Close contact with our native tribes shows us the
mistake we have been making in deciding that ignorance, superstition and
cruelty belong to these people, and that there is no wisdom, truth or
beauty in their belief and manner of life.
- John Maclean, preface to
John MacLean was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, and came to Canada in
1873. Educated at Victoria College, Cobourg, and the Wesleyan University
in Bloomington, Illinois, he entered the Methodist ministry and was appointed to take over the school in Fort Macleod and to work among
the Blackfoot people.
In 1889 the
Fort Macleod Mission was closed upon recommendation of John McDougall, Superintendent of Missions, who considered it a
failure owing to the lack of conversions and prevalence of Aboriginal customs. Maclean
subsequently served at a number locations throughout the West
and in 1918 was appointed Chief Archivist of the Methodist Church.
Maclean is the author of numerous books and pamphlets, most of them
dealing with the West. His The Native Tribes of Canada reflects great respect for the culture, knowledge and beliefs of the
people he served, and at times offers scathing cynicism about the
treatment of Aboriginal peoples by white men. Similar
criticism emanates from his short stories about life in the West, written
for younger readers, such as his story "The White man's
In spite of his substantial and thought provoking written work, Maclean
is seldom mentioned in the writings on Methodist missionary history
in Western Canada.
John. The Native Tribes of Canada. Toronto: