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In Their Own Voices

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Jessie JoyfulSeeseeb Mamanuwartum (Jessie Joyful), was born in 1818 to a Swampy Cree family. She met Henry Steinhauer at Norway House, where the couple was married on August 5, 1846. In 1855 the family moved to Lac La Biche, and again in 1858, this time to Whitefish Lake where Henry established another mission.

Jessie Mamanuwartum Steinhauer had a sphere of influence different from, but complementary to that of her husband. Although our knowledge of her life is scant, gleaned from brief references in the writing of men's letters and journals, the picture that emerges is of a woman who was loved and greatly respected in the community.

We know that her faith was strong and she instilled the same in her children. She raised a large family of five boys and seven girls. She was also a firm believer in education and two of her sons, Robert and Egerton, became ministers and important figures in the Canadian Methodist Church.

Norway HouseAt Whitefish Lake Jessie had help from a Métis girl, Charlotte Jackson, who in 1864 married Peter Erasmus. Written by Erasmus, the following description of the marriage preparations provides a glimpse into Jessie's influence in such matters: 

. . . Mrs. Steinhauer launched into a thorough instruction and advice on the duties and proper conduct of a husband to his wife.

. . . I had lost all my former reluctance and was now happily anxious to proceed at once to Edmonton to draw on my account with the Hudson's Bay people for all the things I was told were necessary to have for the wedding. The list of articles from Mrs. Steinhauer was long but when I informed Mrs. McDougall of my success and showed her Mrs. Steinhauer's list, she added others of her own and I began to realize that marriage was a costly procedure. Mrs. McDougall expressed disappointment when her husband advised her that half the stuff on her list could not be obtained short of Fort Garry. That was about the only time that I heard her complain in front of her husband about condition under which we lived in the territories.

. . . Both Mrs. McDougall and Mrs. Flett had assumed complete charge of my affairs and planned every detail of my trip with the gravest concern which left me helpless to add any suggestions of my own even if I had cared to do so.

. . . When I arrived at Steinhauer's home in the evening, Mrs. Steinhauer immediately took charge of the parcels of finery and other articles which the good mothers at Victoria deemed absolutely necessary before a proper marriage could be performed. From the exclamations of delight by the women, I presumed the selections were quite in order.

. . . I had to be content to assume a very minor part in the arrangements and leave everything to the capable hands of Mrs. Steinhauer and the others." 

 Erasmus, Peter.  Buffalo Days and Nights.  Calgary: Glenbow Institute, 1999, 174-176.

 

Jessie Mamanuwartum Steinhauer passed away in 1910 at the age of 92, 26 years after her husband.

Citation Sources
Erasmus, Peter. Buffalo Days and Nights. Calgary: Glenbow Institute, 1999


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