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In Their Own Voices

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In a letter from Benjamin Sinclair to colleague William Mason, March 1851, Sinclair reveals his discouragement in his isolation. He would return "home" to Norway House in fall of that year:

I am sorry that you have not come to preach to our friends, but now I am in sure hope that someone will come this summer . . . You are tired in taking care of my cattle. I am not yet tired but I wish to go home this summer. I fail too much...  but then I have collected 400 house logs.

A passage from a letter by James Witaskimakan, a Cree Christian at Pigeon Lake, to William Mason in 1849, sheds light on Sinclair's problems at Pigeon Lake. While he was considered a good man, he was not an ordained missionary trained to preach and instruct religiously:

I have seen where you are, Mr. Mason . . . be forward and send him who will preach. Although we listen to Benjamin as he preaches to us, but he come short to tell us all that is good, though he is forward.

The same sentiment is echoed in this excerpt from a letter written to William Mason the same year by Joseph, James Witaskimakan's brother-in-law: 

One thing I wish to tell you here where we are that we are very miserable though we hear of the Gospel from Ben whom you sent to tell us the Gospel but there are yet a great many of my friends who are still doing those things which the Lord has forbidden . . .  it can possibly be done that two or three who can preach but Benjamin is all alone, he is not remiss, there are many who are willing and a good many cultivate the ground. I do not think that we will yet be thrown away. Mr. Mason I salute you all . . . tell them at Fish River where James has been, that I am his brother-in-law. I am Joseph.

Citation Sources
Hutchinson, Gerald. The Roots of the Province: Alberta's First 50 Years and 100 Years of Christian Service. Telfordville: The United Church of Canada, 1955.


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