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In Their Own Voices

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The letters that John Niddrie wrote to Robert Steinhauer reveal some of the travel conditions missionaries faced, as well as Niddrie's opinion on the need for Aboriginal ministers to open the way for Christianity. In 1928 he wrote: 

At the beginning of July I started off on the yearly official visit to the Missions inland in this Superintendency. We made the trip by canoe and were always almost a month. The distance covered was between 6 and 7 hundred miles. The Mission at Little Grand Rapids, Deer Lake, Pekangecum, and another outlying point were all visited and a few days spent at each point. Our Church has been . . . sending her men to make periodical visits to Pekangecum for 25 or 30 or perhaps even more years, and still every last mother's son of the people are pagan. Not one at this place has yet been baptized into the Christian Faith.

However, we are sending in a good Christian man as Missionary teacher this summer and the people seem to be taking a great interest in him; and we are therefore hoping for great things. It is simply absurd to think of sending a white man in on the ground floor to break ground at a place like Pekangecum. In the first place, the people do not understand one word of English and again a white man has no idea of the mode of the Indian life at such a place.


In this excerpt from 1937, we can see the human side of the missionary. Here Niddrie indulges himself in  gossip about his fellow Methodists and what was always a controversial subject, the Roman Catholic Church.

It was only a short time after this that Rev. Mr. Stevens wrote me asking my assistance as Rev. Beaton had threatened at the next Council Meeting of the church, 'TO PUT SOME CONTROL ON HIM' for something Stevens had written in 'The Spiritual Light' about the Church of Rome. I do not know what Beaton would say if he saw some of the screeds I have written about the church of Rome. Just fancy a half-baked Potentate like Beaton saying, 'We must not antagonize the R.C.'s. They are cooperating with us beautifully.' He must be a mutt. There, forgive me please, but I have little sympathy with a man who would thus express himself. He knows nothing whatever about the Indian work and has not the sense to listen to those who have forgotten more than he will ever know.

Citation Sources
Niddrie, John. Edited by John W. Chalmers and John J. Chalmers. Niddrie of the North-West: Memoirs of a Pioneer Canadian Missionary. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2000.

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