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In Their Own Voices

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The following is an excerpt from Woolsey's diary entry for July 16, 1856. In it he describes, in unflattering terms, the young Aboriginal man who had reportedly experienced a number of visions from God that convinced him to be a religious teacher. The young man would later retreat from his affirmation of Divine authority:

Stone Indians visited us, accompanied by the so-called "Jesus," a young man about twenty years, somewhat grandly attired and having two wives. He professes to speak any language and therefore I put him to the test, but not one word did he utter. He threw some strange jargon together with an air of defiance, as though he would puzzle me, which certainly he did. His actions were pronounced to be decidedly wrong.

Another entry, this one from July 4, 1864, conveys Woolsey's sorrow on leaving Fort Edmonton and the feelings of the men and women that he had converted. The connection between this missionary and his community appears strong:

I must say that I felt most strangely on leaving the people of my charge. It was in reality a tearing of myself away from them, one after another, in the most plaintive tones, mourning over the departure of their missionary, some giving vent to their feeling in a paroxysm of grief, exclaiming, N'ota! N'ota! i.e., 'My Father! My Father!'

Just as I was leaving Victoria, one young Cree, in whom I had been deeply interested for years, stood on that beach, watching with intensity of feeling the small craft bearing away his Missionary. Judge my surprise and pleasure the other day, on seeing my young friend nearing this mission in a canoe, he having arrived a few hours before at Norway House in the Company's second brigade of boats, ostensibly, as he said, to see his friend once more. Yes, there on the beach of this Mission stood the youth who, about six weeks before, parted with me, nearly one thousand miles from this place.

Citation Sources
Woolsey, Thomas. Heaven is Near the Rocky Mountains: The Journals of Thomas Woolsey. Edited by Hugh Dempsey. Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 1989

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