Dorothy Crabbe and her husband Robert near their home near Edgewood, B.C.

Colville Tribal elder Dorothy “Dot” Crabbe recalls when her grandfather was killed, her mother, May Huff, was only four years old.

He was stabbed—119 years ago.

Dot’s grandfather, John Huff, was a policeman and had hired a fellow by the name of Frank Draper.

“The boundary area is where he was. At Midway, right on the border,” said Dot.

In the years prior to 1900, as homesteaders began to sweep through the rural boundary area of British Columbia, individuals who were either running or had escaped the law came in search of a new start and somewhere to hide.

Draper didn’t sit well with Dot’s grandmother. She asked her husband to let this man go; get him out of the area.

“My grandma was nervous around him,” says Dot, retelling the story from home in Edgewood, British Columbia, nearly three hours north of Midway.

She was afraid of Draper. He acted suspicious, Dot said, and he carried a revolver.

John Huff agreed, but when he let Draper go, Draper stabbed Huff. He threw Huff’s body into the Kettle River.

“They were going to church and said they found my grandpa’s body,” Dot said. “He was stabbed in the head by Frank Draper.”

Draper was convicted of murder.

All this occurred around 1896.

Dot recalls that her mom didn’t know her dad that well but remembered a dance he tried to teach her.

“He would bend over, and he was trying to teach her to do a dance, a dance over sticks, and that’s about all she remembered about her dad.”

When Dot’s mom lost her dad, she was left by herself. In Catholic School, she hid underneath the nuns’ skirts. She didn’t want to live with her mom. She stayed at the school until she was in sixth grade.

Enrollment issues

Dot, who was born November 19, 1930 in Grand Forks, was an enrolled member of the Colville Tribes for 22 years.

“We were enrolled until 1952, and we were terminated from the rolls,” says Dot, recalling her mom was off the Colville Reservation and thus didn’t have the same rights as tribal members on reservation at the time.

On August 27, 1992, Dot first applied to become a member again, and a little over four months later, she was adopted in as a member on January 1, 1993.

“40 years later.”

Those 40 years were a time of uncertainty.

“I had two children, Louanne and Danny, and they said they weren’t enrolling anymore in Canada. My husband was working underground in the mine. It wasn’t until after my mom died in 1984 that I wanted more information and I started inquiring and questioning their citizenship.”

“The court ruled that if you were born in America, you are considered American.”

“They went through those days where you had to choose one side or the other,” said Virgil Seymour, Colville Tribes’ Arrow Lakes Facilitator. “And she never chose no tribe, and they still kicked her out.”

“She’s Sinixt, but the way she grew up her mom told her she was Colville, because a lot of the Sinixt had already went down and formed the Colville Reservation. Her names and her history they go back to Sinixt.”

Being enrolled against was indescribable; she wanted to do it for her mom.

“When she was terminated from the tribe, it bothered her right until she died,” Dot said.  

“It was something she would have been proud about. Something kept driving me to find out more. I think she would probably be smiling.”

An unexpected find

Dot has a vast collection of arrowheads, hundreds are in her 20 year old collection.

One day while she was walking along the beach, she came across something she didn’t quite expect too see.

“There was five bodies, and they were flooded out of there gravesites,” Dot recalls.

There was a cougar and its two kittens by the bones.

“I had an idea that they were remains,” says Dot. “They took the bodies and buried them higher up. They were relocated to the Oatscott Reserve.”

Dot the artist

As an avid drawer and painter, she has painted many different subjects: her family, her passions, wildlife.

Dot has done many portraits as well. She did one of Chief Dan George, another of Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England.

“Patsy Gould. She’s my cousin. I did a picture of her father, Stan Bush. I just thought he looked like a real westerner. I’ve done all my grand children.”

One of Dot’s greatest works of art however could arguably be her involvement in creating a 22-foot cedar history pole in Edgewood.

The pole details the history is of the Sentacheggs, a tribe that dates back 3,000 years.

Dot explained that with the flooding of the Arrow Lakes for an area dam, all the areas that had once been occupied by the Sentacheggs were covered in water; their burial ground was flooded as well.

Dot also noted that much like the Sinixt were declared extinct by the Canadian government, historians and writers had said that the Sentacheggs are extinct—an epidemic in 1834 had practically wiped them out.

The New Edgewood Development Committee set about honoring the Sentacheggs, and Dot suggested telling their story through a carved monument.

As an artist Dot prepared sketches to symbolize these proud people.

She explained this isn’t a totem pole.

She explained there weren’t totems in the interior, so she and others involved in the project we’re calling it a historic pole, meant to represent a time before the coming of the Europeans.

“It tells [history] for those people who don’t have a written language.”

Jim Wilkinson was commissioned to carve the 22-foot pole that was erected in the town of Edgewood.

Working from the bottom of the pole, the carvings tell of the Sentacheggs’ traveling by water and fishing on the Upper Arrow Lake.

They were boat builders, but they also hunted in the area and Dot expressed that their baskets lasted 50 years.

The pole tells of wars and traveling through Fire Valley and is topped off with a coyote.

Today

Dot used to do a lot of canning, gardening and fishing, but these days she spends her time at home with her husband of 67 years, Robert Crabbe, and their dog, Scout.

The home overlooks the Upper Arrow Lake.

“I call it a cabin. My husband doesn’t like to call it a cabin. I call it my house of treasures. I think that’s why I took so much to finding artifacts, because I was searching for something.”

“I really like my artifacts. I dated them when I found them, and I wrote markings where I found them. They’re sort of treasures of mine.”

“It sort of makes you think the people would get up in the morning and have water and dried fish, how we have to have our coffee to get started out. I used to be a morning person, but I’m stiff when I get up. I really did like the morning, I would go out, and listen to the birds, and it would sound like one here, another one from the south, and then that one would start chirping.”

The two have three children and a handful of grandchildren.

Louanne, 66, has two daughters Tracy and Angie. They’re both married and have three children, two boys and one girl. Danny at 65 is the middle child and is also the only boy of the family.  He has a son and a daughter, Travis and Eden. Sandra, 54, is was married two years ago. “Her one son Colton who is from Calgary is staying with us,” says Dot.

Keys to a long life

Dot says her marriage has been key to her long life.

“My husband’s parents broke up when he was 7. When we got together, we were both young. It seemed like we were a good team,” Dot recalls. “There’s not a lot of romance in marriage, a lot of empty marriages. Its what you get out of a marriage, a lot of people find a problem instead of solving it and don’t put the right resources into a marriage.”

She also has her passions, finding artifacts on the beach and spending time with her kids and her grandchildren.

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