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The Missionary

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To the latter your chief attention must be directed and you must especially spend and be spent for them. you have been selected .,. in order that by the blessing of God on your presence and labours you may promote the best interests of all classes of persons at the various establishments within your circuit generally; but especially of the Indian Tribes which may be found within your appointed sphere of missionary operations. To the latter your chief attention must be directed and you must especially spend and be spent for them." 

- Wesleyan Mission House, London 
March 11, 1840

Evangelizing to Aboriginal people in their camps was of secondary concern for the Methodist missionaries. By and large, their duties with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC)  took place within and around the forts-satellite missions were not part of the agreement. However, when Robert Rundle found Aboriginal people hospitable and eager to receive his prayers and hymns, he asked for permission to set up a mission post. Permission was not, however, granted until the departure of his superintendent, James Evans.

As was the case in other colonial settings and some Christian churches, the missionary's measure of success was the number of people declaring Missionary Preaching Sketchtheir conversion to the Christian faith. Like the accounting and ledger reports of the HBC, missionary reports put into numbers those touched by the missionary hand-number of baptisms, marriages, professions of faith. This concern with the impact and growth of their missions increased along with the number of missionaries who entered the area. An atmosphere of competition emerged that was most pronounced where missions of different Christian denominations existed side by side.

With an optimism true to their era, Catholic and Protestant missionaries each proclaimed different versions of the "one true faith." Missionaries & Aboriginals Drawing As the survival of their mission depended on their ability to win the support of the Aboriginal people, they doubled their efforts to win new people to their community. In their enthusiasm they did not refrain from disparaging the work of their colleagues, at times in a rather uncharitable fashion. This caused no end of confusion among those they sought to convert. Nevertheless, depending on the personality, missionaries of different relationships had collegial relationships, even friendships.

Metis TradersHowever their success was defined, the influence of the missionaries was undeniable and often not helpful to the HBC. The insistence on observing the Sabbath led James Evans into grave conflict with James Ross, Chief Factor at Norway House. The establishment of devout mission communities outside the forts undermined the HBC's hegemony. Most missionaries circumvented company rule and traded with Aboriginal people. In 1849, a committee of Aboriginal people, Métis and both Protestant and Catholic religious leaders challenged the exclusive trade restrictions, eventually leading to the disintegration of HBC rule.


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