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CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY ARCHIVE
Section V: Missions to the Americas

Part 3: North West Canada, 1822-1930

Contained in this Part are more of the Original Papers for 1822-1880 ( these were begun in Part 2),the Original Papers for 1881-1930, Individual Letter Books for 1887-1914, Letter Books for 1862-1930 and Precis Books for 1881-1930.

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. The Letter Books all contain an index of names.

The Precis Books contain a precis of all incoming papers prepared for the Group Committee. The precis comprises the number, date, writer, date received, summary of contents, proposals for committee action to be taken and/or the Secretary’s remarks.

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 majority of the Original Papers contain the Letters and Papers of individual missionaries, catechists and others. The Original Papers up to 1880 in Part 2 covered the missionaries from Rev William Bompas to Rev John Mackay. Part 3, covering up to 1880 also, continues with Rev William Mason to Rev Richard Young. The Original Papers from 1881-1930 are not organised by missionary.

The papers consist of a mixture of material: there are translations into Cree of Bible stories together with the Cree vocabulary; newspaper cuttings – for example the story of Bishop Stringer whose journey from Fort MacPherson brought him very close to death- "….he was reduced to eating his mucklucks and moccasins…." ; drawings of Indians and local life.. However the greater part of the papers consists of very detailed reports, journals and annual letters 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 and give very vivid descriptions.

Their experiences are recorded also in the issues of The Moosonee Mailbag. The following extract from the issue for 1900 includes an article entitled From Churchill to York – on Snowshoes ( Two hundred miles in seven days: six nights in the open air at 55 to 70 degrees below freezing point). It gives an idea of the hardships the missionaries had to endure in the extreme cold of the northern winters: "…It was impossible to take notes on the road, or at camp without freezing one’s fingers and I find the various days and nights already jumbled in my mind. The sleeping bag temperature was about 50 degrees below freezing and it took nearly all my body heat to warm it, while I lay and shivered. One night I lay awake nearly all night, shaking with cold….We took no bread, as it would freeze so hard as to be invulnerable to axe till after a long thaw at the fire….For meat we had venison cooked and minced with bacon and made into balls, or rissoles, with plenty of grease and then frozen hard. Some of these were put into the frying pan, thawed, broken up and heated hot; but part would again be slightly frozen before we finished our plateful."

Contained also in the Original Papers are: Finance Committee papers; Mission estimates; Minutes of missionary conferences; minutes of the Missions; medical board minutes; reports of meetings of the Synod of the Diocese of Saskatchewan; various illustrated issues of The Rupert’s Land Gleaner, The Canadian Church Magazine, The Moosonee Mailbag; pamphlets such as Missionary Leaves Association, Rupert’s Land Indian Industrial School. Life Conditions of the Native Races on the East Coast of Hudson’s Bay; statistics; reports from the various missions; translations 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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