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.
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