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Historic woman nominated to have face on bank note
Catherine Lamoureux's adventures remembered as Bank of Canada nominations close

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Thursday, April 21, 2016

A call to put the faces of more women on cash is being answered by the Fort Providence Metis Council.

NNSL photo/graphic

A family photo taken in 1915 shows Catherine Beaulieu Bouvier Lamoureux, right, and members of her family. They include, back row, from left, Celine Lafferty Bouvier and her daughter Albina Bouvier; Marie Lafferty Bouvier, the wife of Jean-Baptiste Bouvier, seated; Veronique Lecou Bouvier; Rev. Father Leguen; and Jean-Baptiste Lamoureux. Front row, from left, Elizabeth Bouvier Norwegian holding her niece Corrine Bouvier. - photo courtesy of Albert Lafferty, original held by Susan Christie

The response? A larger than life woman who looms large in Deh Cho history.

When Catherine Lamoureux was young, she once decided to catch herself a bear that was frequenting the patch where the women of Fort Resolution would often pick Saskatoon berries.

At that time, Lamoureux was known by her maiden name, Beaulieu.

The story goes, as told by great-great-grandson Bob Norwegian, that Lamoureux took a cable and pulled off a strand of wire the size of her thumb and fashioned it into a snare.

"Women weren't supposed to carry guns in those days," Norwegian said, adding that at the time this story took place, the men were out on a two-week hunt.

Sure enough, when the women returned to the berry bush, a fierce bear awaited them, his neck caught tight in a snare as he growled and tore at the ground with his claws. The sound of the cable pulling tight was like the twang of a fiddle string.

Lamoureux, who had brought an axe with her for the occasion, said, "I'll get him."

And so she did.

After killing the bear, the women brought it back to their community, where they skinned and butchered it to share with community members.

Now, Lamoureux has been nominated to have her likeness inscribed on currency - an effort on the part of the Bank of Canada to get women on Canadian bills.

Lamoureux is one of more than 25,000 nominees from across Canada for the position.

Her nomination was spearheaded by Gail Cyr, who told Deh Cho Drum she approached the Fort Providence Metis Council for support.

Cyr had heard of Lamoureux and had the opportunity to learn more about her in 2012, when Fort Providence threw a celebration in Lamoureux's honour. That celebration came after Lamoureux was named a Historical Person of Interest by Parks Canada.

"I'm friends with her descendants, so from time to time I would hear stories," Cyr said, adding none of the stories were quite as amazing as the information she learned during and after the celebration.

"She could shoot better than any man ... She would hunt back and forth between Fort Providence and (Behchoko), and what a generous woman she was."

Lamoureux spoke four languages and became known for her work with the Grey Nuns as well as her efforts to establish the first hospital and school in Fort Providence, where she moved with her family in 1861.

Lamoureux's adventures gained her the title of Ehtsu Naats'i - Grandmother of the Winds - and Kokum Baie - The Mother of Us All.

Lamoureux's descendants include well-known families such as the Sibbestons, Norwegians and Antoines, as well as the McLeods, Bonnetrouges and Laffertys.

"She's really a remarkable woman," Cyr said.

"I figured she really deserves to be nominated just because of all her different skills, her generosity and of course her (linguistic ability) ... I think she needs to be up there."

Born in 1836, Lamoureux was baptized at the age of nine into the Roman Catholic Church at Portage La Loche, Sask.

She spent four years at the Grey Nuns' school at St. Boniface in what was then Red River.

When she was 16, she married Joseph Bouvier of Fort Resolution.

Bob Norwegian, whose grandmother Elizabeth Bouvier Norwegian told him stories of his ancestor's life, recalls Lamoureux as a fearless woman who would brave the coldest of temperatures.

One such story has Lamoureux harnessing up her dogs at -60 C and head out with two other women she knew to visit her children near Behchoko.

"It was so cold, even the men didn't want to go out," Norwegian said.

"They did some trapping along the way ... and stayed for a few days before coming back."

He also recalls being told stories of Lamoureux braving the swaying ice on the snye during breakup on snowshoes in order to collect birch sap from the island by Fort Providence.

She re-married in 1879, two years after her husband died, to Jean Baptiste Lamoureux, who Norwegian says was a carpenter for the church.

She died in 1918 at the age of 82.

Norwegian said the nomination is important because it represents not just Lamoureux but many people who lived during the same time period.

"It's not just about her. It's about all the great-grandmas, the great-great grandmas. They all went through hardship - it just so happened a lot of stories went around about her," he said.

"That's the way I like to see it."

In a media release, the Fort Providence Metis Council stated Lamoureux "exemplified the bridge that Metis people, in particular, built for the future with the development changes that would come to the NWT."

"She is still with us," the release states.

Bank of Canada nominations closed April 15. The list of nominations is still being updated.

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