Mary Belcourt Davis was born Mary Jane Belcourt in Slave Lake ca. 1900, the daughter of Betsy Calliou and the grand-daughter of Louie Calliou and Annie Donald. She appears on the 1901 Census as living in the Grand Prairie area along with the Iroquois Metis families around Flying Shot Lake. Her age at that time is noted as “9”, but is probably 9 months, as on the 1911 census her age is listed as 11 years. The same census shows her father as Pierre Belcourt and two siblings–Norman, aged 9, and Selina, aged 5.
Mary’s grandfather, Louie Calliou, was an Iroquois-Cree Metis born in Edmonton ca. 1854. His father, Louis L’Iroquois (Calliou), was an expert canoe man, guide and hunter who came west with his brother Bernard to work for the Hudson Bay Company or the North-West Trading Company. The young Louis married Annie Donald, from Winnipeg, and their children were born in Edmonton, Stony Plain, Slave Lake and Lac St. Ann. Mary’s mother, Betsy (Betsi) Calliou was born in Lac St. Ann ca. 1878. In the late 1800s the family moved to the Flying Shot Lake area. Later Betsy also lived at Sturgeon Lake.
Mary Belcourt spent her childhood at Flying Shot Lake and her teen years in the newly-formed town of Grande Prairie. She worked at the Donald Hotel and enjoyed going to dances throughout the south Peace with friends such as Liz LeClerc and cousins Jim, Mac and Henry Ferguson. They were the sons of St. Pierre Ferguson and Philomene Calliou , sister to Mary’s father Louis Calliou. Another of St. Pierre’s daughters, Mary, was married to DeWinter.
In 1930 Mary married Thomas Davis, and the couple had four children: Vera Kathleen, Harry Thomas (Ira), Evelyn Bertha and Norman Robert. When Mary was pregnant with Norman in the late 1930s, the couple moved to Edmonton where the two girls were placed in the O’Connell Institute and Ira was left in St. Mary’s Boys Home. In 1939, Tom enlisted in the war and was gone six years. His family, together again, lived on the army pay in Edmonton near the downtown core.
Mary would often tell her children that it was better that no one knew they had “Indian” blood. When she would talk to friends in Cree, she would tell her grandchildren she was speaking French. Mary spent her last years living with her daughters and died in 1972.
The photographs were preserved by Betsy Calliou and passed on to her daughter Mary on her death. When Mary died, they came in to the possession of her daughter Vera and were identified by her grand-daughter Cindy Desrosiers. Copies of the photographs and an oral history were donated to South Peace Regional Archives in 2005.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of copies of 43 photographs of the Calliou and Belcourt families and their descendants, and one oral history interview with Vera Davis Miles, daughter of Mary Belcourt Davis, and Cindy Desrosiers, daughter of Evelyn Davis. The interview tells the story of Mary Belcourt and her mother Betsy Calliou.
Title based on the contents of the fonds Item descriptions available in the finding aid.
Calliou family series. — 1890-1945. — 12 photographs.
Louis & Annie Calliou, 1920 ca 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Louis Calliou and Annie Donald arrived in the Grande Prairie area in the late 1800s and were part of the group of Iroqois Metis who settled around Flying Shot Lake. Location: 0179.01.01
Betsy Calliou and Children, 1930 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Betsy (Elizebeth) Calliou , daughter of Louis & Annie Calliou, with her son Frank Beatty and grand-daughter, Vera Davis. Location: 0179.01.02
Betsy Calliou and Grandchildren, 1945 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Betsy Calliou with her grand-children: Ira, Vera, Norman, (unknown), and Evelyn Davis. Location: 0179.01.03
Frank Beatty, 1945 1 photogragh; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Frank Beatty, son of Betsy Calliou. Location: 0179.01.04
Joe Gladue, 1910 ca 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Joe Gladue, son of Betsy Calliou, died of tuberculosis at about the age of five. Location: 0179.01.05
Calliou Twins, 1910 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Twins born to Betsy Calliou died as toddlers. Location: 0179.01.06
Frank Beatty and Friend, 1940 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Frank Beatty and friend at Sturgeon Lake. Location: 0179.01.07
St. Francis Xavier Mission Church, 1940 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. St. Francis Xavier Mission Church at Sturgeon Lake Settlement. Location: 0179.01.08
Mission Work Crew, 1940 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Crew of workmen with tractor beside St. Francis Xavier Mission Church at Sturgeon Lake Settlement. Location: 0179.01.09
Frank Beatty, 1940 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Frank Beatty, youngest child of Betsy Calliou. Location: 0179.01.10
Mrs. Felix Calliou, 1920 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Mary Belcourt Davis with her aunt, Mrs. Felix Calliou. Location: 0179.01.11
Mr. & Mrs. Felix Calliou, 1920 ca. 1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in. Mr. & Mrs. Felix Calliou. Location: 0179.01.12
St. Pierre Ferguson family series. — 1890-1945. — 5 photographs.
