Man's mission of subjugation : the publications of John Maclean, John McDougall and Egerton R. Young, nineteenth-century Methodist missionaries in western Canada
Carter, Sarah Alexandra
John McDougall, John Maclean and Egerton Young were Methodist missionaries among the Indians of Western Canada in the late nineteenth century and all published books based on their experiences. Contemporary readers of these stirring accounts of missionary valour would have been left with two main impressions. The first was that the Indian was clearly a member of a feeble, backward race. The second impression, however, was that the Indian could be saved from his nomadic, pagan life of ignorance, superstition and cruelty; through Christianity and education the Indian could be elevated so that, at some indefinite time in the future, he would be on an equal footing with his white brothers and could enjoy all the rights, burdens and privileges of citizenship. This interpretation of the Indians' past and future encouraged contributions to Christian mission work but it also assured the public that Canada was without doubt correct in entrusting the future of the Indians and their land to more enlightened capable hands. Writing of this kind is often found in societies where one group has imposed its will on another; a need arises among the dominant group to justify its actio s Through this writing, myths are created about subject people which sanction and sustain systems based on social inequality. The publications of McDougall,; Maclean and Young contributed to such a body of writing in Canada. Their perception of the Indians as an inferior race provided justification for removing them from their stewardship of the land. Their optimistic portraits of the glorious future in store for the Indians once they had been guided through a transition stage from "savagery to civilization" endorsed the supervision of their affairs by the more enlightened. The missionaries' caution that for an undetermined length of time the Indians would have to be "looked after" provided justification for a society based on the premise of inequality. The introduction to this thesis is an assessment of missionary publications as a source and subject of historical inquiry; they must be approached with caution but they have a legitimate place nevertheless. The second chapter provides background on the work of the Wesleyan Methodists in Western Canada and the three missionary authors are introduced. The missionaries' arguments for the inferiority of the Indians are the subject of the third chapter. Judging the Indians by the standards of their own society, the missionaries found them backward as they left no marks of their presence on the land, did not understand the importance of private property and did not appreciate the value of time and money, The idolatry, ritualism and superstition associated with their spiritual beliefs were further proofs of a weak race. The missionaries perceived some virtues in Indian society, however, and these are presented in the fourth chapter. They acknowledged a primitive moral order, system of-education and justice in tribal society, and admired the superior sensory ability and oratorical skill of individual Indians. The missionaries made it clear, however, that these were inferior virtues, worthy of admiration only in a primitive society; the image of the Indian as backward remained. Chapter five describes the missionaries' portrayal of the glorious future available to the Indians once they had accepted Christianity. Juxtapos ing their evidence of the hideousness and degradation of the indians' former way of life, the missionaries presented startling proof of the transforming power of the Gospel. The concepts of Christianity and civilization were inextricably linked in their publi ations; the convert immediately acquired a new attitude toward his temporal welfare. The missionaries cautioned their readers that for the majority of Indians in Western Canada there would be a transition stage from "savagery to civilization" that could last for an undetermined length of time. This transition period is the subject of the sixth chapter. The Indian would be guided and protected by his elder and stronger brethren during the transition stage and could not expect, to enjoy fully the privileges of citizenship until this gap of centuries had been bridged. The seventh is a concluding chapter.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorRegehr, Theodore D. (Ted)
Copyright DateJanuary 1980