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In Their Own Voices

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The following excerpt from "Beginning at Whitefish Lake" was written by Henry Steinhauer in 1857 and reveals some of the daily concerns, such as obtaining food, that occupied much of the early missionaries' time:

When we pitched our tent on the shore of White Fish Lake it was a day of small things. Our party small, only two wigwams; the inmates of them the extent of our first congregation. Our enemies prophesied certain failure of the undertaking. What can an Indian do with Indians to make prayer men and women of them? Besides, not having the garb of a true minister or priest, the Indians will not look at him, in a year or two he will gather up his duds and go back to where he came from.

Quite different were the feelings and intentions of the despised worker. Though often weary or faint, yet he pursued the duties marked out. He felt the awfulness of his situation, for the vows of God were upon him, and he went forward trusting in the Lord Jehovah in whom there is everlasting strength. Often when engaged in secular labour the want of food was felt. The larder being empty, if in summer he goes to the bush, picks a few berries for his dinner, or takes his gun and shoots a partridge or a rabbit, and the missionary goes on at the same time not neglecting to keep the old gospel musket in trim, ready for use at every opportunity. The game of this kind that could be reached was at first shy and wild, and far down in the valley and dark wilderness; but by and by groans were heard, and sobs, with cries of great pain; then it was known that the old musket had taken effect. As the aim was to kill now the object was to heal and make alive. If the case of the humble worker has been reached by the skill of the Great Physician, so can these dark and benighted ones. Then the "shout of a king" was in our camp. This was the first indication of the coming day upon the darkness of this people.

This excerpt from a letter to the Missionary Society of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, published in 1875, hints at Henry Steinhauer's greater assertion of his Aboriginal identity.

A foreigner, either as a missionary or otherwise, will never take so well with the natives of this country, let him be ever so good and kind to them; there is always a distrust on the part of the native to the foreigner, from the fact that the native has been so long down-trodden by the white man.

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


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