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Maskipitoon

Grant MacEwan frequently agreed that many Europeans appeared incapable of judging Aboriginals without prejudice. On occasion they did recognize a scant selection of Aboriginals as "good Indians"; however, MacEwan astutely points out that this was conceived solely according to their own convenience.

Cree Chief Maskipitoon was one of the rare individuals widely respected, and often feared, by European settlers. Maskipitoon, which translates into "One Whose Arm Has Been Broken," was the leader of the Cree people during the mid-19th century and was known famously for his short temper. Through guidance from the Great Spirit, Maskipitoon changed completely and became a gentle, peaceful person. He was well respected for his unrelenting courage and savage fighting skills. However, he also possessed an inquiring mind and scornfully questioned Christian missionary beliefs.

Maskipitoon believed in the traditions of his people and did not want to seem them eradicated by European customs and beliefs. After meditating and communicating with the Great Spirit, he yearned for a peaceful Aboriginal community. Many of his peers chastised him for what they described as a ridiculous idea. However, Maskipitoon was steadfast in his belief that everyone should be treated equally and that society should strive for peaceful resolutions instead of war. He then resolved to make peace between his Cree people and the Blackfoot.

Maskipitoon's story is one of transformation; he was a man with a record of brutality who became over time a man of goodwill. MacEwan's interest in the character of Maskipitoon lies in the Cree Chief's devotion to bringing peace, respect, and goodwill throughout the Western Plains. Maskipitoon's story is particularly special to MacEwan because it contradicted the stereotype that Aboriginals were violent people who continually sought conflict and war. MacEwan labeled Maskipitoon as the Mohandas Gandhi of the Canadian plains for his dedicated pursuit of peace. Maskipitoon's ideas were a source of inspiration, and the Regina Leader affirmed his position when in 1885 it described him as a "courteous, hospitable gentleman of nature."

Resources

MacEwan, Grant J.W. Portraits from the Plains. Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1971.


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