In life, we encounter many inspirational people and their amazing stories. As native people, we tend to deal with a fair amount of difficulty in our everyday life, but that is part of what makes our feelings of joy that much stronger. We are very familiar with hardship, and unfortunately some of us have even come to expect it.
Then along comes someone like Albert Leclerc. Leclerc was taken away from his mother by his father to live in Ste. Therese when he was just a baby. Living in Chibougamau was deemed “too dangerous” for baby Albert, especially since he had fallen ill. His father, Albert Sr., wanted him to be in a place where he’d have a warm house to live in, and wouldn’t be exposed to the harsh elements of the north.
Leclerc’s mother, Helen Shecapio of Mistissini, agreed to let the baby boy go to Montreal until he got better. Little did she know, she would never see him again.
Growing up, Leclerc knew by the colour of his skin that he was different, but every time someone brought it up they were told to “be quiet.”
He was proud of the way he looked: dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. The kids at school would call him “le sauvage” and despite not knowing about much of his heritage, he remained proud, never doubting himself for one minute.
At one point, he referred to himself as the “Indian from Ste. Therese.”
Albert Leclerc Jr., also known by his birth name Edward Shecapio, lived a lonely life. He didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and very few people he could call friends.
Many Christmases and birthdays were spent alone.
He eventually married Mary Fitzpatrick, a blonde haired, blue-eyed Scottish woman. She also had a similar situation, growing up with only one sister. When her sister passed away five years ago, Albert and Mary were left to wonder “why us?”
Then, on June 27,2003, life as they knew it changed. Leclerc received a phone call from a mysterious woman. She asked him a lot of personal questions, and could hardly contain her excitement when she heard the answers.
He wasn’t sure what this woman was about, but he stayed on the line knowing deep down that this may be the call he was waiting for his whole life.
It turned out the caller, Irene Mianscum, was his grand niece, and she was calling in hopes of reuniting her great uncle with his sister, Charlotte Wapachee. Leclerc, needless to say, was beside himself.
Mianscum had been searching for the past two years on the Internet, trying to locate her great uncle.
After speaking on the phone for a couple of hours, neither of them wanting to hang up, they decided that Albert had to meet his family- the sooner the better!
On July 7, he finally met his sister Charlotte, after 65 long, painful, and lonely years.
“I couldn’t believe it, that was the first time I had so many people cheering for me,” said Leclerc upon arriving at the bus station.
The reunion couldn’t have gone any better. Almost all of Senneterre’s Cree population were on hand to greet this man, their long lost Cree brother.
He became a hero of sorts on that warm summer’s day.
“Everyone was so happy, and even the men had tears in their eyes,” according to his grand niece, Irene. “It was amazing!”
Now that the two siblings have been reunited, there are plans to get together again, very soon. A family member’s wedding scheduled in August is the next time the family will see him, although they might not be able to wait that long.
“I always knew I had a brother, but never did I think that I’d meet him one day,” said Charlotte.
Albert Leclerc/Edward Shecapio now has a family that totals around 152, spanning four generations, and is content in knowing that he’ll never have to spend another Christmas alone ever again.