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In Their Own Voices

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We hunted and trapped and fished, and engaged in all manner of athletics, foot races, horse races, anything for real fun and common brotherhood. Thus we found out men, and these in turn saw us and read us as a book, until they knew that on every page of our life there was written friendship and the true desire to help them. More than this, they saw we believed in them, and at last they grew to believe most heartily in us.  

- John McDougall, In the Days of the Red River Rebellion

John McDougall was born in 1842 in Sydenham, Upper Canada to George and Elizabeth McDougall. George McDougall was a Methodist missionary and, as a result, John grew up attending mission schools and learning to speak Ojibwa and Cree.

In 1862, George McDougall (by this time the Superintendent for the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada) decided to move his mission West, and the family relocated to the Victoria Mission. There, John worked as an interpreter and teacher and, in 1864, married Abigail, the eldest daughter of the Reverend Henry Bird Steinhauer and Jessie Mamanuwartum. That same year he became a candidate for missionary service.

Abigail GraveJohn and Abigail were appointed to reopen the Pigeon Lake Mission, from which John visited Aboriginal camps and Hudson's Bay Company posts at Rocky Mountain House and Fort Edmonton. These were tumultuous years for the missionary: violence was escalating between the Assinboine, Cree and Blackfoot tribes; in 1870-71 a smallpox epidemic swept the plains; and in 1871, Abigail died. After his wife's death, John travelled back to Upper Canada where he was ordained and married his second wife, Elizabeth Boyd. In 1873, they moved south and established a new mission at Morley, on the banks of the Bow River, to serve the Stoney people.

Throughout his life, John McDougall was involved in public and Aboriginal affairs. During the 1870s he was present for the negotiation of Treaty 6John and Elizabeth McDougall and Treaty 7. During the North-West Rebellion he accompanied the Alberta Field Force, negotiating with tribes to stay on the side of the government. In 1897, he was named chairman of the Indian District, comprising parts of all four present western provinces. After his retirement in 1906, he served as a commissioner for the Dominion Government and Department of Indian Affairs and later (unsuccessfully) ran as a Liberal representative for Calgary Centre. In 1917, John McDougall died in Calgary.

Citation Sources
McDougall, John. In the days of the Red River Rebellion: The Life and Adventure in the Far West of Canada (1868-1872): 1911.


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