LETTER – A family connection with the historic cemetery at Marieval

Batoche, around the time of the Battle of Batoche in 1885 between Louis Riel’s forces and the government’s soldiers and Northwest Mounties. (Image: Saskatchewan Archives Board)

Re: Editorial, ‘Let’s hope 2022 will tell us more about the missing children.’

An interesting tie I have to Marieval. My great grandfather, William Tremblay, was born in 1861 in Quebec, on the Gaspe. He and his brother travelled west. William was working as a surveyor for the Canadian Railway when he encountered Riel and his men in southern Saskatchewan. They were distrusting of him and called him a traitor because he was working for government.

After much discussion and dinner shared, they told him about the settlement at and around Batoche. He found his way there eventually and settled across the river in a farming community called Dauphinais, and when not farming he operated the ferry for Gabriel Dumont.

He married a young woman of the Grant family and together they had a daughter. Sadly the young girl died before she reached a year old, and not too many months later he lost his wife as well.

He was present in the Batoche area before and during the battle. During that time he would, like many others, frequent Ituna for supplies, etc. There he met his second wife and they were married in the Catholic Church in Lebret.

After the battle, many Metis left to settle in the Qu’appelle Valley — William did the same and settled on a homestead property that he had sighted and charted while surveying in years previous.

All Metis were dispossessed of their culture, heritage and spirituality, and offered scrip to “move on” — he used this to settle his property.

Somewhere around 1929, William was up in the middle of a summer night suffering symptoms of multiple sclerosis. He quietly went about preparing the medicine he needed to ease his symptoms by taking the canister of medicine down off the top of the cook stove. He was found dead in the morning. His medicine container was still up top, and a canister of something dangerous was out on the table — he had opened the wrong tin in the dark.

The family, grandpa Leo (who was 11) included, carried his body 20 km to the Roman Catholic Church in Marieval (as he was a Roman Catholic) to be buried. The family returned to their homestead that day to tend the animals and home, but returned to the church the next day.

On arrival they were informed that in the Church’s eyes William had committed suicide, and therefore was going to hell. As a result he was buried without any marker or record “beyond the fence line.”

When pressed for a location they answered, “It doesn’t matter.” Relatedly, my grandfather Leo and his siblings frequently spoke French in the home, but were strictly forbidden from speaking anything but English outside the home. Fluency in French would have led to the discovery of their Metis roots and would have led to the kids being placed into the residential school.

William was probably not alone, likely more graves off the property, beyond the fence line. Grandpa made annual pilgrimages until he was quite old to walk that fence line, speaking French, trying to talk to his dad.


About Mel Rothenburger (9504 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on LETTER – A family connection with the historic cemetery at Marieval

  1. Ian MacKenzie // January 10, 2022 at 6:25 AM // Reply

    fascinating story and heritage!

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