Recreations of a Long Vacation

In 1846, Rowsells and Thompson Printers of Toronto published James Beaven’s work, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada. Beaven was a clergyman for the Church of England and a Professor of Divinity at the University of King’s College, Toronto.[1] This source illustrates the complex landscape of Upper Canada during nineteenth-century missions through the eyes of James Beaven. This book depicts how education, language and literacy were used as imperial and colonial tactics to alter Indigenous peoples ways of life and abrogate them of their political power, lands and culture.

Upon Beaven’s arrival to Canada from England in 1843, the Englishman was astonished by the work of his good friend Mr. McMurray, the rector of Ancaster. McMurray had also been a missionary worker for the Chippewa of Sault Ste. Marie.[2] McMurray had learnt the language of Anishinaabemowin to communicate the words of Christianity to the Chippewa/ Ojibwe. This mission, along with others in Upper Canada, exemplified the fundamental role that language and literacy played. Aboriginal peoples were thought to be without history due to an emphasis on oral narratives and other forms of communications that were inconsistent in comparison to alphabetic literacy.[3] Nevertheless, Christianity, through the eyes of the Church of England, was the embodiment of the ultimate truth. This was because their teachings were consistent with alphabetic literacy.[4]

According to Beaven, a mission had to be put back into place in Sault Ste. Marie so Natives could learn how to ignore their temptations through Christian teachings. Since McMurray had resigned from his mission in Sault Ste. Marie, almost one hundred of the Natives had fallen into habits of intoxication.[5] As Peter Jones (a Methodist missionary) had stated, alcohol was one of the greatest evils.[6] He noted that the Bishop in charge of the mission must become acquainted with the language in order to translate the Bible, hymns and prayers.[7] The Moravian Mission on the Thames (Fairfield) demonstrated Beaven’s aspirations.[8] The Moravians prayed twice a day and were kept in order through guidance and schooling.[9] The author believed it was necessary to have a schoolmaster and schoolmistress at each mission to promote education.[10]

Literacy prospered at a rapid rate during missionary work in Upper Canada. Why was this the case? According to Beaven, French Canadians and Métis were Catholic, and unlike the Church of England, did not focus on furthering Christianity through instruction and education.[11] Nonetheless, what is perhaps more significant, is the rivalry that emerged. From an imperial viewpoint, there was an overarching desire to foster Native communities under the Church of England. From a colonial perspective, there was an aspiration that Indigenous peoples would abandon their old lifestyles and embrace the new ones being taught through literacy. This competition suggests an explanation for the rise of literary works in the nineteenth-century.

Another crucial theme in Beaven’s work is the dispossession of Native culture. Many Native women and men took on new appearances. While Beaven was visiting the Six Nations peoples on the Grand River, he only came across one Native man that was dressed in traditional Native attire from head to toe.[12] Women were dressed in a clean and modest fashion.[13] Men were dressed as farmers or labourers.[14] In addition, under Mr. Elliot (who was a resident of the missionary for the New England Company in Brantford, with the Mohawks), Beaven noticed an idealism of all things English and denunciation of everything Native.[15] This was also illustrated by the name change of the Mohawk’s warrior chief from Oghnáhwerea to his English name, Daniel Smith.[16] Even Methodist missionaries, who found Indian names difficult to write or pronounce, replaced them with English ones.[17]

According to Beaven, there was a colonial aspiration to have Native peoples adapt to the Euro-Canadian lifestyle. Through education and literacy, Natives were taught that their way of life was not comparable to that of the English. Not only was the Native population diminishing at increasing rates, but those who were alive were also losing their identities. Beaven noted: “Establishment should make it a primary object to obtain whatever Indian children it can, and train them up as Christians.”[18]Nonetheless, it should be noted that Christianity was not the ultimate end goal of these missions.[19] It was extremely important that Natives learnt how to live “properly.” The author stated: “In order to do this, he must go to work with the European, to mould himself after him, to learn by imitation his habits of mind and action.”[20]

The last fundamental concept is the loss of Indigenous peoples’ land. According to Beaven, land became national property in the “most restricted” sense.[21] It became illegal for the Natives to sell their land, which had once been a common business tactic, without the consent of their chiefs.[22] Furthermore, there was an ongoing desire to bring the Natives, who lived sporadically throughout the land, all together.[23] Beaven wanted all of the Indian settlements along the shores of Lake Superior to be brought in and stationed at the mission of Sault Ste. Marie.[24] Nonetheless, Indigenous peoples felt deep connections with their land and were comfortable in their surroundings. However, settler colonialism resulted in the deforestation of about ninety percent of Upper Canada by 1910.

