duck. So, of course, he just froze un­der the um­brella of clap­ping hands and laughed with all the oth­ers. Some fam­ily mem­bers sug­gested the Hug may have been a vari­a­tion of a first na­tions cel­e­bra­tion.

I sel­dom joined in the group hug. We all had chores to do — mine was video­tap­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties. I sang to my­self A Gor­don For Me, words and mu­sic by Rbt. Wil­son: “ A Gor­don for me, a Gor­don for me, if ye’re no a Gor­don, ye’re no use to me, the Black Watch are braw the Seaforths and a’, but the cocky wee Gor­don’s the pride o’ them a.’ ”

I rel­ish the pos­si­bil­ity that I in­her­ited mu­si­cal­ity and word­smithing from the Scots, emo­tional depth from the French, tenac­ity from the Nor­we­gians, spir­i­tu­al­ity and artis­tic abil­ity from first na­tions, and a sense of hu­mour from the eclec­tic mix of na­tion­al­i­ties. What’s more, I mar­ried an Ir­ish­man whose mother was English. I’m a Bri­tish Columbian all right. Glo­ria Barkley


TOP: Mar­garet ( McAu­ley) Gor­don and her sons: Don ( stand­ing), Malcolm, Bill, An­gus; seated, Ge­orge ( Brown), Mar­garet and Bob, taken in Kam­loops, 1909.

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