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CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY ARCHIVE
Section V: Missions to the Americas

Part 2: North West Canada, 1821-1880

We start with North-West Canada covering the years 1821-c1880. The papers covering 1881-1930 will be contained in Part 3.

Contained in Part 2 are the Individual Letter Books for 1852-1887, the Letter Books for 1821-1882, the Mission Books for 1822-1876 and the Original Papers for 1822-1880.

The Individual Letter Books contain private letters on all manner of subjects written by the Secretary in London to missionaries in the field. Although the majority of the letters are those of condolence or censure the Secretary also writes on topics in which he had a special interest. Each Individual Letter Book contains an index of names.

The Letter Books contain copies of the correspondence, covering all sorts of subjects, from the Secretary in London to the mission secretary and others at the station concerned with mission affairs. From 1821-1852 no letters were written between August and December as they could only be sent by the Spring and Summer ships. The Letter Books all contain an index of names.

The Mission Books contain copies of the Original Papers as a legible copy was made for the Committee. They contain an index of names and some subjects. The letters and journals from 1820-May 1849 are copied out in full, whilst a note of receipt is made for the financial papers and printed papers. From 1849 onwards the letters only are copied. Annual letters from 1871/2 onwards are copied out also, and if they are printed, are pasted or sewn into the backs of the volumes. The annual letters are a yearly account of the missionary’s activities and cover a period from August to July.

The following extract from the Journal of Rev W Cockran gives an idea of the details recorded by the missionaries when describing their work with the Indians:

"April 28 1840 Out all day with an Indian lad who was ribbing the ground for to sew wheat upon. As it is the first time he had been so employed he found his work rather difficult. But the Indian has a good eye and a dextrous hand. He easily learns to hold the plough and could we only succeed in forming him to the habits of sober industry and economy his character would soon rise in the judgement of the European. The European having the fixed habits of full 1800 years of civilisation he views with contempt the tardy march of the Indian in the first generation, forgetting what his own ancestors were under similar circumstances. Held the usual meeting in the evening; few were present the most being engaged on their farms."

The Original Papers are the incoming papers sent by the missions to London. They contain letters regarding all manner of subjects: from missionaries describing their first impressions, requesting furloughs, increases in salary, permission to marry and descriptions of their travels around the mission area.

The Original Papers contain those of the Corresponding Committee discussing subjects such as:

the establishment of new schools
the provision of more missionaries
the building of new mission houses
the arrival of new missionaries
instructions to missionaries to visit new areas of the mission
the appointment of new schoolmasters
the illness of missionaries
salaries of missionaries

Also contained in this part is Correspondence with Bishops. This is divided into Dioceses and then alphabetically by Bishop. It covers topics such as:

the arrival of new missionaries
the need for more female missionaries
visits made by the missionaries to outlying areas of the mission
salaries
the building of new mission houses
sickness among the Indians
the inclement weather in the Fall and Winter
the missionary’s work for the year
the proposed location of mission agents
the constitution of the Diocese
resolutions passed

The majority of the Original Papers contain the Letters and Papers of individual missionaries, catechists and others. They consist of a mixture of material: translations into Cree of Bible stories together with the Cree vocabulary; newspaper cuttings; drawings of Indians; a census taken of the Indians. However the greater part of the papers consists of very detailed reports and journals of the Bishops and missionaries as they travelled among the Indians throughout the mission area. They describe their meetings with the Indians and the way of life of the indigenous people.

Their experiences are recorded very vividly as in the following extract from the Journal of Rev Thomas Hamilton Fleming. He describes an attack by a wolf on the Esquimaux:

"Thursday 14th Engaged with the Esquimaux in the forenoon but not in the afternoon, being very unwell with a cold and severe headache; this is the first cold I have had since I came to the country. While we were at tea this evening a savage wolf, mad no doubt, ran up the river and attacked some Esquimaux women, who took refuge from him in their eglo, the porch of which he broke down. He then rushed upon a lot of little Esquimaux who were playing upon the ice, two of whom he knocked down, tearing the first in a most horrible manner all over the head and face and almost destroying one eye. The other was cut most severely on both sides of the head, as if he took the whole head in his mouth at once. The beast was driven off him and shot by Mr Dickson, one of the company’s clerks. The poor little fellows scarcely groaned while Mr Dickson and myself dressed and stitched up their gaping wounds. We very much fear that the animal was mad…."

Contained also in the Original Papers is: Correspondence connected with the Colonial Ordination Controversy in 1842; Finance Committee papers; Mission estimates; Minutes of the Missionary Conference in 1876 and miscellaneous documents.

CANADA

CMS began its North-West America mission in 1822 when two clergymen John West and David Jones started work on the Red River in Rupert’s Land. By 1837 a community of 600 baptised Indians had been gathered and the work prospered on a small scale. The first bishop of Rupert’s Land was appointed in 1849 and the next year the first Indian clergyman, Henry Budd was ordained. In 1851 a new centre at Moose Factory on Hudson Bay was opened and in 1858 Archdeacon Hunter undertook a great pioneer journey of 2000 miles beyond the Arctic Circle, opening up a vast new area of work.

By 1868 there were five Cree clergy as well as the missionaries and soon stations at Hudson Bay and Saskatchewan were founded and the church grew rapidly among the Indians on the Yukon River. Meanwhile in 1857 another new field had been entered among the Tsimshean Indians around Fort Simpson. Because of the difficulties of young converts surrounded by non-Christians the mission was transferred in 1862 to Metiakatia. By the late 1870s this flourishing industrial settlement comprised about 1000 people and the church on the Pacific coast spread among the rivers into the interior and among the islands off the coast.

Thirty years later as the centenary of CMS work in Canada approached, the Society began to bring to an end its work in the country, by handing over its responsibilities to the Church of England in Canada. The official handover and CMS withdrawal took place at the centenary celebrations at Winnipeg in the autumn of 1920.

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