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"Broken Arm" as a Peace-Maker

Manitoba Pageant, September 1961, Volume 7, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

This story was related by Rev. George Flett, and appeared in the Manitoba Free Press in 1884.

About the year 1865 (before Mr. Flett became a missionary), I was, he says, stationed at Victoria, on the North Saskatchewan, in the Hudson's Bay Company's service, when the Blackfoot came northwards and stole horses from the Cree Chief, "Broken Arm." This chief, who was a Christian, set out soon afterwards, for the Blackfoot camp, intending to negotiate a peace, and if possible, recover the stolen horses. He had with him one of his sons, a lad, and only a few of his people. His constant travelling companion, a copy of the New Testament in Syllabic, was with him also, in his bosom. Moving on southward, near Battle River, the little band were climbing a high hill, one day, when they descried a body of Blackfoot coming towards them. It was a joint surprise. Neither party knew of the approach of the other, until they were almost face to face near the brow of the hill. The Cree Chief, who had no notion of fighting, stood in the road where he was with his son. His handful of followers, heathens, had no notion of fighting, either, so they :an away and hid themselves in the bushes from their hereditary enemies.

Immediately on getting sight of the Crees, the Blackfoot threw off blankets, got ready their guns and rushed on to fight. To their amazement there was no one to fight with. The Cree Chief, whom they did not recognize, was in the road, with his son on horseback by his ide; but so far from making any warlike demonstrations, the old hero nad taken out his New Testament, which he appeared to read with great composure. He was as cool as a cucumber. This unlooked for event - so entirely out of accord with Indian practice - struck the impetuous Blackfoot with astonishment, which caused them to halt suddenly, and then, seeing the unaltered bearing, fearlessness and peaceful attitude of the chief they became awed, believing that this must be a great medicine man who was under the protection of the spirits. Seeing that he was not in the least afraid, and that he declined either to fight or fly, they at last called out to him, "who are you?" "Nas-ke-pe-toun" Broken Arm), was the reply. Hearing the name of this famous chief, sad seeing that his old time courage had not abated the Blackfoot could not but admire him, and at once changing their mood to one of conciliation, they laid aside their guns and going up to Broken Arm and his son, gave them a most friendly greeting. The storm cloud had disappeared! He told them how his followers had vanished on the first appearance of danger and then calling to them, they sneaked out of the bushes one by one, to the great amusement of the Blackfoot, who contrasted the cowardice of the runaways with the bravery of their leader.

Peace-making followed. The Cree camp being nearer than that of the Blackfoot, Broken Arm invited his newly-made friends to his quarers, where peace was formally concluded. He also took them to the neighboring Indian villages near Fort Pitt, and to the band of Indians east of Victoria and south of the Snake Hills, or Saddle Lake, where :here were further ceremonious peacemakings. The proceedings were wrought to a fitting close by the Blackfoot taking with them, on their return home, the Cree chief and some of his Indians to whom all the stolen horses were restored.

The amity thus established remained unbroken for some two or three years, until the Blackfoot renewed the horse-thieving. The old chief with a small escort, essayed once again to recover the property and renew the peace. But that peace-mission proved his last. The Blackfoot met them enroute. Again Broken Arm's men all deserted, leaving him alone with his eldest son; and father and son were shot down together.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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