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In Their Own Voices

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We wish to speak a few words to you the chiefs and to your young men. We are glad to see that the Great Spirit has taken care of you, and that now many of your fathers are gone there are so many of your tiny children yet alive. We are not come to trade with you. We do not want to get your furs-nor your lands, nor anything you have got. We come to bring you something that is better than all these. You know that there is a Great Spirit above who governs and takes care of all things.

- Assembly of Aboriginal People in Norway House, n.d.

James EvansJames Evans was born on Jan 18, 1801 in Kingston-upon- Hull, England, the son of a merchant captain. He went to school in Lincolnshire, and apprenticed to become a grocer. His parents immigrated in 1820 to Lower Canada, where James soon joined them to work as a teacher. At this time he met Mary Blithe Smith and the couple married. Within a few years Evans accepted a position at a Methodist school for Aboriginal children at Rice Lake and there his gift for languages manifested itself through his translation of scriptures and hymns into Ojibwa.

   View an excerpt from Cloven Hoof, a play by Geoff Wilfong-Pritchard.
In this segment missionary James Evan's reflects on the tensions
   between fur trader and missionary.
   Watch the Video!

Ordination in 1833 marked the beginning of James Evan's missionary work. In 1840 he was appointed to Norway House where he would enjoy both the high and the low points in his career. His greatest achievement among the Ojibwa and Cree communities was his development of a Cree syllabic form of writing, while his most disappointing experiences were the accidental shooting of interpreter and colleagueThomas Hassall, and accusations of sexual misconduct from the Aboriginal community. (Although Evans was declared innocent of sexual misconduct he was reprimanded and sent back to England. It is likely that the stress of these last few years played a role in his increasing health problems. He died November 23, 1846 from a sudden heart attack following a missionary rally in Lincolnshire.)

Citation Sources
Evans, James. Cree Language. Reel 2, Archives of the University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

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