My colleagues and I worked on transcribing Isaac Bearfoot’s file stored in the Huron Diocese archives. One is looking at Bearfoot’s financial documents while the other is more concerned with why people he wrote to are not responding to his requests and concerns. The focus in this post and transcriptions is on letters that reflect the end of Bearfoot’s life and one source is traced to Margaret Bearfoot, succeeding Isaac’s death.
Bearfoot’s letters that are from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are reflective of his career and the difficulties he encountered. These sources give context to the relationships that developed through the region surrounding Huron College itself, as Bearfoot was active in surrounding communities. The documents, when compiled and considered in collaboration with my colleagues’ work, they are representative of the complex processes that shaped the indigenous and settler relationships in the region.
The first transcribed document is Isaac Bearfoot resigning his position as missionary at Waepol Island. The second is at age 70, applying for superannuation under the church. The final document transcribed was from Mrs. Bearfoot to Archdeacon Young likely responding to a letter expressing sympathy for her husband’s recent death. There are numerous questions that these sources lead historians to ask. One potentially interesting question to probe is where lies the connection between Isaac, his wife and the archdeacon, and why she is confirming her wedding date.
Bearfoot’s life, which historians are given a window into through preserved sources, is a strong example and representation of the indigenous relationship with settlers and European religion and language was like and its development over time.
Recommended Further Reading:
Austin, Alvyn J. and Jamie S. Scott. Canadian Missionaries, Indigenous Peoples: Representing Religion at Home and Abroad. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004.
Chute, Janet E. The Legacy of Shingwaukonse: A Century of Native Leadership. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.
Leighton, Douglas. “A Calling That Straddled Two Cultures.” Anglican Diocese of Huron Church News (London, ON), Feb., 2015.