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In Their Own Voices

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Wetaskiwin CreeFew Aboriginal people enjoy as much recognition in the non-Aboriginal world as Chief Maskepetoon: John McDougall often wrote about Maskepetoon's admirable acts; Alberta author and historian Grant MacEwan called him "the Ghandi of the Prairies"; Sunday school books relate the stories of his ability to forgive; history books associate him with the truce negotiated at Wetaskiwin/Peace Hills; and at Red Deer's Collicut Centre he is included in a mural that celebrates the region's past. 

Maskepetoon is the central figure in many Alberta stories that portray him as a model of morality and peace. One such account describes how Maskepetoon walked into a Blackfoot camp, alone and unarmed, to negotiate peace. Big Swan, a war chief, killed him immediately. Maskepetoon was consequently called a "martyr of peace," a man who died because of his Christian devotion to goodwill and non-violence. However, some Crees interpreted his actions as not those of a peacemaker, but rather those of a warrior who demonstrated his bravery by walking into the enemy camp unarmed and unassisted.

An additional episode highlights the Chief's remarkable propensity for forgiveness: when Maskepetoon met the Blackfoot man who had killed his father, he invited the man into his lodge, forgave him and presented him with a chief's costume.

 


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