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Searching for Robert Rundle

by Gerald Hutchinson

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Cree Syllabic Alphabet: 'Sunday Books' to be read by Cree in their own language in their own camps.In 1973, my wife and I managed the British trip. We visited the Rundle grand-daughter, who gave us pictures and letters, as well as family background. We also visited the Mylor Church and Dowstall farm, on Falmouth Bay, where the Rundle family had lived. We spent four weeks in the Archives of the British Wesleyan Society collecting copies of the correspondence to and from the missionaries and the Society, as well as letters written by the Native Christians who maintained the Pigeon Lake mission. By 1977 Hugh Dempsey and I had combined our efforts and had the Rundle journals published, including diary, letters, occasional notes, and the entire Baptism and Marriage Registers for 1840-48. In effect, we had published the known archives of Robert Rundle, thus making them available to the public for the first time.

The British Wesleyans had not been interested in his material, the granddaughter said. It was just as though he had done something wrong. The HBC mission had been a great disappointment. Superintendent Evans was recalled in 1846 amid a flood of scandalous reports, and died of a heart attack. George Barnley returned to England in 1847, angry and complaining publicly. So when Rundle returned with a broken arm in 1848, the British had already decided to turn the mission over to the Canada Methodist Conference. He moved quietly into the circuit ministry of the Methodist Church. He died in retirement in 1896.

Robert Rundle's EpitaphThe search for Robert Rundle has been an experience, an education, an inspiration and a resource to be shared with all who will listen or read. His records reveal clearly the importance of the northern route into Western Canada — Hudson Bay and the great Saskatchewan River. The fur companies pioneered the route opening the north, with Fort Edmonton as the centre of the empire. The entire area south of the Saskatchewan River system was solely and entirely occupied by the aboriginal tribes. Rundle developed a special ministry by going to them, depending on their hospitality and generosity, making the Gospel available to them in their own language, and developing teachers and leaders from among them. Superintendent Evans had recently perfected the use of the syllabic alphabet so that Rundle could copy out "Sunday books" to be read in their own language in their own camps. For 30 years the Native Christian movement grew without having a church at all, or a budget, or an organization. He seemed to have introduced the greatness and goodness of the Spirit of Christ into the profound spiritual beliefs of an ancient people.

Thirty years later, the scene changed dramatically with the Confederation of Canada, and the sale of the HBC rights to Canada, so that the West became the Northwest Territories of Canada under the occupation and domination of the "white" culture. The entry to the West was no longer the river. All supplies now entered by way of St. Paul, Minnesota, then Winnipeg, and hence overland. Police, the railway, troops, and settlers followed the trails across the prairies, and eventually Calgary became the centre of the southern empire to establish the strong, dynamic rivalry so constant in the Alberta story. However, Rundle has provided the documents — especially the invaluable Registers — by which native Christians are now able to discover their roots and sustenance in their own people.


Aspenland 1998 - Local Knowledge and Sense of PlaceFrom: Aspenland 1998 — Local Knowledge and Sense of Place
Edited by: David J. Goa and David Ridley
Published by: The Central Alberta Regional Museums Network (CARMN) with the assistance of the Provincial Museum of Alberta and the Red Deer and District Museum.




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