The six-year-old Alberta girl who was nearly beaten to death on the Paul Band First Nation awoke on Christmas Day and asked for Santa Claus.
"She said Santa," elder Taz Bouchier said Friday. "It was her grandmother who heard that word. And she was encouraged to say it again and then she drifted back into her sleep."
The girl had been unconscious since she was found lying naked and severely injured on the reserve west of Edmonton on Dec 20. Bouchier met the girl and her family in the hospital on Christmas Day.
"Her family was very hopeful, very grateful, that they heard her say that word," Bouchier said.
The girl cannot be named because she is alleged to be a victim of sexual assault. But people are now calling her "Our Christmas Angel," Boucher said.
"The term angel is for people in regards to her innocence and her gift of love," she said. "Really, she is a gift. We believe our children are gifts to us. And for someone to assault a little one like that is just unbelievably harsh."
More than 100 people from Paul Band huddled together on Christmas Day near the property where the girl was found to hold a candlelight vigil to pray for her recovery. Members of the girl's family sang through their tears, asking the Creator to watch over her.
Elder Kirby Bird told the group that their prayers were being answered.
"The prayers that you have been doing over these past couple of days has brought the spirit back in [the little girl]," he said.
“Just the other day, when I was there, I could see the beauty in her face and the glow.”
A family member said the girl is still a long way from recovery, but her smile is encouraging.
James Clifford Paul, 21, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and attempted murder.
He's set for a court appearance Jan. 7.