|St. Joachim, December 9, 1910, Memories:|
|Contact:Michel Lopez |
We began readying ourselves for the journey. We formed a little colony: two father and Brother Boone. Michel Normand and his wife. An older orphan by the name of Antoine Sebaud. As well as four or five horses, three or four cows, four wagons, a good tent, two portable chapels, four or five bags of flour enough pemmican, a dog, and some cats.
We left near the middle of August with the benediction of Monsignor and the best wishes of the two communities at St. Albert. We followed the Saskatchewan river. We were already a bit lake. The Indians had received treaty money from the Hudson Bay company and had returned to the prairie. It wasn't until Fort Pitt that we found a band of Pemuteya'sheii was getting ready to depart the next morning. What do I do?
Fort Pitt was the only place where we found Indians. This was the most important post in the country after Edmonton. This is where we needed to build mission. We chose a place as close to Hudson Bay Company as possible and I enlisted Father Fafard to build a good house with our men while I accompanied this small band of Cree out onto the prairie.
These good Indians were happy to take me in their mist. There were between forty and fifty people. The day after our departure Chief Pimuteyashiu (sp) came to visit me. He said a very interesting thing. He pleaded me to take pity on his poor world. They had nothing to eat. "Fine," I said. "Look at my wagon. There is a good sac of flour and some pemmican, take them and give food to your people".
This act of charity on my part won over the hearts of these poor Cree. What thanks I received. I heard nothing but "Hai, hai,!". What favors they did for me. They searched for my horse and tethered him up, they set up and tore down my tent for me, they brought meals to my tent. I truly never expected to find so much obliging kindness among the Indians.
Our troop was not very far from Fort Pitt when we encountered a party of land surveyors whose leader was Mr. Lucas whom I had sheltered at the rectory when he came to visit from time to time before my departure. This good Protestant who had seen me in my function at the rectory of St. Ablbert "tanquam protestatem habens" was surprised to see me here in and Indian camp.
He asked me where my servant was. I pointed to myself and said "here he is!" " But who saddles and unsaddles your horse? Who set up and take down your tent?".
I pointed to myself and said the same thing "here he is !" Some Indians patted me on the back .
"Who make your food?", he asked.
"One of the squaws done that for me", I responded.
"Do have any provisions?", he inquired.
" I have a bag of flour and some pemmican in my wagon. The day after I left Fort Pitt, however, my Indians told me they had nothing to eat and I gave them my flour and pemmican. What will they eat when this flour and pemmican are gone?", I responded. " I hope that providence will send then some buffalo and I am sure that if the Indians eat, well I will too."
This kind man had a flabbergasted look on his face and must have thought that I really has done something wrong to deserve this disgrace of being thrown out of the heights of St Boniface to this starving band of Indians. He took pity upon me and wanted to give me his provisions under the assumption that he needed only that which would take him to Winnipeg. I thanked him for his kindness and explained to him that anything he could leave would be put to use for the fine meal for the Indians, but that this would cause him and his men to go hungry for the length of their journey.
"One thing I could really use is some medicine", I told him. Immediately thereafter this kind gentleman procured a considerable bottle of medicine which was most beneficial both to and my successor Father Cochin for years.
"What could he possibly have done to deserve this disgrace?". is undoubtedly what was going through Mr. Lucas' mind at the time and I am sure that this furnished an interesting topic of conversation for quite some time. "Mihi autem pro minimo est ut a vobis judicier aut ab humano die."
Every day the Indians marched along and there wasn't too much for me to do. There were a few Christians among them and these Christians came faithfully to my tent, as well as their children to hear the prayer and learn catechism.
After having traveled about fifty miles we realized that we were not too far from the camp of Kikiwin. A man from the village had come to us and invited me to leave with him. I packed up all my paraphernalia and set out for the Indian encampment to provide them the Sacraments of which they had been deprived for so long. This band of Kikiwin and Paskiyakewiyin was the finest of the whole prairie. The presence of a priest amongst them caused much joy. All of the Catholics came to confession and I celebrated the Eucharist with them.
Fifteen confessions, three first communions, three baptisms, once excommunication and two marriages took place among the band of Paskiyakaewiyin.
My voyage lasted five days. I had left my camp on the 15th of September and returned on the 20th.
In the band of Kiyiwin I heard eighteen confessions, gave communion to seven people, baptized eleven, and celebrated two marriages.
I spent three days in the camp of Kiyiwin within sight of Mount Nez from the 22nd of September until the 24th in the year 1877.
Around the end of September a small craven of Metis passed through our camp, Guthert Gervais, Louis Marion and the family of Urbain Delorme. They makde confession and seven took the Eucharist.
I stayed with the band of Cree until the 26th of November. We traveled around Oeil Mountain .
The buffalo had become scarce and famine was becoming imminent. A good Indian (Jacob Kawitisit) gave me a place in his tent because of the cold even though he too had very little provisions.
What should I do? When the family of Delorme passed through our village, the Metis invited me to spend the winter with them. When the Cree heard they all protested against this offer.
"It's always like this", they cried. "The Metis always end up stealing the priest away from us! We were the ones who brought Father Lestanc from Fort Pitt. He has already baptized many of our children. We love him and he loves us and now you want to take him away from us. No, we don't want him to go! We had him now and we intend to keep him!"
As for me, I could already foresee that I would not be able to spend the winter with the Cree and I knew that among the Metis I would not want for anything. What is more , I knew that I could also be of benefit to many an Indian as it was their habit to follow the Metis to the winter camps. I did not want to contradict the statements of this band of Cree and decided to stay in their mist as long as possible and to not separate myself until the consent of the chiefs had been granted.
Life became progressively more difficult, however, and the Creee disbanded. I realized that I was now more or less in charge of Jacob although he would never want me to feel this way. What do I do?
What shall I do? I suffered from boredom and ennui, an ennui so terrible that I realized one could die from it. It felt like I was in a desert and knew of no escape. The least I could do would be to hire a guide and continue on to Battleford where I would certainly be able to spend the winter.
The plan of wintering in Battleford conformed to the wished of Monisignor Grandin who had written me from St. Albert in the summer.
If you spend the winter in Battleford, he wrote, without it harming our mission among the Indians I will be in agreement. Lieutenant Governor Laird, along with many members of the government of the Northwest Territories were assembled there and this place became quite important. If it is possible for you to go to Battleford without too much inconvenience, his Excellency wrote, you will not suffer and will do great service to may souls.
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