To conclude, Beaven’s book is a suitable source for comprehending the changes that occurred in Indigenous life through missionary work, in Upper Canada. The text suggests that education and literacy were ways in which imperial powers tried to colonize their land. Beaven notes that Euro-Canadian ways of life were on the rise, and prideful Native identities were diminishing, rapidly. However, the author also outlines that many Indigenous communities refused to accept Christianity. According to Beaven, the Chippewayans showed the greatest disposition to missionary work in the continent.[25] The Chippewayans were located between the English River to the Esquimaux, inhabiting the Polar seas.[26] Thus, in order to truly assess the impact of literacies and education, it is crucial to look beyond Beaven’s source. It is essential to analyze documents such as those the Church of England would call “inconsistent.” These “inconsistent” sources, whether they are wampum belts, birch bark scrolls or other forms of narrative, are imperative in understanding missionary work in Upper Canada. Until then, Beaven’s source tells us a part of the matter, but not the full story.

Bibliography

Beaven, James. Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, Toronto: Rowsells and Thompson Printers, 1846.

Edwards, Brendan Frederick R. Paper Talk: A History of Libraries, Print Culture, and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada before 1960. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Smith, Donald B. Sacred Feathers the Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

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Further Information:

Copway, George, and Shelley M. Hulan. Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014.

Duncan, John Livingston. Church of England Missions Among the Indians in the Diocese of Huron to 1850. London: University of Western Ontario, 1936.

Gray, Susan Elaine. I will Fear no Evil: Ojibwa-Missionary Encounters along the Berens River, 1875-1940. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2006.

Hele, Karl S. “Conflict and Cooperation at Garden River First Nation: Missionaries, Ojibwa, and Government Interactions, 1854-1871.” Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 47 (2005): 75. Accessed October 21, 2015.

Knight, Alan. “A Study in the Failure: the Anglican Mission at Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Canada 1830-41.” Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 45 (2003): 133-224. Accessed October 9, 2015.

McNally, Michael D. “The Practice of Native American Christianity.” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 69 (2000): 834-59. Accessed October 20, 2015.

McNally, Michael David. Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief, and a Native Culture in Motion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Smith, Donald B. Mississauga Portraits: Ojibwe Voices from Nineteenth-Century Canada. London, Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Donald Smith’s book, Mississauga Portraits: Ojibwe Voices from Nineteenth-Century Canada, provides insight on how the Ojibwe/ Chippawe peoples (the same peoples that were at the Sault Ste. Mare mission) dealt with imperial and colonial tactics to abrogate them of their land, culture and community. In addition, the term “Mississauga” sheds light on how the English renamed individuals and nations with English terms. “Mississauga” refers to the Ojibwe peoples on the north of Lake Ontario. This source contains both primary and secondary sources and allows for historians to grasp the tribulations that were occurring during the nineteenth-century. An individual whom I mention in my work, Peter Jones, is discussed in the book as well. I believe Smith’s work would be tremendously beneficial for one to gain a further understanding of the material and concepts discussed in my essay. There are collections of writings and speeches contained in the source, which illuminate on an overarching theme in my essay. Language and literacy undoubtedly had a profound impact on the Indigenous peoples of Upper Canada. This source allows for historians studying this subject to gain further knowledge of how literacy and language destroyed the autonomy amongst Indigenous peoples prior to colonial settlement, and was the result of rapid assimilation.

Stock, Eugene. The History of the Church Missionary Society: Its Environment, Its Men and Its Work. London: Church Missionary Society, 1899.

Talman, James John. Church of England Missionary Effort in Upper Canada, 1815-1840. Ontario: Ontario Historical Society, 1929.

[1] James Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada (Toronto: Rowsells and Thompson Printers, 1846), 1.

[2] Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 28.

[3] Brendan Frederick R. Edwards, Paper Talk: A History of Libraries, Print Culture, and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada before 1960 (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2005), 26.

[4] Brendan Frederick R Edwards, Paper Talk: A History of Libraries, Print Culture, and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada before 1960, 26.

[5] Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 124.

[6]Donald B. Smith, Sacred Feathers the Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), 76.

[7] Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 177.

[8]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 88.

[9]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 88.

[10]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 161.

[11]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 173.

[12]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 44.

[13] Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 52.

[14]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 44.

[15]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 32.

[16]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 50.

[17]Smith, Donald B. Sacred Feathers the Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians, 76.

[18]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 160.

[19]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 161.

[20]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 161.

[21]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 39.

[22]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 40.

[23]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 155.

[24]Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 155.

[25] Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 168.

[26] Beaven, Recreations of a Long Vacation; or a Visit to Indian Missions in Upper Canada, 167.

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