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John Nelson's Ministry began in the post-treaty era, a time of reorganization and relocation for Aboriginal peoples and missions. 

Hobbema ChiefsThe Samson, Ermineskin and Muddy Bull bands had been assigned reserves in the Bear Hills along the Battle River, near present-day Hobbema, and the Stoney people were located near Wolf Creek. Consequently, John Nelson's Woodville Mission on Pigeon Lake received few visitors. Nelson nevertheless reported that "public service, class meeting, and Sabbath school have been regularly sustained and well attended whenever the people were in." 

On the recommendation of government agents, mission efforts were re-organized. A new mission was started on the reserve at Bear Hills and the Woodville Mission was relocated to the other side of the lake, where there was more arable soil. A mission school would be built with the Cree living on one side and the Stoney on the other. But a report from 1883-84 states: 

Our arrangement, as reported last year, to have this mission situated between the Stoneys and Crees was not a success. The Stoneys, not satisfied with the selection of the reserve at the Bear Hills, decided to remove to Wolf Creek and Battle River. We regretted to leave the Crees without a school or even a prospect of one . . . but the Chairman thought it better to send us to Wolf Creek.


Chiefs and MissionariesThe Riel Rebellion did not entirely bypass John Nelson and the Woodville Mission. As at other missions sites, the missionary dissuaded participation in the uprising. After bringing his wife and children to a safer location, Nelson remained at the mission house:

I advised them to pitch off on a hunt for a short time . . .  Wile the tents were being pulled down and the horses packed, the representative men met at the mission house, unsolicited, and asked me to write a letter to Gov. Dewdney, assuring him of their loyalty to the Government. Some of them expressed deep regret at leaving. One man said, 'My heart is sore leaving our church and school. I tell you this from my heart not with my lips only.' In times like the present, we feel the safest places with those with whom we have been labouring.

Citation Sources
Missionary Report, The Methodist Church, 1882-1883. In The Meeting Place: Rundle's Mission at Pigeon Lake, by
Gerald Hutchison. Edmonton: Rundle's Mission Conference Centre Inc., 1990.


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