Father Albert Lacombe, OMI, known as “the man with the kind heart” by the Western Amerindians, was staying with the Cree in the environs of Sainte-Anne Lake, in Alberta. One evening, he was chatting with them and smoking a peace pipe. Suddenly, a group of young warriors approached, shouting cries of victory. Once in the camp, they began dancing around an ill-fated woman while brutally striking her.
Captured by the Cree
She was a woman of the Blackfoot tribe. Her husband had been skinned live before her very eyes. On seeing the black robe, the poor captive succeeded in freeing herself from her torturers, and threw herself at the feet of Father Lacombe. She cried as loud as she could: “Kimotit minna!” “Save me, have pity!” Then the Oblate approached the group: “To whom does this woman belong?” A young Cree warrior put his hand on her shoulder, saying: “She is mine, I killed her husband… she belongs to me.” “Since she is yours,” continued the priest, “will you sell he to me?” “No,” was the reply, “ because I know that Black Robes do not take a woman.” “I’m not asking for myself,” said the priest, “I want to return her to her grieving family. As for you, you can choose a woman from your own nation.” Again, “No, she is my woman… I won her, and no one has the right to take her away from me.”
Freed by the Black Robe
The missionary would not give up. After a moment of silence, he spoke once again: “Very well, my dear Crees, and you, young warrior, who will not grant my request, I’ll remember this. When they come to steal your women and your horses, and you can no longer defend yourselves, you will come to me to beg for protection. I’ll have to respond: ‘What can I do? The Cree had no pity for others… Now, I can do nothing for them, for never forget: The Great Spirit has no pity for those who want to harm others.’… That’s what I’d say.”
This short speech had an amazing effect. The young man, fearful of a curse from the man of prayer, hurriedly released his captive in return for three horses and a rifle. All during the discussion, the poor Blackfoot woman had remained fearful and trembling, since she didn’t understand the Cree language. The missionary took her by the hand, and brought her by his side, saying: “Do not fear, young lady, you belong to me, I bought you. Soon, I’ll bring you back to your own people, who will be all the more happy to see you since they believed they had lost you forever.”
Rediscovered by her own
Then the priest confided his protégée to a good mixed-race family and began her religious education. Since she was intelligent, and full of admiration for her liberator, the young woman did not hesitate long before accepting Baptism. When Spring came, the Oblate decided to try a mission to the Blackfoot tribe, who had a reputation for being hostile to our religion. He relied on the former captive to pave the way. He brought her with him, but as they drew close to the tent village, he asked her to remain hidden until he called her. Approaching the tents he waved a white flag, in order to be received. Within a few minutes the whole tribe was grouped around the missionary, proffering customary salutations. One couple approached him in tears: “ O Man of Prayer, we cannot rejoice as the others, we are grieving for our daughter and son-in-law, who were massacred by the Crees. Our daughter! She was all we had!” They burst into sobs.
Then, Father Lacombe cried in a loud voice: “Marguerite!” At once Marguerite came out of hiding and threw herself into the arms of her tearful parents. She said weeping: “Dear parents, I’m so happy to find you again! Thank this Man of Prayer. He’s the one who rescued me from the hands of the Cree. Now I’m a Christian.” The daughter was returning from so far that she just had to be listened to. The missionary profited from this occasion to sow an abundant crop of the Gospel among the Blackfoot tribe.
André DORVAL, OMI