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Brother And Sister Meet After 55 Years

Deanna Wuttunee

SWEETGRASS - Alphonse Littlepoplar, 65, was reunited with his sister, Mary Louise Ward, 56, at her home in Edmonton last September following 55 years of separation.

"There was a little crying," said Alphonse, a master of understatements. The last time he saw his sister was September, 1928.

He has been searching for his sister since the 1950's and finally located her through an ad placed in a native newspaper in Edmonton. The leisurely pace of bureaucratic red tape worked to his advantage. In response to his inquiries two years ago, Alphonse received a letter telling him Mary Louise had died in 1942. Fortunately, the letter arrived after he had located his sister. Otherwise he would have abandoned the search, he said.

Alphonso Littlepine Irene Littlepine

Alphonse and Irene Littlepoplar

The last correspondence was in 1958 when Mary Louise wrote to their father, George Littlepoplar. George died in 1961 and Alphonse never got the letter. But he did know that the letter had been postmarked from Marwayne, Alberta and that she married a Jim Ward.

Mary Louise was a baby when Alphonse was sent to boarding school in Delmas, Saskatchewan. His father, George landed in the hospital and his mother, Nancy, was unable to cope alone. There was no hay for the horses and no wood for the stove. Nancy left Sweetgrass to return home which was just outside the borders of the Onion Lake Reserve. Nancy died shortly after she got home and Mary Louise was raised by her grandfather and was later sent to a convent. It was here Mary Louise met Jim Ward.

Jim, an Indian from the Slave Lake area in Alberta, spent most of his life working on the railroad and his family followed him. This complicated Alphonse's search for his sister.

Acting on the advice of a friend, Alphonse finally put his story in a newspaper in Edmonton. Fortunately, Jim and Mary Louise subscribed to that paper. Stunned, Mary Louise cut out the ad, put it away and mulled over the whole thing. She had 55 years of catching up to do. Jim, seeing the hole in the paper wanted to know what had been cut out. Together, they decided to respond by a letter to Alphonse. The rest is history.

"But I sure fooled her," gloated Irene, Alphonse's wife, "She thinks I'm a very nice lady."

Mary Louise as a child
Mary Louise as a child.
Mary Louise in 1959.
Mary Louise in 1959.
Mary Louise at Marwayne, Alberta in 1950.
Mary Louise at Marwayne, Alberta in 1950.

Brother And Sister Meet After 55 Years

Deanna Wuttunee

(The two letters that opened a whole new world for Mary Louise and Alphonse Littlepoplar).

Feb. 22, 1985

Dear Sir:

Could you please help me to locate my sister?

She was born Marie Louise Littlepoplar in 1928 on the Sweetgrass Reserve. When she was nine months old, our dad became ill and my mother took her to her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur (or Archie) Dion, of Onion Lake, while I went with our other grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Atcheynum.

We remained separated and I went to the residential school at Delmas, Saskatchewan. About ten years ago, when I checked at Onion Lake, I was told by an oldtimer that my sister had attended the Catholic residential school there.

I was also told that in the 1950s she married a man named John (or Jim) Ward, so her name today would be Marie Louise Ward. They were said to have adopted a little girl who had been born in 1958 and had lived in Marwayne, Islay, Edmonton and other places in Alberta.

If anybody can help me, I sure would appreciate tracking down my sister. I haven't seen her since she was a baby.

-Alphonse Littlepoplar

My Dear Brother:

It is so hard for me and I don't know what to say. I am so happy to hear from you through the native paper. I would be happy to see you. Yes, I married James Ward and we have been married 39 years now. We adopted a little girl but now she is married, and we are looking after our granddaughter since she was a baby. She is 14 years old now. Could you phone or write to us. I am so happy to hear from you.

-Mary L. Ward