Friday, December 08, 2006

Profile: Angelica Zasta Gooselaw

I wrote an earlier post about the Gooselaw family, which basically consisted of a scan of two pages from the 1928 Border Crossings that was dedicated to their Matriarch, Angela Gooselaw. However, that post was, I have recently learned, mainly taken from a newspaper article published on Sunday, May 27, 1923 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Below is the entire article, with links I have provided on certain key words you might find of additional interest...

Indian Woman, 98 Years Old Still Lives in Log Home, Her Minnesota Abode for More Than Eighty Years

Mme. Angelica Gooselaw, Born on Site of Winnipeg Sees Wilderness Won by Her Descendants; Recalls Visit of General Dickson*, and Says He Left Without Raising Half-Breed Army.

By August J. Lindvall

In a log house tucked into the northwest corner of Kittson county, which gives the dwelling the distinction of being nearest of any home to that angle of Minnesota's northern boundary, lives Mme. Angelica Zasta Gooselaw, 98 years old. The farmhouse of the Gooselaw house is two miles north of St. Vincent, and it was there, on May 21, that I obtained the photograph accompanying this article and got from her the story of her life.

In this connection I inquired of her whether she could recall anything about the expedition of a character calling himself General Dickson* of the Indian Liberating Army, who in 1836, arrived alone in Pembina, and who announced that his purpose was to obtain about 200 young half-breeds to go with him to the far southwest, there to establish an Indian kingdom of which he would be king.

Mrs. Gooselaw informed me that she remembered General Dickson quite well; that he stayed in Pembina less than a year, but, unable to speak the Cree language, or any of the vernacular languages of the aborigines in that region, he failed to impress the people seriously, finally departing abruptly. Where he had come from, or where he went thereafter, no one knew.

Born in October 1824

Mme. Gooselaw was born at St. Xavier Mission, now the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the month of October 1824. Her parents were Joseph Zaste and Angelica Parisien, both of the Cree Indian nation, which had dwelt at the head of the Great Lakes toward the north and west, and south along both sides of the Red River of the North, since time immemorial.

Here her parents continued to dwell until she passed her fourteenth year, when they, together with other people of their kindred, moved south and made settlement on both sides of the Red River, making permanent settlements at what are now the cities of St. Vincent, Minn., and Pembina, N.D. These settlements, in the summer of 1838, were largely in charge - spiritually, at least - of the French Jesuit missionaries whose zeal and devotion for the conversions of all peoples to the Christian religion are so well known to all.

Here the Cree maiden grew up to womanhood, and here together with others of her coevals and kindred she became a catechumen of the Rev. Fr. Belcourt, a most zealous Jesuit missionary, who built the first mission chapel, about one mile north of the present Pembina, on the west side of the Red River, now known as Old Pembina.

The Zaste family, being devout Catholics, did not a little to help organize the first nucleus of a Cree parish, a mission congregation, as well as the first permanent settlement of the Cree people within our state.

Romance of Wilderness

It was here the Cree maiden met the youth of her choice, a M. Augustine Gooselaw, pioneer and frontiersman of French-Canadian descent. Their intimacy ripened into love, and on May 15, 1842, their marriage was solemnized in the Mission chapel, above mentioned, by the Rev. Fr. Belcourt. "She less than eighteen and the swain in his twentieth." Although but a frontier chapel, this marriage was solemnized with all the solemnity of the Catholic church, both the contracting parties being members of the mission parish.

Their home, a frontier two-story log cabin, already built on the east side of the Red River, less than a mile from the chapel, has been the family domicile throughout all the intervening years.

This family was blest with twelve children as follows: Jean Baptiste, Henry, Xavier, Angelica, Marie Rose, William, Alexander, Frank, Jerome, Rogers, Augustine, and Emma - nine boys and three girls. At the present writing all are living but Jean Baptiste, the oldest boy, who was drowned in the Red River while in his fourteenth year. Nine are living in Minnesota, while two daughters, Angelica and Emma, are residents of Canada, just north of the family homestead. At the present writing, there are fifty-four grand and great-grandchildren living and thirteen dead. A great number of the Gooselaw descendants are farmers, hunters, and fishermen, while others are merchants and mechanics and quite a few in the professions.

We must not forget to show the loyalty of the Gooselaw family, of which they may well be proud. In our late World war the following grand and great-grandsons served in United States forces overseas: Peter, George, Henry, Frederic, Ely, Alfred, and Joseph. Also a Daniel and John Gooselaw, youths in their teens, enlisted at the close of the war - all ready to defence their country, come what may. One grandson, a Philip Goodon, served in His Majesty's forces overseas.

But few people living within the borders of our state - if any there be - can antedate this venerable pioneer family.

M. Augustine Gooselaw died on August 18, 1904.

Husband Walked to St. Paul

Mme. Gooselaw recalls many incidents of real pioneer life. At the invitation of Governor Sibley, Augustine Gooselaw walked to St. Paul in 1841 to discuss matters relating to their settlement.

Her husband hunted the bison on the Dakota plains and was one of the purveyors of buffalo meat for the United States garrison at Fort Pembina. Her served also as United States mail carrier for the outlying settlements and trading posts, particularly Koochicing, Red Lake, Lake of the Woods, Turtle Mountains (St. John's, N.D.)

