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Cree prisoner Almighty Voice: Hero or Outlaw?

The Story

Was Almighty Voice a shrewd hero or a ruthless outlaw? For over a century, Saskatchewanians have been debating this very question. Almighty Voice, a Cree Indian, was arrested for slaughtering a cow without a licence in 1895. This minor misdemeanour would unexpectedly lead to a prison break, a long chase and a deadly, fiery shootout, as shown in this CBC Television report.

Medium: Television
Program: Newshour
Broadcast Date: Sept. 13, 1999
Guest: Norman Paul
Reporter: Bill Waiser
Duration: 4:41

Did You know?

• Almighty Voice, or Kah-kee-say-mane-too-wayo, was born in Kitche-manitou-waya on the One Arrow Reserve, approximately 100 kilometres north-east of Saskatoon.
• When he was wrongly told that he would be hanged for his offence, Almighty Voice escaped from prison. On the run, he shot and killed a pursuing Northwest Mounted Police sergeant named Colin Colebrook. For the next 19 months, he evaded the authorities. Among his people, his legend as a cunning hero grew.

• On May 29, 1897, NWMP surrounded Almighty Voice's dugout. Some 68 men and two cannons shelled the hole for four hours. Corporal CHS Hockin, Constable J. R. Kerr of the NWMP and Ernest Grundy, the Duck Lake postmaster were killed in the skirmish. When the authorities rushed the hideout, they found Almighty Voice and his two companions, Tupean and Going Up To Sky, dead.

• On June 19, 1897, the Globe reported on the shootout and deemed Almighty Voice "a bad Cree Indian." They reported, "Almighty Voice was finally surrounded in a bluff in the Mintchines Hills, 16 miles from Duck Lake, but when the party attempted to rush his hiding place, Constable Kerr and Postmaster Grundy were shot dead and Corporal Hockin mortally wounded, the latter dying in two hours. Then the bluff was surrounded by Mounted Police and volunteers from Prince Albert, Regina, Duck Lake and Batoche; a seven-pound gun was sent to the scene from Prince Albert and a maxim gun from Regina."

• In 1991, artist Ray Keighley painted a mural of Almighty Voice in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. The mural features Almighty Voice standing before a split background of native and English motifs.
• In 1974, Gordon Tootoosis, Chief Dan George and Donald Sutherland starred in a film about Almighty Voice titled Alien Thunder.

• To many, Almighty Voice's tragic tale reflects the sweeping discrimination of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Playwright Daniel David Moses wrote a play about Almighty Voice's life. "I wanted to step back and look at the process of systemic racism," he explained. "Where does it start? It's one thing to be afraid of strangers, another to legislate people's existence." (Toronto Star, Feb. 7, 1992)

• Historian Pierre Berton was critical of the Almighty Voice mythology. "A careful examination of the record suggests that if symbols (of native pride) are needed, far worthier ones exist," Berton wrote in The Wild Frontier, (1978). "It has taken some powerful myth-making and a remarkably loose interpretation of the facts to raise Almighty Voice to a prairie pantheon. In their zeal to espouse the Indian's cause, two generations of romantic writers have unwittingly done the Plains Cree a disservice. For surely it is a libel on any race to suggest that a 21-year-old punk is the best it can produce."



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