July 17, 1937 – January 29, 2020
Patrick Michell Edmund as born July 17, 1937 at his home on Chislatlate, or IR#9, at the west end of Cheslatta Lake. He was the eighth child and only son of Michell (1899-1983) and Rosalie Louie (1900 -1952), grandson of Chief Louie (1866-1951) & Agathe Oekapah, and of Edmund Pierre (1858-1946) & Theresa Charlie (1884-1929). He is survived by his children, Ernie Carl, Vivian. Rick Lee Ross and Preston.
1937 was the height of the Great Depression and times were tough. The previous year, a measles epidemic took the lives of three of his sisters on consecutive nights and they were buried side by side in a mass grave in the cemetery near Indian Meadows, which eventually washed away with 25 Edmund graves in 1956 by high flows from the spillway. Pat grew up fast and quickly learned survival skills. One time, while his dad was away hunting, his mom spotted a moose swimming across the lake. They both jumped in their dugout canoe and paddled furiously to the side of the swimming moose when his mom took a paddle and landed many blows to the moose’s head, killing it. Somehow, they got the moose to shore and proceeded to butcher it. When his dad came home from an unsuccessful hunt, he was overjoyed to smell the sweet aroma of roasting moose.
Pat always spoke fondly of his childhood next to the Clark family who live across the lake from the Edmunds and the times they shared meat, fish and berries which each other.
When Pat was in his pre-teens, his father took him out on his trapline to a small lake and made a camp. Michell told Pat that that it was up to him to survive and become a man. He left him with a .22 rifle, a pocket full of shells, a knife, a piece of canvas, some blankets and small traps. When Michell returned weeks later, he found Pat ragged and weak but very much alive. Pat had proven that he could survive in spite of many challenges and a harsh environment. That experience galvanized Pat for the rest of his life.
In early spring 1952, when Alcan built the dam at the outlet of Cheslatta Lake, the Edmunds family joined the rest of Cheslatta at the village of Belgatchek #5 at Knapp Creek. There they learned from Alcan and DIA that they were being forced to evacuate their villages which would soon be underwater. It became Pat’s job to place a stick into the gravel at the edge of the water. Every morning, they could tell how fast the water was rising and it increased the dire urgency of having to move. Pat remembers the crying and wailing coming from the houses at night. Pat was 14 years old when his people left their Cheslatta homes, never to return.
His family wandered for some time living in tents and shacks at Ootsa Lake, Grassy Plains and Danskin. As a very young man, Pat leaned how to work hard. He found jobs in logging, ranching, sawmilling, driving and big game guided for Blackwell’s. When he was 20 or so, he learned how to drive trucks when he went up north to put up communication towers around Liard Hot Springs, Fort Nelson and 30 miles south of Fairbanks Alaska. In the 1960’s, he made his way to Prince Rupert where he boarded a ship to Vancouver. At a union hall, he was hired by a man who was a mail contractor. After getting his drivers’ license, he hauled mail for several years from Vancouver to Kamloops, Vernon, Cache Creek and other places. Then he took a job driving a taxi in Vancouver for some time.
He returned home and married Mary Anne Morris in Burns Lake. They had 3 children, Ernie Carl, Wanda Florence and Vivian. Pat bought a small parcel of IR behind the Grassy School from Alexie Jack and he lived there the rest of his life.
In the early 1970’s, Pat became the first native to be hired on the Francois Lake ferry. As a deckhand on the “Jacob Henkel” Pat became an expert “parker”.
Over the years, he drove truck and snowplows for Highways, Nechako North Coast and Lakes District Maintenance. Pat developed a reputation of promptness and reliability. He was also known to ‘plow wide’ in order to keep a two-lane road safe and clean. In the late 70’s, Pat met the love of his life Evelyn Leon. They raised Rick and Lee Ross, losing Waylon in stillbirth. They became Guardians of Preston Squinas in the early 2000’s. Evelyn passed away in 2006.
Pat never strayed from British Columbia except the odd times when he ventured to Alberta, Montana, Idaho and Washington. He was astonished to be able to speak with the Natives down there.
Pat cared deeply about his people and his community. He was elected Cheslatta Band Councillor in 1964, 1979, 1982 and 1983. Pat was the official mapper in 1983 – 84 and he worked with the elders in producing 70+ hand-drawn tradition land use maps. He appeared in National Geographic in 1986 and became a Cheslatta Warrior on the front lines of the battle against Alcan’s Kemano II project. Pat was the first Cheslatta Commissioner on the Carrier Sekani Fisheries Commission in 1993. In 2004, Pat undertook the task of carving the first dugout canoe in 52 years. From falling a giant cottonwood tree on the shores of Cheslatta Lake until it was launched. He later carved 2 dugout canoes for the Stellat’en, teaching young people in reviving a lost skill. He worked on the Cheslatta Language Committee, which after 10 years of hard work, published the 435-page Cheslatta Carrier Nation Dictionary in 2010.
In 2009, Master Carver Pat helped develop the Chief Louie Paddle Company and eventually carved 100’s of paddles and Spirit Feathers that were shipped to over 20 countries across the globe. Pat was meticulous with his work and if one of his creations wasn’t right, it wound up in the trash.
Pat was great hunter and developed a special knowledge of animals and could speak to them. He knew the value of plants, roots and herbs. Pat was a teacher, a mentor, a historian and a story teller. He was tough and demanding… he was soft and understanding. Above all, he was proud of his family and his community. He loved rodeos and celebrations and usually went to the Williams Lake Stampede, Billy Barker Days and Elders Gatherings. He loved driving down the road and was proud to have safely driven over a couple million miles or more.
Pat was a master of the Cheslatta Dakelh dialect and could always be counted on to clarify place names of lakes, creeks, rivers, mountains and everything that lived on, in, above and around them.
He will be greatly missed by the Cheslatta People, fellow residents of the Southside and people far beyond our borders. In fulfilling Pat’s wishes, he will be cremated and his ashes will be spread over Ligitiyuz Mountain later this summer.
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