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In Their Own Voices

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John McDougall Old PortraitThe following excerpt is from a speech John McDougall delivered to the Methodist Missionary Convention in Edmonton in 1905. It is interesting to note how, in hindsight, McDougall's view of the influx of the white man, including the missionary, into the lives of Aboriginal peoples had shifted, although he still viewed the missionary as having played a very different role than that of other white immigrants into the area:

His contact with the new life has, as doubtless was the case with that of all men, been fruitful of both blessings and bane. This strange new man, who came to him with the bible in one hand and absolute domination and rum and whiskey and many foul diseases in the other, has been indeed, as a living paradox to the docile, passive Indian; and hundreds of thousands have fallen victims to war and pestilence, and rum and vice. This civilization with its permanent home life and dwelling in houses and fixed habitations and its multiple insanitation, has been cruel and full of disease-breeding to the Indian peoples. While their former life gave pure air and constant change of camp and scene, the steadily demanded need of a permanent residence on the reserve has thrust the Indian into crude cabins full of foul atmosphere and surcharged with the germs of terrible disease. Then the change of diet from meat and fowl and fish to cereals and vegetables and salt and sugar and syrup, etc., has come so suddenly, especially with all our western Indians, that nature herself has been taken by surprise and is unable thus hurriedly to adapt herself to these sudden and radical changes.

McDougall Illustration

John McDougall loved to relate stories of adventure, especially those concerned with hunting. In this excerpt from Pathfinding on Plain and Prairie he describes a dog fight which he, despite the presence of his young daughter at his side, finds very entertaining: 

Going on we came to Bear's Hill Creek, and as the day was warm both horse and dogs began to drink. As I sat in the Saddle talking to my child, I happened to look down the stream, and there I saw a big wolverine come out to the water's edge to quench its thirst. Close to me was a hound called Bruce. I quietly said "Bruce," and pointed down the creek. The quick-eyed fellow saw the wolverine, bounded away, and was close upon him before the wolverine saw him. Then he made a jump for the brush, but Bruce ran his nose between his enemy's hind legs and fairly turned him over with the impetus of his run. Then the whole pack came up, and I sat on my horse and looked on a terrific fight between the dozen dogs and the one wolverine. It did not seem fair, but the wolverine was a big fellow and a born fighter, and he was fighting for his life. He scratched and bit every one of those dogs, and held his own for some time, but at last a big black dog, a powerful brute, got his massive jaws on both side of the wolverine's brain and crunched it right in, and the wild fellow was dead.

Citation Sources
McDougall, John. Pathfinding on Plain and Prairie: Stirring Scenes of Life in the Canadian North-West. Toronto: William Briggs, 1898.


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