Throughout his eight-year stay in Western Canada, Robert Rundle was torn
between his duties as Company Chaplain and his strong desire to be
to the Methodist tradition and be a travelling missionary among the Aboriginal
tribes. His supervisors, in particular James
Evans, Superintendent of the
Northwest Indian Missions, wanted Rundle to remain close to Fort Edmonton
and establish a mission there.
While Rundle did spend time preaching at Fort
Edmonton, he was often absent, instead preferring to go to the Aboriginal peoples
in their own camps. He visited the Cree, Sarcee, Assiniboine and
learning about their customs and becoming proficient in the Cree language.
In these communities he performed baptisms and marriages and taught hymns, which seemed to be popular with
many of the tribes.
Women in the Fur Trade, part 4: Retirement
Women in the Fur Trade, part 5: Retirement and Separation
In the early
1840s Robert Rundle befriended Cree Chief Maskepetoon.
The two men shared a desire for peace, and Maskepetoon saw in the Christian message a means to reduce bloodshed and hostility
among Aboriginal peoples. The two men made plans to promote peace among
the tribes and, although the tour never took place, the ideal of peace was
reinforced for the missionary and the Cree Chief.
In addition to peace, Rundle also believed in the necessity of establishing a mission
to encourage agriculture and settlement. He surveyed soil quality as
he travelled, in search of a suitable site. Finally, in 1847, he received
permission from the Hudson's Bay Company and Wesleyan Missionary Society
to establish a site at Pigeon Lake with the assistance of Robert Sinclair.
Arriving at Pigeon Lake for the first time in November of 1845, Rundle
. . . before I slept I went to the beach. What a spectacle.
No sound was heard but the rise and splash of the fish in the lake. A
slight ripple was all that was discernible on the lake. It lay almost like
a sea of molten silver & the stars were reflected on its glassy
breast. A mirrored heaven!
Rundle chose the site with the hope of introducing Aboriginal people to
agriculture. His journal reads:
June 12, 1848, Monday I put beans in ground & susette
helped me . . . Ben made the table & enlarged fencing of garden . . .
not know that the soils around the lake were of poor quality. Farming in
the area did not become profitable until, nearly one hundred years later, scientists
at the University of Alberta developed ways to manage the soil's
Rundle, Robert Terrill. Edited by Hugh A. Dempsey. The Rundle Journals,
1840-1848. Calgary: Alberta Records Publications Board, Historical
Society of Alberta and Glenbow-Alberta Institute, 1977.