Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians

By June Helm | Go to book overview

8
Vital Thomas: A Brief Autobiography

Through the years of our friendship I had picked up fragments of Vital's personal history, but usually as conversational asides or imbedded in accounts of some other topic. Eventually I realized that in that form they were almost unrecoverable. In 1970 I asked Vital to recount some of his memories of his earliest years. I had learned in prior years that his mother's native name was Good Paddler. He always spoke of her with a quality of love and respect, often in terms of some wise counsel she had given him.


Earliest Memories

My mother died about 1932 or 1933. She was around sixty when she died. I didn't see my father. I was eight or ten months old when he died. [The band rolls put Vital's birth in 1904.] All my brothers died of TB. It's a good thing they took me out [to mission school at Fort Resolution] before I catch TB. All of my brothers were dead by the time I went to school. I had seven brothers, they all died. And one sister, nine of us altogether. I was the youngest. All my brothers died when young, before they married. One, Michel, was [old enough to be] shooting caribou and ducks. He died when he was about eighteen. In those days, there was no doctor, no hospital, nothing--only the mission.

My mother had a second husband. They called him Fish. She married him while I was at school. They had one child. He died at fifteen or so, TB I think. My mother died before Fish died.

After my father died, my mother lived with her relatives. Her father was Etano, the town [fort] hunter. He was dead before I was born or old enough to know him. I had all kind of uncles around. This was at Trout Rock. My mother had her own tipi. Her relatives were her cousins, so I got to call everyone Uncle. My mother had one sister; she was married

-146-

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Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xii
  • Orthography xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Three Styles in the Practice of Prophecy 5
  • 1 - Prelude to Prophecy 7
  • 2 - Message, Performance, and Persona 27
  • 3 - The Foundations of Prophecy 52
  • Part Two - Ink'On 73
  • 4 - One Man's Ink'On 75
  • 5 - Aspects of Ink'On 80
  • 6 - The Highest Men for Ink'On"" 101
  • 7 - Ink'On in Play and Legend 121
  • 8 - Vital Thomas: A Brief Autobiography 146
  • Appendix 155
  • Notes 158
  • References 164
  • Personal Name Index 169
  • In Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians *
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