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The Treaty Makers - Reverend Dr. John Chantler McDougall

McDougall Memorial United Church, Morley

John Chantler McDougall’s work for Treaty 7 actually began nearly three years before the first negotiations took place, when he was commissioned by the government of Canada to encourage the plains tribes of southern Alberta to enter into treaty with the British Crown.

McDougall was born in Owen Sound, Upper Canada on 27 December 1842. He was educated first at mission schools in and around Owen Sound and then at Victoria College from 1857 to 1860. His early life was spent in the outdoors around Georgian Bay and Lake Superior. He worked in trading stores between 1855 and 1859.

In 1860, McDougall’s father, George, a Methodist missionary, was appointed to the Norway House at the Rossville Mission in the Northwest Territories. This prompted the family to move out of Upper Canada and head west towards Lake Winnipeg. John McDougall taught at the Norway House mission before doing two years of work for the Methodist Reverend Thomas Wolsey. John entered mission work himself at the end of this time and travelled throughout the northwest, establishing or assisting missions in various areas. He arrived in the Alberta area in 1862 and later helped his father establish a mission among the Nakoda living at Morley in 1873. 

In the following year of 1874, McDougall was approached by the government to go among the various plains tribes, including the Nakoda, and explain the treaty process to them as well as encourage them to seek treaty. McDougall accepted the commission. He was present at the signing of Treaty 6 in 1876, and again at the Treaty 7 negotiations at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877. He acted as translator and advisor to the Nakoda Nation at the Treaty 7 talks.

McDougall’s life in the years following 1877 saw him rise to prominence in the Methodist church, as well as write a number of books and articles relating to life in the northwest. He retired from Methodist ministry in 1906 but continued to act periodically as a Dominion Commissioner for the government. He died at Calgary, Alberta in 1917.

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