Chief Maskepetoon is acknowledged by many authors, including John
McDougall. McDougall, like most Methodist Missionaries, considered Maskepetoon
to be a hero of the Christian faith and included the chief in his memoirs.
These chronicles, however, were written many years
after the events took place and do record the regard in which Maskepetoon was held by his
In Forest, Lake and Prairie, John McDougall recalls the words of
Maskepetoon after a sermon to the Chief's own band of Cree in
the summer of 1862:
My people, I told you that my friend from the east would
speak to you words of wisdom and truth. You have listened to him, and I
want you to think of what you have heard. Let this sink into your hearts,
for all my friend has said will come to pass. The Great Spirit has sent
these praying men to teach us His will.
In Parsons on the Plains, he again writes about Maskepetoon,
this time as the Chief stood his ground, reading a bible while a group of Blackfoot charge his
.His little band was charged by a strong body of
Blackfeet who were coming north on the warpath. Such was their number and
the vigour and dash of their charge that Maskepetoon's company fled, all
but himself and his grandson, a boy of some fifteen or sixteen years of
age.The veteran chief and the noble boy stood like statues. Maskepetoon calmly
put his hand in his bosom and took out his Cree testament, and then coolly
fixing on his glasses, opened and began to read. The grandson, in relating
to us the incident afterwards, said "There was not tremor in his
voice. It was as if grandfather was reading to us in the quiet of his own
The Blackfeet came on apace but, hoping to take their victims alive,
refrained from firing a gun or speeding an arrow. Then they saw the
majestic old man, indifferent to them, engaged in looking into something
he held in his hand. They had faced flintlock guns, and flint and
steel-shod arrows, but they had never beheld a New Testament. They paused
in their wild rush and stared in utter astonishment.
Presently the elders amongst them said to one another in whispers,
"It is Mon-e-guh-ba-now," and then they began to shout his name.
This grand old man quietly looked up and in response to their shout,
replied, "Yes, I am Mon-e-guh-ba-now."
Then they rushed upon him with joy, and their leader, embracing him, said,
"Our hearts are glad to make peace with you, Mon-e-guh-ba-now. You
are a brave man. I am proud and glad to be the leader of a party that
meets you thus. What is that you hold in your hand?" Maskepetoon told
him that it was the word of the Great Spirit, and the Blackfoot warrior
said, "That explains your conduct. It is His will that we should meet
as brothers today.
In 1869, the long-standing animosity between the Cree and Blackfoot erupted into
warfare. The Blackfoot, along with many other tribes, resented the
incursion into their hunting territory by American traders and settlers
moving north. They consequently resented those tribes, like the Stoney and
Cree, who had closer ties to the "white" communities.
Maskepetoon was occasionally referred to as the "Missionary's Chief,"
and some feared he would betray the sacred knowledge held by band
leaders-he was killed by a Blackfoot warrior while preparing to make a
peace treaty between the two tribes. As George McDougall wrote:
We received yesterday the most painful
intelligence. Our noble old Chief, Mas-ke-pe-toon, and most of his family,
have been killed by the Blackfeet. The old Chief, who had ever been a
peace-maker, started about two weeks ago for the Blackfeet camp, hoping to
arrange for a peace amongst the tribes . . .
John. Forest, Lake and Prairie: Twenty Years of Frontier Life in
Western Canada 1842-62. Toronto:
Ryerson Press, 1895.
John. Edited by Thomas Bredin. Parsons on the Plains. Don Mills,
Ontario: Longman, 1971.