Dumont, Mary (Vaness)

(1917 - 2000)

Mary Dumont was born Cecile Marie Vaness, November 15, 1917, the second eldest of five children bom to Anna Dufresne and Daniel Vaness, who were language interpreters for the Department of Indian Affairs on the Onion Lake Reserve, Saskatchewan. Mary's early experiences included translating between Cree and English, for department officials, when her father was unavailable. Mary remembered her maternal grandmother, Catherine Dufresne, being a midwife and "doctoring" people with Indian medicine. Mary related that her grandmother wanted to pass this knowledge on to her, but as a young girl Mary's attitude was, "What am I going to do with that garbage?"

One of Mary's talents and greatest pleasures was dancing. As a young woman she won many "step-dancing" contests at Métis and Indian celebrations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. She was formally educated by an order of Catholic nuns in Onion Lake, and although she never attended church regularly, one religious event she never missed, was the Pilgrimage at Lac St. Anne, in Northern Alberta.

In 1937 Mary married Joseph Ambrose Dumont at St. Paul, Alberta and had 10 children. In 1943 Mary left Lac La Biche, Alberta, with several other Métis families, in search of work, "a whole truckload of us, moved in the back of a one-ton truck with what little belongings we had." When threshing season ended, the families set out for Sundre where they found work in the logging industry.

One of the early houses the Dumonts lived in was a "shack" bought from Mrs. Ferguson and hauled from the "coal camp", west of Sundre, to the South Road. The "shack" was moved by means of two wagons hooked together. Later on they purchased a schoolhouse to live in.

Life was never easy for Mary from 1949 to 1950, when living on the "South Road", three tragedies struck. Ambrose was diagnosed with tuberculois. Their 13-month-old daughter, Lorraine, died from spinal meningitis, and they had to send their son, Leo, to the Ontario School for the Blind, in Brantford, Ontario for four years.

By 1959 Mary and Ambrose had purchased a piece of land in town and moved their "schoolhouse" two blocks south of the United Church. Around this time that Mary went to work at Water Valley.

Mary continued to work outside the home, the rest of her life, either cooking or cleaning. Mary passed away in February 2000, predeceased by her husband Ambrose, her daughter Isabel and great-grandchild Chetwyn.

-by Marilyn Dumont

Category: Sundre