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Our History to US Patent Office to family biz

Martha “Maude” Katsitsienhawe Stacey (ne. Decaire) (left) has left the woods far behind at her son Joseph Walter Stacey and Tessie Laureen Phillips’ wedding in 1967. Irene (Rice) Phillips is on the right, and ring bearer Boy Marquis and flower girl Bernadine Diabo fill out the wedding party. (Courtesy Trina Stacey)

Archivist Eric Pouliot-Thisdale’s columns for The Eastern Door, though straightforward and perhaps dry to some, hold histories brimming with life for those with the patience to dive into them.

Pouliot-Thisdale visited Trina Stacey at the KOR Cultural Center in 2015 when working on a column exploring the late 1800 and early 1900 censuses in Tioweró:ton (Doncaster).

Stacey, a lover and semi-resident of the northern territory, was drawn to a mention of a relative of hers: Jules Sasennowanen Decaire, or Ceel as he was commonly known.

It wasn’t the first time she had spoken about her great-grandfather, who was born in 1873, died in 1945, and was married to Mary Tekahentakwa Lefebvre.

“When I was in physiotherapy there was always these elders there, and they would always say ónhka ne sa’nihsténha? ónhka ne ia’níha? (who’s your mother/father),” said Stacey. “They’d go, ‘I knew your grandmother Maude, and her father Ceel.’ That’s what they all called him: Ceel Decaire.”

An Our History column by Eric Pouliot-Thisdale in The EasternDoor sent Trina Stacey on a journey of discovery about her great-grandfather Jules “Ceel” Sasennowanen Decaire, who patented his art of making lacrosse sticks in 1907-08. (Courtesy Trina Stacey)

The census Pouliot-Thisdale was researching (published in The Eastern Door vol. 24 no. 47) matched what the elders told Stacey about her great-grandfather’s occupation.

“And it says that he was a lacrosse stick maker,” said Stacey. “I thought that was so awesome because I didn’t really know too much about my dad’s side of the family, and I like to research.”

Stacey looked up her father’s family, going through her tree, and searched for Ceel, which led her to a place she hadn’t expected.

“It came up, the American Patent Office, so I cross-referenced all the dates and whatnot and sure enough, my great-grandfather Ceel Decaire submitted a patent to the United States Office in 1907,” said Stacey.

The patent was awarded in June 1908.

“So he had a patent for lacrosse sticks, his specific style of netting,” said Stacey. “You can go on Amazon right now and some random person bought the picture and is selling posters of my great-grandfather’s patent style.”

The user, Larkin Supply, lists the 1908 Ceel 891813 Lacrosse Stick Patent poster for $8.95. Stacey collected the image as well as one of the official US Patent document, and posted them on her Pinterest page.

Ceel’s family did not remain in Tioweró:ton, as his daughter Maude (Martha Katsitsienhawe) married ironworker Louis Karonhiakeron Stacey, and moved to Brooklyn, leaving the northern territory, the woods, and all that it entailed behind.

“They moved to New York and lived that kind of life, so my father (Joesph Walter Stacey) was born in Brooklyn,” said Trina.

) Ceel Decaire’s unique netting style was patented in the early 1900s, as the Kahnawa’kehró:non Tioweró:ton resident made a good living building traditional sticks. (Courtesy Trina Stacey )

Trina’s aunt Mary (Joseph’s sister) said her mother (Maude) didn’t talk much of living in the north and her family except that the territory was there for Kahnawa’kehró:non to use.

“Everything my dad’s family knew was all about Brooklyn and New York and they had the fancy clothes, and they’d come back in the summer with their fancy cars, and they knew all the new hip dances,” said Stacey.

“That’s kind of like what their focus was, but she (Mary) said, ‘ma (meaning my grandmother, her mother) would always say, ‘You know, there’s land up north for you. You have to go there.’”

Trina did indeed go there, and now spends as much time as she can in Tioweró:ton, reclaiming her family’s love of spending time in the woods.

“I really did!” said Trina, whose cabin overlooks the plot, Range Seven, where her great-grandfather applied his trade.

“I guess I’ve just been more attuned to nature, and I obviously still love going there, and I felt really connected to it even before knowing all this history,” said Trina. “Now it makes me feel more connected.”

The rules now forbid those with cabins in Tioweró:ton from setting up businesses on the territory, which is something Stacey laments.

“They’ve made Tioweró:ton more into this country cottage campground, but that’s not what it actually was,” said Stacey. “They went there and lived there and he (Ceel) worked there, and they harvested to make his lacrosse sticks.”

The year of the census, Ceel made $600 selling his sticks.

The exact record reads: “Dicaire (sic), Joel (unclear), 36, Manufacturer of Baton de Lacrosse, spent 25 weeks to work, made 600.00$.”

Trina would prefer living in the north to in the community, like her teiohsotsherá:ne did.

“For someone like myself who finds peace in nature, why can’t I go live there and make my life in nature instead of living in this messed up Kahnawake?” said Trina, who intends to live there when she retires.

“It’s got this whole different flow in Kahnawake, and it’ll eat you up if you can’t keep your head above water, but when I go to Tioweró:ton, for the most part, when I’m out in the bush by myself enjoying nature, I feel real connected and at peace, but I’m not allowed to live there because it’s a campground.”

danielr@easterndoor.com
Daniel J. Rowe
Daniel J. Rowe is an award-winning reporter and photographer originally from B.C. In addition to journalism, he produces and edits a Shakespeare-inspired blog and podcast called the Bard Brawl. His writing has also appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Canadian Press and U.S. Lacrosse magazine. His facial hair rotates with the season, and he’s recently discovered the genius of wearing a cowboy hat.
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