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Sarcee Elder Meginnis dies at 103


Dan Dibbelt







Page 3

Elizabeth Megginis, matriach of the Sarcee nation and oldest resident of the reserve situated west of Calgary, died Oct. 10 at the age of 103.

Meginnis is remembered by Sarcee band members for her warmth and understanding.

"We could have a house of 20 people," recalls her grandson Bruce Starlight. "And she would always make room for more."

Meginnis was the last sibbling of David Crowchild, the great Sarcee leader after whom Calgary's Crowchild Trail is named. The Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs committee has also named a yearly award after the Great Chief who advocated peace and understanding between all peoples.

Meginnis' grandfather was Chief Big Plume who signed Treaty 7 as representative of the Sarcee nation.

Meginnis was born Nov. 14, 1883 and spent her whole life on the reserve.

Apart from being decended on one side of her family to the great Sarcee traditional chiefs, Meginnis boasts Cree connections through her father Mark Crowchild who fled to the Sarcee reserve after the Riel resistance.

However, it wasn't easy for Crowchild to settle on the reserve as the Sarcee were at that time fighting the Cree, says Starlight. However, eventually he was accepted by the tribe.

"This is how the name Crowchild was introduced into Sarcee," added Starlight.

Meginnis married twice. The first time in the early 1900s to James Little Bear. They had four children but only William survived. James Little Bear died of tuberculosis.

In 1913 Meginnis married Pat Grass Hopper and had three children: Philip, Sarah and Mary Jane who survived their mother.

From the name Grass Hopper came the name Meginnis, says Starlight, who explains that when the Indian agent came to the reserve he did not like the name Grass Hopper and asked what the Sarcee name was. They replied Metoonish. The agent could not pronounce the Sarcee name so wrote the name Meginnis.

Meginnis also died of tuberculosis so Elizabeth decided not to marry again. However, she had to more children, Walter and Michael.

"She never turned anyone away; her door was always open," says Starlight. "Although she was a devoted Anglican, she still taught the old ways as well," he added.

Meginnis took part in the first Calgary Stampede Parade and helped promote the Stampede in the 1912 tour of Winnipeg. Sine then she has always attended each stampede.

"She always attended the sundance in Small Boy (Montana) every year and continued her beading until very late in her life," says Starlight.

"I am poor ? just as I am I want to go," Starlight recalls her saying. "Don't make a big thing about my funeral ? do it the Sarcee way," she had said.

Her last wish was indeed carried out Wednesday Oct. 16. Relatives cut their hair or wore their hair loose and some of Meginnis' personal belongings were burned.

Sage was burned and her house was left empty to ensure her spirit went home.

"She was a very humble person," says Starlight. "She loved everyone."

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Meginnis always refused to be photographed or allow tape recordings of interviews with her to be made.)