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Mission Communities

Canada’s North-West at the beginning of the 19th century was a region exploited solely for its wealth in furs; the merchants who profited from it had no interest in having any settlers. But the fur trade voyageurs in their unions with the native women had children; in 1806, the North-West Company had 1200 men in the field. Sixty years later, there was a mixed blood population of 15,0001. The aboriginal population is estimated to have been around 55,000 people.

A goodly number of the voyageurs who stayed on in the North-West were bonded men, but those who did do not renew their contracts called themselves "free men". These men were not always easy to control and the fur trade companies agreed that the presence of catholic clergy might have a mitigating effect on their independent character. The religious communities who sought to evangelise and bring all of these people to Christianity; were imbued with zeal. They would also provide all manner of social services, including health care and education. We will look at four Métis communities, of which three were well established before the arrival of the missionaries.

Resources

(1) Donat Levasseur, o.m.i., Les Oblats de Marie Immaculée dans le l’Ouest et le Nord du Canada, 1845-1867, University of Alberta Press, Western Canadian Publishers, 1995, 4, 6.


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