In the old days, we had Cree names for most of the places in our territory.
We have inhabited this land for a long time.
The McDonald family is a prominent family in the region, but it was a tragedy that resulted in the death of the patriarch of the family, which led to the use of the name McDonald.
The patriarch was a Beaver or Sekani Aboriginal person named Thappe. The Beaver people lived north and west of Grande Cache at the time of the story, but had probably occupied the Grande Cache region years before. They had been pushed west by the Cree who had obtained guns from the fur trade companies and thus were able to expand their territory. Thappe and another man named Henry Kenny travelled down to the Grande Cache area in the 1870’s or 1880’s where Thappe married a local woman named Louise Findlay. They had two children; Joe and Louisa.
One winter day, Thappe and a couple of friends went hunting in what is now Willmore Wilderness Park. Local legend has it that he was hunting for sheep or goats in the winter and was caught in an avalanche. When his hunting partners found him, he still had his dog tied to his wrist. Thappe died, but the dog survived. One local legend has it that since it was winter and the ground was frozen, he was buried in a log spirit house, which was disrupted by animals, so some of his bones were strewn about. Another legend has it that his body was placed in a tree and that it somehow fell out of the tree, so his bones were strewn about until his partners came back in the spring to construct the now famous log burial house. In Neil Gilliat's time, the logs of the spirit house had deteriorated noticeably. Neil Gilliat believed that this grave was Little Graves, but we know that a child is buried at Little Graves. Thappe’s grave is a few miles further up the trail in heavy poplar brush.
After Thappe’s death, Louise married Donald McDonald. They had no children, but Joe Thappe, who had been born in 1884 and was baptized with Thappe as his last name, decided to change his last name to McDonald. We are not sure when Donald was born, but we know that he and Louise were married in 1891. Donald McDonald had a place at Isle Lake at one time. He was a trapper after whom Donald’s Flats on the Berland are named. We also know that he held the rights to a coal claim at Grande Cache for awhile, before losing it while overseas with Canadian military in WWI. As a result of this marriage, Joe took his stepfather’s last name and as a result, we have the McDonald name embedded in the history of Grande Cache and the Yellowhead Region.
Joe McDonald was one of the leaders of the Aboriginal community in Grande Cache. Joe was born on Christmas day in 1883. The birth was registered in Jasper. According to the Macpherson database, his biological father was named Isaac Jacques Leduc/Tappe/Sekani, who was born in 1853 in Jasper and died in 1886. It is interesting that the database lists him as being Sekani as he is considered to be Beaver or Dene Saa by the local people. The Beaver and the Sekani are from the same Athapascan language group.
Joe’s mother was named Louise Finlay/Campbell. She was born in 1860. Her parents were Paulet/Felix Finlay/Campbell and Therese Gauthier. The database is sketchy on Joe’s paternal grandparents, but we know that his grandfather was Jacques Taffy/Tappe, while his mother is recorded as being a lady named Therese. The records indicate that Joe had a brother named Samuel Leduc, who was born about 1881 at Jasper House. He also had two sisters. One was named Louise Taffy/Tappe, who was born on April 21, 1886. She married Daniel Wanyandie Sr. The other sister was named Emilien Taffy/Tappe born in 1889.
Joe was married twice. His first marriage was to Olive Karakonti, who was born on November 15, 1884 at Wolf Creek. They were married in 1905 at Lac Ste. Anne and had two children; David and Caroline. Joe’s second wife was named Sophie Wanyandie, who was born in 1896. They had eleven children; John, Victoria, Mary, Veronique, Julienne, Paul, Pacheese, Lactop, Betsy, Maber and Louisa.
Joe died in 1975 and is buried at Susa Creek.