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In Their Own Voices

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Riverlot MapWhen George McDougall began his missionary work in the 1860s his task was to reinforce and promote the agricultural settlements started by Robert Rundle. The first site for this was the Victoria Mission where, along with Thomas Woosley and Henry Bird Steinhauer, McDougall recruited Aboriginal and Métis families, set up river lots, sowed grain, seeded gardens and began teaching agricultural techniques. As houses, a school, church and hospital were being built, the McDougalls made numerous trips to Fort Edmonton for supplies and to the Aboriginal camps to teach, worship and promote settlement.

McDougall's establishment of other missions followed a similar pattern. In 1871,McDougall Mission Fort Edmonton the family moved to Fort Edmonton to create a permanent mission outside the fort, which by that time had become a major centre of transportation and trade. Roman Catholic missionaries, under the leadership of Father Lacombe, had developed missions in the vicinity-consequently, the need for a Methodist mission. In 1873, McDougall also opened a mission along the Bow River at Morley, which provided access to both the Stoney-Nakoda and Blackfoot tribes. George appointed his son John McDougall and John's wife Elizabeth Boyd to this mission.

George McDougall faced many challenges and lived through some of the most turbulent years in Canadian prairie history: the Hudson's Bay Company sold its lands to the Canadian government and preparations were made for the signing of treaties; herds of buffalo were moving south and visibly diminished; erratic weather patterns caused successive crop failures; disease swept the prairies; illegal liquor traffic created major social problems for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities alike; and warfare and rebellion in many areas disrupted the settled agricultural lifestyle that the missionaries were trying to create.

George McDougall faced these challenges by relying on his insight and experience as a missionary. He Seenum & Wifemediated between Aboriginal people and the government in the making of the treaties. While he sometimes advocated on behalf of the Aboriginal community, he also acted as a spokesman for the government in persuading the tribes to remain at peace and not join rebellious groups. He helped lead a campaign for the total prohibition of the sale of liquor, opened hospitals and sat on one of the first health boards (largely in response to the smallpox epidemic of 1870-71 that affected his family and those to whom he ministered). 

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