Catherine Rita Mathias Hamel was born December 28th 1935 to Agnes Oshanee Cullooyah and Joseph Mathias in Elmo, Montana. She passed away October 8th 2018 in Ronan, Montana.
She is the granddaughter of Chief Baptiste Mathias. Through her mother, she is a descendant of Chief Charlo’s band of Salish that were forcefully removed from the bitterroot valley.
Cathy grew up spending much of her childhood years in Elmo. She is a survivor of the Ursaline schooling era and graduated from Mary Cliff High School in Spokane, Washington. To put herself through school, she waitressed, became a nanny and worked various jobs.
As a young lady she attended Carroll College in Helena, Montana to pursue a degree in Nursing. As part of earning her Nursing degree she worked at Galen State Hospital, Boulder State Hospital & St. James Nursing Program in Butte, Montana.
Catherine met her husband and the love of her life, Wayne Hamel, at a stick-game in Dixon Agency and they wed November 23th, 1957.
She worked in Missoula and Ronan hospitals, as well as Kicking Horse Job Corps Center where she founded the first nursing program. In 1979 she left Job Corps and went into business. She later worked for CSKT and was instrumental in obtaining a clinic for her Kootenai people in Elmo, Montana.
She retired from nursing in 1997 and remained active in family and community affairs. Gram enjoyed playing pinochle, family BBQ’s, was an avid keno and stick-game player, traveling all over the Pacific Northwest and into Canada with her children, grandchildren and friends. She kept up the family tradition of beading and sewing and also was an expert craftsman in a variety of mediums. She was active in cultural activities and led the younger generation in tradition. She traveled her aboriginal territory gathering roots and berries, along with other traditional necessities. She always had time to listen and advise all her family and friends. She impacted many lives through example and loving mentorship because she cared deeply for all Indian people on the reservation and advocated for their well-being. Cathy was bestowed an Honorary Degree from Salish Kootenai College in 2018.
She is preceded in death by her mother, father, husband, son Joseph Hamel, sister Annie Antiste, brother Donald Kenmille, grandson Gerald Hamel and great grandson Isiah Matt.
She is survived by her daughters Tammy Hamel, Gigi (Jr.) Caye, son Jimmy (Dawn) Hamel. Her grandchildren Tashina Cleland, Joe (Breanne) Caye, Ambrose Caye, Gabe Caye, Mayuk Caye, Jordan (Joey) Hamel, Mariah (Jerry) Hamel, Malia (Robert) Hamel. Brothers Camille Mathias, Wilfred Kenmille, Eneas Kenmille & Laurence Kenmille, sister Margaret Friedlander. Also survived by twelve great-grandchildren, three great great-grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
The wake will begin Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm, Rosary will be Wednesday, October 10th at 8:00 pm, and the funeral mass will be Thursday, October 11th at 10:00 am, all at Elmo Hall. Burial will take place in Dayton Cemetery.