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In Their Own Voices

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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 contemporaries.

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 camp:

.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 tent."

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 . . .

Citation Sources
McDougall, John. Forest, Lake and Prairie: Twenty Years of Frontier Life in Western Canada 1842-62. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1895
.

McDougall, John. Edited by Thomas Bredin. Parsons on the Plains. Don Mills, Ontario: Longman, 1971.


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