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Generosity: Mah-Min And The Missionary

Stan Cuthand

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1988      p09  
Mah-Min and the Missionary

Mah-Min "The Feather" was the head chief of the Assiniboines in 1848, his own camp consisted of forty-fifty families living near Rocky Mountain Fort. One day Mah-Min met a young man who was travelling throughout the west. This artist was drawing pictures of some of the impressive looking men and women. The artist sketched "the likeness" of Mah-Min, who was so impressed with his picture that he took his collar of grizzly bear's claws, saying, "you are a greater chief than I am. I present you with this collar, which I have worn for twenty-three summers." The artist was Paul Kane.

It is reported that Mah Min gave a long and serious lecture to a missionary one summer. It seems that the missionary had planned to purchase horses and food from the assinboines when he required them. He had brought a carton of tobacco for this purpose. When he reached Mah Min's camp the Indians had used up their tobacco and they asked him if he had a supply; he was afraid if he said "yes" he would exhaust his supply and not be able to purchase horses and some provisions. So he replied that he did not have any tobacco. After his unusual stay, the missionary was about to return when he went to Mah Min and said to him, "I want horses and provisions for my return journey, I will pay you for them in tobacco."

Mah Min stepped up to the Missionary and stood till in front of him and with anger said, "You admonish the people about many things. You tell them not to steal or lie; how can they listen to you? How can they believe what you say? when you arrived, you said you had no tobacco. Now you say you have plenty. We do not lie about our supply of food. When someone is in need we help him, no matter how little we have. You are different. You say one thing and you do another. If you gave us all your tobacco, you would have had no problem getting a horse and food for your journey."

Mah Min felt very comfortable after this encounter but felt sorry for the one who works for the One Above. He granted him his request.

Mah min was perhaps one of the last of the Great Chiefs whose people were struck by smallpox, a pestilence so horrible that some victims simply died of fright at the sight of screaming victims. The assiniboines were demoralized and dispersed. The survivors mourned for their dead and their victory songs became memorials for their past war exploits.