SOOKE HISTORY: Mazie and the cougar

Hunting cougars was a common practice in Sooke’s earlier days

Mazie Tuttle killed this cougar in 1930. Mazie was a granddaughter of Chief Louis Lazzar. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Today this image might be a bit shocking, but in its day it was the usual way of life.

The beautiful young woman wielding the gun was Mazie Tuttle, and she was a crack shot when this photo was taken in 1930.

Many years ago, when the photo was given to the Sooke Region Museum, we had it made into a poster which was purchased by many local and international museum visitors.

Mazie was a granddaughter of Chief Louis Lazzar, who was chief of the T’Sou-ke people from c1890 to 1925, a man who had the blood of the T’Sou-ke Salish, the Iroquois and the French Canadians coursing in his veins.

The chief was married to Mary, daughter of Chief Walse’a, who bore him five children. One of their sons became Chief Andrew Lazzar, and one of their daughters named Teresa, grew up to marry Ivan Tuttle.

We understand that Ivan Tuttle hailed from the American side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Germaine Planes Sutherland, Mazie’s cousin and well known in Sooke, recalls going to her great aunt Teresa’s house to play, and says, “I loved to be over there because she had a sewing machine and made us doll clothes.” Teresa and Ivan Tuttle had two children, Johnny Tuttle who spent much of his time in the U.S. and served in the American military, and Mazie, who grew up to be the beauty in this photo.

Germaine Sutherland and I played together as kids, and I recall meeting Germaine’s glamorous cousin Mazie, who at the time was married to Tommy Nelson, and raising eight children. In time, when her marriage with Tommy Nelson was over, Mazie married Gordon Robertson and had another family of three children.

Vancouver Island is reported to have the densest population of cougars known anywhere, and while most folks never even get to see a cougar, they are so silent, you can be sure they are all around us in the woods. Occasionally attacks on humans occur, especially on children.

Recently there was a story in a Victoria newspaper which listed cougar attacks on Vancouver Island but it seems they forgot to include one close to home.

I didn’t see a mention of the 10-year-old girl at the YMCA’s Camp Thunderbird in 1985, who was attacked by a cougar. A 19-year-old camp counsellor managed to fight it off and save her life.

Sooke’s own George Pedneault was called in with his tracking hounds and the cougar was despatched.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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