Telling Our Stories:
Story telling is the Shuswap
way of passing our history
to the next generations
Willie Peters lived at Sugar Cane pretty well all my life as I remember. He was not a Band member, but he lived with dad’s sister Mary Ann Thomas. Therefore, that made him a part of our family. Willie was from the Clinton Band. His and Mary Ann’s son was Sammy Peters.
Willie always had a vehicle when almost no one else on the rez had cars. The whole family, including ours, always travelled together everywhere. We went picking strawberries near Seattle Washington as a family. We took trips to visit relatives in Ashcroft and Clinton as a family. I remember as kids sleeping on the floor on blankets in many of these places. We went picking berries and medicines out in the Likely and Horsefly areas as a family. Once I ran away to Kamloops with my mom; Willie and the family came to pick me up after a couple of months. I just don’t know how we all used to fit in his vehicles.
One of my more memorable memories of Willie Peters was when he moved Father Thomas’ house from where Kiddo and Hazel Alphonse’s house is now. That was an amazing feat and a sight to watch. I don’t know where Willie got this contraption from, but it was a giant winch. It had gears like a giant watch.
Mary Ann had inherited Dick Thomas’ house when her brother Dick died. It was a big gray house which stood where Adrian Thomas’ house is now built. Bill and Martha Sellars (Mary Ann’s daughter) lived in a house that the army built for Bill after he came back from the war. That house was down at the forks of the Mission and old road behind where Janine’s house now sits. For whatever reason, they moved out of the house and was living with Mary Ann in what they called the big house. I’m guessing that was why Willie was moving Father Thomas’ house to the other side of the reserve. They wanted their own little nest.
As I said, it was a sight. I can’t remember how long it took to move that house, but it sure seemed like a slow process. I was about 7 or 8 years old at that time. Willie would stake the contraption to the ground with four or five crowbars. He had an old house log attached to the contraption which was the lever that turned the gears which wound the one inch wire cable onto a drum and pulled the house one inch at a time. He hooked up a team of horses to the end of the lever which they would then turn by pulling round and round and round. At one point of turning the lever, the horses would have to step over the cable pulling the house. This would go on day after day or even week after week until the house was finally located where Jack Wycotte’s duplex is now situated.
People around Sugar Cane used to call Willie, “Bakersfield”. That was because every year after the Stampede, Willie used to migrate south to Bakersfield, California to pick fruit. I’m not sure what kind of fruit he used to pick, but he went there every year. Anytime you talked to Willie he would more than likely have a Bakersfield story to tell to you.
Later in life Willie would be seen walking along the highway to town and back every day. He could be seen picking litter from on and along side of the road, not to sell or anything, but to just clean along the road. Finally, one day, I think Willie went to the Clinton rodeo and was walking along the road down there and he just disappeared. He has never been seen since and no one knows whatever happened to him.