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In Their Own Voices

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John McDougall's PupilsIn his later years, John McDougall, wrote his memoirs in six volumes. His popular style and romantic imagery fed the imagination of his readers. As controversial as some of his writings may appear today, they describe the environment and people of Western Canada in luscious detail and discuss many of the debates that occurred during that turbulent period. They help to create a picture of a generation of Albertans and, consequently, remain a source of information for historians.

            Hymn BookThe RitualThe RitualHymn Book

John received many honours for his work as a missionary. He was elected in 1893 and 1906 to serve as President of Conference to the Methodist Church and, in 1903, he received an honourary Doctorate of Divinity from Victoria College. The United Church restored his mission church at Morley and in 1977 declared it a historic site, recognizing its importance in the development of Methodism in Western Canada. Both John and his wife Elizabeth Boyd were, during their later years, counted among the most prominent citizens in Calgary.

John McDougall's legacy, like that of other missionaries, has been debated. The Methodist  Missionary Society and traders criticized him for fur trading with the Aboriginal community, an activity he justified on the grounds that it helped to fund his mission work. His Morley residential school has, like similar institutions, been the source of controversy and accusation. The objectivity of his advice to the Aboriginal people during the treaty period has also come under fire. However, as evident from his writings, McDougall believed he was acting in the best interests of the Aboriginal community: "the Indian's past was dead to progress; dead to the destiny of our race, and there had to come a wonderful change."


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