The weary traveler, the wayfarer and prospector, always found welcome at the Gooselaw cabin, and it can truly be said, "all claim a kindred" and encore the poet:

Just where the woodlands meet the flowery
surf of the Prairies,
Dwelt they in love of God and of man.
Alike were they free from
Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy,
the vice of republics.
Neither locks had they to their doors, nor
bars to their windows;
But their dwellings were open as day and
the hearts of the owners;
There the richest was poor, and the poorest
lived in abundance.

Mme. Gooselaw also related to me how she became an American as distinguished from a Canadian. I seems that when the Crees migrated southward they had no intention of leaving Her Majesty's domain. This was prior to the survey of the International boundary. The present cities of St. Vincent and Pembina were then laid out by a M. Cavalier, south of the International boundary. A few pioneer Cree families settled two miles north of these settlements, thinking they would be in Canada. Dame Fortune destined it otherwise, however, the local surveyors and astrologers losing out. When the real survey came they were all south of the boundary, and Minnesota gained in worthy citizens. Mme. Gooselaw's two oldest sons, Henry and Xavier, worked with the surveyors from the crossing of the Red to the Lake-of-the-Woods.

During all her varied life Mme. Gooselaw has "seen the wilderness bloom into a fruitful garden." Her duty toward family, God and country always has been uppermost in her daily life. Her parents, converts of the Rev. Father Belcourt, the Jesuit pioneer missionary, herself and husband devout Roman Catholics, she brought up her children to be members and attendants of, the mother church. Mme. Gooselaw always refers with reverence to the early Jesuits, particularly Father Belcourt, and later a Rev. Father Andree, regarding how they labored with her people - the zeal and devotion and self-denial they displayed; both familiar with the language and custom of the Cree people; their only aim being the conversion of all to the Christian religion. Although passed her ninety-eighth year, Mme. Gooselaw attends mass regularly at the St. Vincent Catholic church, now served by a Rev Father Baux.

As a linguist she can read and speak Cree, English, and French fluently. We are told that her French is most scholarly. She is also familiar with the language of her kinspeople, the Chippewas and the Assinaboines.

She remembered how the old Red River had at times gone on the warpath - its water causing a deluge to adjacent land. How some sixty-two years ago they all had to leave their homes and flee to higher ridges, particularly Ridgeville, Manitoba, just north of the Bamdarg. The water did not recent till June 10 and no crops were harvested that year.

Age Kind to Her

In the summer of 1920, Mme. Gooselaw was a witness in Minnesota District court at Hallock, Minn., presided over by the Hon. Andrew Grindeland. Despite the fact that she was then in her ninety-seventh year, the court complimented her on her intelligence as a witness.

When I saw her but a few days ago, she was in perfect health - reading, sewing and crocheting without the aid of glasses. Her mental faculties, particularly her memory, as of the very best - she could relate the smallest details of her early life. She also attends her family household to a certain extent. However, two granddaughters are always with her of late years. Her excellent health continues, and if nothing unforeseen occurs, she bids fair to reach the century mark.

We are sorry to relate, that at the close of so eventful a life, the title to the family homestead is contested - the home she has occupied some eighty years and more. The case is now in the United States court.

* Concerning "General Dickson"...

Although considerable research still needs to be done in the area of "Metis uprisings" in the United States, there is at least two episodes in which attempts were made by allied groups of Indians and half-breeds to form a "native" state. The first, in 1826-27 involved the formation of a United Nations of Indians and the establishment of the Republic of Fredonia at Nacogdoches between the Canadian River and the Red River (U.S.A.) near the Mexican border in what is now Texas. The movement included remnants of the Tecumseth Confederacy, and dissatisfied Cherokee (who were predominantly mixed blood). The leadership of the movement was assassinated in a plot launched by the founder of Texas, Stephen Austin.

The second episode, in 1836, apparently died in the planning stages but included an even more widespread plot. A well-financed half-breed named James Dickson traveled between Montreal, Buffalo, Sault Ste. Marie and Red River (Canada) recruiting half-breeds for an Indian Liberation Army. The plan was to join up with a larger group of Cherokees and form an expedition to California where an independent state would be established.

Hudson's Bay Company officials interfered with Dickson's finances and the plan ground to a halt. In a final meeting before he left the Red River area, Dickson presented Cuthbert Grant with his sword and epaulets. These episodes are highlighted here, both to indicate the need for research on an continental basis on Metis issues, and to at least indicate that the concept of nationhood is not exclusive to the Red River area.

From: Pre & Post-Red River Metis Communities

While Houston was still fighting for the Texas Revolution, a poet-warrior named James Dickson appeared in Washington, proclaiming himself as Moctezuma II, determined to go out to the region west of the Great Lakes, where he would recruit an "Indian Liberation Army" that would move down across the Rockies, to conquer California for a new republic where only Indians would be permitted to own lands. He did recruit a few supporters in the East, he did go West, but he there found himself with his words growing thin in the cold air. He faced local opposition from the Hudsons Bay Company. Most of his followers drifted away. In the middle of the winter, he headed toward the mountains. Nobody heard from him again.

From: The Deluded White Chieftains and Elizabeth Arthur, "Dickson, James," Dictionary of Canadian Biography