Isaac Bearfoot’s 19th century letters demonstrate how English literacy was promulgated throughout indigenous communities by religious missionary organizations such as the Anglican Church. Bearfoot was born a member of a Mohawk community in Grand River, and later attended Huron College in the 1870s where he was ordained in 1878. He would go on to serve as a Missionary cleric in several Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek communities up to 1888. These included appointments to Point Edward, Walpole Island, Pelee Island, Dresden and the communities of Kanyengah, Cayuga, Delaware, and Tuscarora.
Bearfoot himself is evidence of a sustained development of English literacy among the Haudenosaunee of Upper Canada through the 1800s, as his beautiful handwriting can attest to. Much like the description in Sacred Feathers of Methodist preacher, Peter Jones¹, Bearfoot utilized similar talents as a bilingual and bicultural clergyman, to assist the Diocese of Huron in their missionary efforts. The following letters written by Bearfoot illustrate some of the financial difficulties that came with such appointments. As the Anglican faith was quickly gaining momentum in Upper Canada, often the coffers of the Huron Diocese could not maintain consistent payment for its multiple missionary efforts.²
As the third letter illustrates, however, it would seem Bearfoot’s affiliation with English literacy and the Anglican Church, though strained at times, proved beneficial in a time of shared cultural space. Though important to note that this is not the end of a series of correspondences, it is indicative of the fact that Bearfoot was comfortably compensated for his missionary efforts in the Grand River area, having been given residence and a considerable allowance, and would live the rest of his life in this region.
 Donald B. Smith, “Chapter 5: The Missassauga’s Cultural Revolution,” in Sacred Feathers(2013), 66-68.
 Douglas Leighton, “A calling that straddled two cultures,” Anglican Dioceses of Huron Church News (Feb. 2015), 10.
The Rev. I. Bearfoot
Oct. 26. 1887
Dear Mr. Reed,
Cannot something be
done (at once) to relieve me of my present
financial embarrassment – I
am now reduced down to my last
five dollar note: am obliged to
let my housekeeper go, and submit
to others grievous inconveniences.
It does seem so hard that of over
$250 due me since the 1st visit I
cannot get a cent. I have a
very strong aversion against resorting
to extreme measures; but matters are
desperate and what am I to do?
I wish you would speak to the Bp.
and see what can be done and
you would oblige me very much
Feby 22. 1888
E.B. Reed. Esq.
I herewith send you
for the information of the Executive Committee, a
statement of account, and balance due all from
the Dresden Congregation for services rendered
as Incumbent. Will you kindly present it at
their next meeting in March.
I also herewith respectfully apply to
the Committee for a special grant- to prevent
a total loss of the said Balance – Will you
present, also, this application at the same
P.S. I received from you, in November, an ad-
vance grant of $50.00 for Pelee Island: I was
entitled to $37.50 on Dec. 31 according to the old
grant from the Mission Fund, thus leaving me over
paid $12.50 which is taken off in the “statement”
enclosed, leaving a balance due me of $101.82/100.
Augt 22d ‘88
To the Executive Committee
of the Diocese of Huron.
The “New England
Company” have employed me
as Assistant Missionary among
the “Six Nations”: and towards
my stipend they have given
a residence and a grant
of Six hundred dollars per
annum. According to the
Canon, I am entitled to receive
Eight- hundred dollars and a
residence from the first day of
July last – having then completed
ten years of active service in
Priests’ orders – I hereby there-
fore respectfully apply to you
for a grant of two hun-
dred dollars per annum
to date from the said first
day of July last past – to
complete the full amount
of my stipend.
The “New England Company”
have approved of this applica-
tion being made.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,