A Sanctified Hunt (1850)
In the fall of 1850, Father Albert Lacombe – whom served the Red River Metis from 1849-1852, and later became priest at Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta – participated in his first buffalo hunt as the attending priest to the Red River Metis camped at the Turtle Mountains in what is now northern North Dakota.
On the eve of the hunt, Lacombe gathered the band together for evening prayers and hymns. According to Father Lacombe, the Metis formed a large circle and sang the hymns which were translated into Michif by Father George Belcourt. Following prayers, the Metis elected a chief of the hunt and the laws of the hunt were established for the following day’s hunt.
The next morning, the Metis arose very early and a mass was given to them by Father Lacombe. After mass was complete, about 1,000 Metis men, women, and children proceeded in about 800-1,000 Red River carts onto the prairies. When scouts sighted an immense herd of buffalo in the distance, a signal was given and the Metis quickly stopped their procession and a camp was rapidly made at the base of the Turtle Mountains. The men then mounted their horses and began to direct themselves towards the herd. As the herd was approached, the Metis hunters spread out into an immense line of attack. Father Lacombe, who was a witness to the hunt, gave a rapid prayer to the hunters whom bowed their heads. Then, the hunt commenced in earnest.
Lacombe reported that within 20 minutes the herd was routed and about 800 buffalo lay dead on the prairie at the base of Turtle Mountain. The animals were rapidly processed and the camp enjoyed the spoils of their harvest. The next day. Lacombe accompanied the Metis to the highest point in the Turtle Mountains – a place now known as Butte St. Paul – where they planted a wooden cross in thanks for the successful hunt by the Red River people.
O’Connor, R.F. (1913) “A Blackrobe Voyageur”. The Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. 49. Dolphin Press, Baltimore.