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Mashkokiipinens: Louis Prince

A Mediator of Higher Powers

At MFNERC, we have over 100 staff who are passionate about First Nations education. Take Craig Fontaine, a researcher in our First Nations Languages Program. Craig hunts down First Nations resources, discovers cultural gems and brings them to life again. Whether it’s old legends, Elder interviews, or forgotten newspaper articles buried in the Archives of Manitoba, Craig will find them.

Craig’s office says a lot about his determination. Walls covered with maps, books piled on the floor, not much room to move around in, but enough space for him to develop First Nations culture and language resources and get them out to students across Manitoba.

Some of the items Craig has worked on include:

Fort Alexander Stories & Legends. From Fort Alexander (Sagkeeng First Nation) himself, these retellings of passed down treasures are dear to Craig’s heart.

The Long Tent of Life. An article by James Settee Jr. from the Selkirk Record (1887) describes Anishanabeg spiritual practices. The booklet includes the legend of how the long tent of life ceremony originated and its connection to healthy living today.

Iye Ohdakapi: Their Stories, Manitoba Dakota Elders. Craig compiled these recordings of Elder interviews from the early ’70s. Eighteen Elders reflect on experiences and share their historical perspectives.

The following is an excerpt from one of Craig’s most recent projects: Mashkokiipinens: Louis Prince, A Mediator of the Higher Powers, reporter Dave Hunt’s 1954 article from the Winnipeg Tribune about a colourful First Nations clairvoyant who located missing people and healed the sick.

“Louis Prince’s abilities were known throughout Manitoba and his services were requested on a number of occasions by the RCMP. In 1954, 1958, and 1971 he was asked to locate individuals who were reported missing in Wanless, Mountain Road district, and Carberry, Manitoba. During my research, it was not revealed if any of the information Mr. Prince provided in these cases was correct. Yet, this isn’t entirely surprising since the media does not often follow up on past stories. The events do show a positive reputation and respect accorded to Louis Prince by the authorities and also Mr. Prince’s willingness to apply his gift to assisting those who needed help.

From the Winnipeg Tribune, 1954

In the account of Louis Prince’s powers one notices several things that are universal in practitioners of First Nations ceremonies. First, is the ability to demonstrate one’s power and have it validated by those who seek its benefits. Another critical component is the application of Indigenous languages in manifesting the spirit of one’s tools or gifts in ceremony. Language is the key to unlocking the relationship one has with the energy or spirit residing in prayer or ceremonies. Intimately connected through the language are songs, chants, or invocations, which are recited in exact detail to ensure each practitioner is fulfilling their entrusted responsibility.

The story demonstrates the special relationship gifted individuals had with the higher powers. Sadly, it also tells how these higher powers were consulted whenever a personal tragedy impacted individuals and families. The loss of five-year old Clifton Hall of Dakota Tipi, Manitoba, who unfortunately lost his life in July 1954, is the basis of the story. More importantly, this loss shows the human element involved when loved ones seek help via higher powers, through gifted individuals like Louis Prince.”