GOULET, LOUIS, freighter, scout, interpreter, cowboy, manual labourer, boxer, and storyteller; b. 10 Oct. 1859 in Rivière aux Gratias (Morris), about 30 miles from St Norbert (Man.), son of Moïse Goulet and Marie Beauchamp, both Métis; m. 13 April 1888 Caroline Rowand (d. 1922), the widow of Peter Ballendine, in the parish of St Vital, in Battleford (Sask.); they had no children; d. 26 Sept. 1936 in Portage la Prairie, Man.
Like many of his Métis compatriots, Louis Goulet was adventurous and worked at a number of trades in areas of Canada that would become Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, as well as in the American northwest. A handsome and powerfully built man and a famous boxer, he stood about six feet two inches tall. Around 1930 he would tell the story of his life to fellow Métis Guillaume Charette (who was engaged in preserving the heritage of his people) by “[o]rnamenting his already limpid speech with turns of phrase gleaned from various Indian expressions.” This outstanding storyteller’s memoirs would be published by Émile Pelletier in Winnipeg in 1976, under the title L’espace de Louis Goulet.
Before he was ten years old, Louis accompanied his father, who was a merchant, on his many journeys to St Paul, Minn., Wood Mountain (Sask.), and St Albert (Alta), near Fort Edmonton (Edmonton), or Fort Layusse, as he called it. Between these travels and the winter season he worked as a farmhand for the curé of St Norbert, Noël-Joseph Ritchot*. He got practical instruction from his father (in hunting, fishing, trading, traditional geography, and riding and training horses), while his mother taught him such values as honesty, generosity, independence, and respect for the elders. From 1870 to 1875 he attended intermittently the school run by the Grey Nuns (the popular name for the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal) in St Norbert, but he got his education mainly in the evening when the elders would tell him about prairie life and legends. He spoke Michif French, Cree, Saulteaux (Ojibwa), other aboriginal languages, and English. At a very early age, he showed that he had a quick wit and an independent and enterprising character.
Around the mid 1870s and during the 1880s, Goulet travelled through what would become Saskatchewan and Montana. He acted as a guide and interpreter for the North-West Mounted Police at Fort Walsh (Sask.) and for the American army at the Missouri River. He traded with the Dakotas and Assiniboins for important merchants such as Antoine Gingras and Jean-Louis Légaré*, and also with the Métis communities of Judith Basin, near Lewistown (Mont.). In 1879 Goulet and Antoine, named Caillou, Morin guided Superintendent James Morrow Walsh* of the NWMP in his negotiations with Sitting Bull [Ta-tanka I-yotank*] and his band, who had taken refuge in the Wood Mountain region late in 1876; the goal was to convince them that they should return to the United States.
Goulet was too young to have taken part in the first Métis resistance at Red River (Man.) in 1869–70 [see Louis Riel*], but he was deeply involved in the second one, which occurred in 1885. He attended one of the first Métis meetings held by Gabriel Dumont* in Batoche (Sask.) in 1884, but he stayed out of the ensuing developments. He would later say that in his youth he had had disagreements with Riel about the sale of alcohol to aboriginal peoples, but that he nevertheless had a great deal of respect for him. In the spring of 1885 Goulet was in the neighbourhood of Fort Pitt and Frog Lake (Alta). He arrived at the camp of Big Bear Mistahimaskwa*] in early April and was present at the incident during which nine whites were killed [see Léon-Adélard Fafard*]. Goulet and his compatriots went to the assistance of two women who lost their husbands on this occasion, Theresa Delaney and Theresa Mary Gowanlock [Johnson*]. In the eyes of the Canadian authorities, the relations and dealings of Goulet and his companions with the Cree in this affair incriminated them. They were arrested and put in prison. The generosity they had shown to the two women probably earned them the court’s favourable consideration.
From 1886 to 1892 Goulet worked at transporting goods (by trains of Red River carts drawn by oxen) between Battleford and Prince Albert and farther south, in the Swift Current area. He then went on to Lethbridge (Alta), where he worked as a navvy on a railway. It was at this time that he became aware of the progressive blindness that would force him into early retirement around 1900. It was at this time as well that he abandoned his adventurous life and was reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church (he had probably lapsed in his religious duties in the 1880s) after a meeting with Father Albert Lacombe*, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate who was a famous figure in the Canadian west. On 1 Oct. 1900 he was admitted to the Home for Incurables in Portage la Prairie. He spent most of his life thereafter in this establishment, leaving it once a year to return for a while to his family at Rat River (St Pierre Jolys).
With his keen imagination and sense of Métis identity and culture, Louis Goulet left a priceless account of the way of life and values of the Métis of his time. Guillaume Charette termed him “a very handsome specimen of a man whose qualities of heart were as impressive as his still-legendary physique,” and “one of the most fascinating men of the Old West.” Émile Pelletier, who published the accounts taken down by Charette, added: “L’espace de Louis Goulet is more than a record of Métis folklore or culture, it is [the] story [of] a man and an important period in the life of a nation.”
The main source of information about Louis Goulet is his memoirs, which he dictated to Guillaume Charette around 1930. Their transcription, by Charette, can be found at AM, MG 9, A6 and the memoirs have also been published: Guillaume Charette, Vanishing spaces: (memoirs of a prairie Métis), trans. Ray Ellenwood (Winnipeg, 1980). Several works mention Goulet’s name and activities, in particular the following: W. B. Cameron, Blood red the sun (4th ed., Calgary, 1950); S. A. Carter, “The exploitation and narration of the captivity of Theresa Delaney and Theresa Gowanlock, 1885,” in Making western Canada: essays on European colonization and settlement, ed. Catherine Cavanaugh and Jeremy Mouat (Toronto, 1996), 31–61; J. F. Dion, My tribe, the Crees, ed. H. A. Dempsey (Calgary, 1979); T. [M. Johnson] Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney, Two months in the camp of Big Bear: the life and adventures of Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney (Parkdale [Toronto], Ont., 1885); and D. [W.] Light, Footprints in the dust (North Battleford, Sask., 1987).
Goulet’s death certificate is at Man., Dept. of Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affaires, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Vital statistics agency (Winnipeg), no.1936-06-036028, his baptismal certificate is at Arch. Paroissiales, Saint-Norbert, Man., RBMS, 10 oct. 1859, and his marriage certificate is at Arch. Paroissiales, Saint-Vital (Battleford, Sask.), RBMS, 13 avril 1888.