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Mary Rose LaPoudre ("Granny" Powder)

Mary Rose “Granny” Powder was a traditional midwife and healer who lived in various locations in the northwest boreal forest region in Alberta. Her story was compiled by Terry Garvin in the late 1970s during his research of traditional Aboriginal life in the northwest, and is presented below.


"Granny" Powder was born Mary Rose Cardinal at Frog Lake, Northwest Territories (now Alberta) in 1885, one day before the killing of members of the Frog Lake community, the incident that launched the Northwest Rebellion. The story she was told by her parents and friends was that she was born the day before the first shots were fired at Frog Lake. She was packed on her mother's back, and on horseback they fled the community, along with other members of the community, to find shelter and safety at Onion Lake, Northwest Territories. It is generally believed that before her death at the age of 98 in 1983, she was the last living person to also have lived at Frog Lake at the time of the 1885 Frog Lake incident.

Granny married Jonas LaPoudre (Jonas later changed his name to an anglicized form, Powder, and Granny took on the Powder name) and lived in the Onion Lake region until 1912. Then, along with her husband their family, she moved to the junction of the House River and the Athabasca River, north of Athabasca Landing and upstream of Fort McMurray. She and Jonas worked for the transportation industry, barging supplies from Athabasca Landing downriver as far as the Western Arctic. They also trapped, fished, and hunted for food and for fur for clothing and trade.  By 1921, the railway link between Edmonton and Fort McMurray brought river freighting south of Fort McMurray to an end. In 1922, Granny and her family moved to Fort McMurray, where she remained until her death.

Granny was well respected for her knowledge of bush medicine and for her skill as a midwife. In her lifetime she delivered fifty-six children; some of them her own grandchildren. By the time she was a great-great-grandmother, some of the babies she delivered were great-grandparents. At the time of her death, she was the head of a five-generation family, all living at Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Granny was loved and respected by people inside and outside of her Aboriginal culture. This respect was prominently reflected when, at the age of ninety-three, Granny was asked to cut the ribbon at the official opening of a new modern hospital in Fort McMurray in 1978. She died in that same hospital five years later. A few days before her death, she told a daughter when her death would occur --- at noon on a specific day. She died at the predicted time with family members at her side.

Reprinted with permission of Terry Garvin.

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