St Pierre Ferguson Family, 1920 ca ; ; The St. Pierre Ferguson family were friends of the Calliou family. Location: 0179.04.01
Mac and Henry Ferguson, 1940 ca ; ; Malcolm (Mac) and Henry Ferguson (left to right) enlisted in World War II about 1940. This photo was taken at the home of Henry and Marion Ferguson in Rycroft. Location: 0179.04.02
Jim Ferguson, 1940 ca ; ; Jim Ferguson. Location: 0179.04.03
Florence Ferguson Gwin, 1940 ca ; ; Florence Ferguson Gwin, daughter of St. Pierre and Philomene Ferguson, and younger sister to Henry, Jim and Malcolm. Location: 0179.04.04
Henry Ferguson Family, 1940 ca ; ; Photograph of the Henry and Marion Ferguson family, taken at their home in Rycroft: back row, Henry and Marion; middle row, Gordon, Eleanor and Terry; front row Herb. Location: 0179.04.05
Belcourt-Davis Oral History. — 2005. — 1 sound recordings.The series consists of one oral history recorded with Vera Davis Miles, daughter of Mary Belcourt Davis, and Cindy Desrosiers, daughter of Evelyn Davis.
Belcourt-Davis Interview, May 26, 2005 with Vera Miles, daughter of Mary Belcourt Davis, and Cindy Desrosiers, grand-daughter. Mary was the daughter of Betsy Calliou, daughter of Louis Calliou and Annie Donald who lived in the Flying Shot Lake Settlement in the early 1900s. 017 Cindy’s research into the lives of Louis Calliou and Annie Donald and the Iroquois-Metis group at Flying Shot Lake. 055 Betsy and Mary born in Lac St. Anne 073 Vera’s membories of her grandmother, Betsy Calliou when she spent summers with her at Sturgeon Lake. 088 Grandmother’s home and furniture: log house, sparse furniture, hand-made quilts, oil lamps. 110 Grandmother’s clothing: made all her own, dark clothing, black coat, straw hat, black beads and prayer book, mocassins. 144 Part religion played in her life: Sturgeon Lake Church, prayed every day in Cree. 159 Level of education/occupation: couldn’t read or write, very little money–lived on relief, made mocassins. Son Frank worked for the mission. 180 Foods she prepared: dried meat, boiled fish and potatoes, porridge and bannock. 200 Lived across from the Hudson’s Bay Store at Sturgeon Lake. 202 Sturgeon Lake Community: store, school, bus orders. 223 Dorm at Sturgeon Lake Mission where Vera would sometimes sleep over. Grandmother wanted her to learn the same things as the girls in the dorm; curling hair with sardine can lids, personal hygiene pads made of flannelette. 270 Cindy’s stories about Great-grandmother. Grandmother (Mary Belcourt-Davis) didn’t talk about her family. When she spoke Cree with a friend told the grand-children she was speaking French. Saved a box of photographs but never showed them to anyone. 290 Grandmother’s practices in dealing with sickness: Mustard plasters. 313 Mary Belcourt’s childhood–in Grande Prairie, no education, very unhappy but loved her mom. 342 Mary lived with her children until she died, told them it was better that no one knew they had “Indian” blood. Now the children and grandchildren are proud to have native blood. 390 Mary’s teenage years: better years as a teenager, friends, boyfriends, dances. Talks about Liz LeClerc, Mac & Jim Ferguson, Jean McPherson. 420 married Tom Davis in 1930, moved to Edmonton in the late 30s where girls were put into the O’Connell Institute and Ira went to St. Mary’s Boys Home. Mary was pregnant with Norman at the time, worked at a gas company. 465 Father went to war–gone 6 years. Family lived on the army pay in Edmonton near the downtown core. 495 Mary passed away in 1972. 548 Mary preserved the photos. Originally they were Betsy’s, sent to Mary on her death. Kept in the steamer trunk with her mocassin kit. Realized their importance but didn’t want to talk about it. 587 End of tape. Location: 0179.06