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Heritage Trails - Presented by CKUA How the Fur Trade Began, Part 6: New World Good for Aboriginal Trading Partners
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Land 1The "opening of the west" represented the close of an era in Aboriginal history. For many years, fur traders and missionaries lived in Western Canada by the consent and grace of Aboriginal peoples. Had the latter decided that this presence was no longer welcome, it would have been relatively easy to eliminate it. This did not occur, however. Intrigued by trade goods, Aboriginal peoples were willing to share their hunt and the land. They enjoyed considerable power in dealings with the fur companies-they set the price and quality of the furs which were traded and hence exerted great influence on the British economy.

The first Methodist missionaries came from Britain at the invitation of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), and all correspondence and support for these missions came via the HBC from mother England-Eastern Canada and its development played no part. 

Following the arrival of the Methodists, the Catholic church also sent missionaries west.  Drawing upon francophone missionaries from Quebec and France, Roman Catholicism found large appeal among the Métis peoples. Thus began a pattern of religious and cultural orientation that remains to the present day. 

The HBC was largely governed by men of Christian Protestant persuasion while the fur-trade workers in the field were predominantly Roman Catholic. Both groups were familiar with the rites and practices, as well as the divisions, within Christianity.  The governors of the HBC were not adverse to the presence of Christian missionaries, as long as it did not interfere with business. The differing approaches to Christian worship and understanding presented by Protestants and Roman Catholics resulted in some confusion among Aboriginal peoples in the region.

Heritage Trails - Presented by CKUA Homesteading, Part 2: Advertising for Settlers
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Treaties MapWith the sale of Rupert's Land to the Canadian government, the signing of treaties, establishment of Aboriginal reserve lands and the advance of the railroad, the vision of the settled west was being realized and Canada as a nation expanded. This meant that the Methodist missionaries were Canadians who shared the optimism and participated in the Canadian dream:

Being a loyal Canadian, I was delighted with what I saw, and already began to speculate on the great possibilities of such a land as I was now entering . . . Then it was without a single settler; but the whole land seemed to me as speaking out in strong invitation to someone to come and occupy. 

-John McDougall, Pathfinding on Plain and Prairie

This aspiration for Canada was not viewed as contrary to those who would be gravely affected by this expansion and settlement.  To men such as John McDougall, the dislocations and changes were inevitable-it was their calling to help those who would be marginalized by this westward expansion. 

Methodism was founded on the conviction that human kind was sinful, but could be redeemed and achieve "Christian perfection" through a devout and disciplined Christian life. To the Methodist missionary, Aboriginal people were equals before God with all others, although somewhat deficient in terms of civilized conduct and understanding. It was thus that missionaries applied themselves to both improving treatment of Aboriginal people by non-Aboriginals, as well as changing their ways and customs.

Lacombe 1Train Settlers
Increasing expansion of trade routes led to intensified trade,
government intervention, designated land ownership and immigrant
settlement.


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