The Missionary(Foretelling of)

  • Mosh, Moshum are Cree for GrandFather; this was in tribute to my Dad who passed away a few years back. He and my Mother told us so many stories – some fact, some fictional……here’s one. (Warren is my son)

“Who are these people, Mosh?” Warren asked.

An uneasy silence followed as Warren’s grandfather continued to gaze at photos, all in black and white. Warren observed his Moshum(Grandfather) as he methodically flipped through the tattered pictures, stopping, looking at one particular picture for a long time. Warren looked over his shoulder seeing a typical family scene from years back. Scanning each face, he noticed a tall man in the background with deep scars across his face.
“What happened to him, Mosh?” he asked, pointing to the man.

“Smallpox. There were other diseases too. From the first meeting, not knowing what they brought with them, the white man’s sickness spread like a fire across the dry prairie. Our shields, our arrows, our medicine had no power. When it had completed its journey, it came back, visiting us like an unwanted stranger leaving great sorrow and suffering. Go to any village, any tribe – you could hear the crying. A great sadness with fear came across this land and nobody was left untouched. Explorers, fur traders, missionaries coming back many years later found villages empty, whole tribes gone – gone forever. No bodies around, no bones, no people, just their tipis, clothes and other belongings left behind. It was like the Great Spirit came, taking away everybody in one moment.”

“You know… the missionaries, their coming was prophesied. I’ll tell you a story.” Warren moved closer.

“A warrior was out alone on the plains when the morning started to come. He was happy for the bountiful food, the many herbs and plants and the good health of his family. A smile came to his face as he thought of his good fortunes. Still smiling, he looked to the East where the Morning Star was – and from which direction all good things come. Looking for the Morning Star, he noticed a dark spot in the sky that seemed to get bigger. On the horizon, he saw a dark figure that was moving funny – getting closer. The warrior thought “this must be how Death moves” as he saw how slow and unnatural its movements were. Now close enough, he sees a figure dressed in black. Looking at the stranger’s face, he noticed it was pitted with terrible dark holes.

Stopping, the stranger asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Warrior of the Plains and I have many Tribes,” answered the warrior.

“I have never heard of these tribes.” Says the stranger.

The warrior explained, “They are my people and are like me. We roam the Plains that are many days long, many days wide.” He then asked the stranger, “Who are you?”

“I am Smallpox.”

“I have never heard of you. Where do you come from, what do you do, and why are you here?” asked the Warrior.

“I come from far away, across the Great Waters,” replied the stranger. “I am one with the white men – they are my people. Sometimes I travel ahead of them. Sometimes I lurk behind. But, I am always with them, in their camps, in their houses, no matter where they move.”

“What do you do?” the Warrior asked again.

“I bring death and sickness,” Smallpox replied. “My breath causes children to wither like young plants in the spring snow. I bring destruction, sadness and grieving. No matter how beautiful a woman is, once she has looked at me, she becomes ugly as death. To men, I bring not death alone, but the destruction of their children and the blighting of their wives. Everyone in my path will linger in their suffering, and no people who have looked on me will ever be the same.”

With that, the stranger and Warrior parted, each going their way. Our world was never the same.

Moshum turns to Warren, “ Scientists say 50 to100 million North and South American Natives died as a result of these diseases…… hard to believe what one encounter can do."

The Missionary(Foretelling of)

Arnold Isbister

Saskatoon, Canada

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Artist's Description

  • Mosh, Moshum are Cree for GrandFather; this was in tribute to my Dad who passed away a few years back. He and my Mother told us so many stories – some fact, some fictional……here’s one. (Warren is my son)
  • the illustration with the same name is in my Art

Artwork Comments

  • melynda blosser
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  • Roger Sampson
  • Arnold Isbister
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  • Arnold Isbister
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