Image: Du Vernet’s Diary Entry on Jeremiah Johnston (detail), 1898, Paper and ink. From Frederick H. Du Vernet, “Diary of a Missionary Tour,” Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives, M81-41.
RESTORYING COLONIAL AND MISSIONARY ARCHIVES:
Defining Terms and Providing Context
This is a list of all of the articles written to clarify specific words used in the diary. Use the alphabet header to jump to different articles.
You can also access these articles when reading the diary by clicking on the words with green underlining. The first click brings you to a short annotation on the right side of the page, and then you can click “read more” at the bottom of the annotation to reach the longer article.
Clara Selina Bagshaw was a twenty-one-year-old teacher’s wife when she welcomed Du Vernet and Jeremiah Johnston into her home at Little Forks on July 14, 1898.
Du Vernet met Reginald Heber Bagshaw and Clara, his wife, on an overnight visit to Little Forks on July 14-15. Bagshaw was a lay missionary and teacher at the government school at Little Forks Reserve.
Du Vernet woke up before 5 a.m. in the Little Forks home of the Bagshaws, with mosquitoes buzzing in his ears, and Jeremiah Johnston lying next to him. Clara Bagshaw made her guests breakfast, and a group of Ojibwe men, women, and children joined in for morning prayers afterwards.
Among Anglicans, only a priest can perform a baptism, and people are usually baptized as infants. The ritual itself involves sprinkling water over the head of the baby, while invoking the name of “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Widely recognized for the beauty and skill of their creations, Anishinaabe and other Indigenous artists continue the work of their ancestors, adapting beadwork to a new range of materials.
Du Vernet mentions meeting a number of American Indians when they came over to Canada’s side of the border to play cards. He also notes the long journey Tom Overcome’s family took during the winter to “visit the American Indians.”
Settled in the 1880s and named after the storekeeper Edmund Boucher, Boucherville was a hamlet that housed a post office. This is where Du Vernet picked up his first letter from home, on July 21. The post office in Boucherville was the post office for all of the Rainy River.
Du Vernet showed a fascination and respect for Ojibwe burial practices throughout his diary. He described the Ojibwe gravesites he observed on an afternoon walk on Monday July 18th with great curiosity and detail.
From 1894 to 1901, Du Vernet was both a writer for and the editor of the The Canadian Church Missionary Gleaner. A religious periodical published by the Anglican Church Missionary Society, The Gleaner reported on the activities of missionaries abroad.
When Du Vernet traveled by rail from Toronto to Rat Portage, he took a journey that would not have been possible 15 years earlier – the Canadian Pacific Railway had opened in 1883. Du Vernet’s train journey took two nights and four stops.
Women are medicine pickers in Ojibwe culture, and they are taught never to pick the cedar hearts. Therefore, Du Vernet makes an accurate observation when he writes about cedar “tips.”
Ceremony, for the Ojibwe, is a word used to describe a set of practices by which people open a direct channel to the Creator. Anglican Christians access their God through their own ceremonies, which they call ritual or liturgy.
Charlie–also known as “Half-a-day Charlie”–was Du Vernet’s “Indian canoeman” for his trip on the Rainy River. Working as a canoe guide was a common occupation for Ojibwe men in the 1890s, and missionaries were frequent customers.
The word Christian is broad and divisive, much like the word “Indian.” As a broad category, the term Christian often obscures the differences found among great variety of people who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ.
The singing of hymns was a regular refrain in Du Vernet’s diary. This was not unusual: in the nineteenth century, hymn singing played a central part of Anglican devotional life, and in the lives of most Protestant Christians.
On Saturday July 16th, Jeremiah Johnston told Du Vernet a story–or at least his version of it–about the placement of the Long Sault church. He said that he managed to build the church on high land that had been the site of the Old Chief’s house, by convincing the current Chief Black Bird that to build on his father’s land was a monument to the great man.
Du Vernet excitedly recounts the communion service during his first Sunday “in a mission to the heathen.” It’s not hard to understand Du Vernet’s enthusiasm, considering that for him, Holy Communion was a ritual of profound connection between Jesus and the Christians gathered in a Church to worship him.
The Cree are a populous and widely distributed Indigenous nation in Turtle Island. The Cree people live in what is now called Quebec, northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Northwest territories.
Eliza Crowe was 45 and ill with tuberculosis when Du Vernet met her in the summer of 1898. Married to John Crowe, a steamer pilot, Eliza was the mother of several children, including two whose deaths as small babies were memorialized by a gravestone in the Anglican churchyard.
Du Vernet describes in his diary an Indigenous ceremony that he believed to be the Dog Feast. While it is unclear whether this is what Du Vernet actually saw, the dog feast was an existing Indigenous ceremony.
From the Little Forks Reserve, Du Vernet canoed west to Emo, a town along the northern side of the Rainy River. Emo was settled in the early 1880s under the Rainy River Free Grants and Homesteads Act.
Many of the Ojibwe men and women whom Du Vernet met were poised between Christian and Ojibwe spirituality. In his diary Du Vernet documented what he perceived to be their struggle to “face both ways.”
Gal 2:20 is a short passage in a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a group of people who followed Jesus in what is now Turkey. In the King James Version, the letter is called “The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians,” and is one of thirteen letters that are attributed to Paul.
In Du Vernet’s diary, the word heathen operates as an important marker of difference by distinguishing the Christian Ojibwe from other Ojibwe. Though he thought these people’s “souls needed saving,” the diary also provides evidence that Ojibwe ceremony, including the Midewiwin society, was flourishing in the lives of the Rainy River Ojibwe.
Hungry Hall No. 1 and 2 were two Ojibwe reserves situated on the Rainy River’s western mouth at the Lake of the Woods and contained 6,280 acres. Like Long Sault, Manitou Rapids and Little Forks, the Hungry Hall reserves came into existence in 1873 under Treaty 3 or the Manidoo Mazina’igan (“Spirit Paper” or “Sacred Document.”)
The power of Indian Agents and the introduction of the paternalistic Indian Act was, in the eyes of many Indigenous nations, in direct contravention of earlier treaties: where treaties were agreements between nations, the Indian Act was imposed, with no Indigenous input.
Indian Agents were government officials, employed by the Department of Indian Affairs, today called Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. They were mandated by the Indian Act of 1876 to implement federal Indian policy and and to manage those people whom the government considered Indians within their respective districts.
In the King James Version of the bible, which Du Vernet would have been reading, John 15: 5-6 recounts Jesus’ powerful charge to his followers to “abide” in him.
Du Vernet was lucky to have Jeremiah Johnston as a host. With his ability to speak Anishinaabemowin, his friendly relations with the people on the river, and his skill at sterning a canoe, he was essential for Du Vernet’s visits with the Ojibwe along the river.
While Du Vernet thought the lake “well deserves its name,” the Lake of the Woods’ English name is likely a mistranslation of the even more precise Ojibwe name Pikwedina Sagainan, the “inland lake of the sand hills.”
Located at the confluence of the Rainy River and the Little Forks river, Little Forks was what the 1890s Ontario government map called “Indian Reserve 10.”
For much of Du Vernet’s diary, he is describing his visit at the Long Sault reserve. While the reserve itself was relatively new, the Long Sault as a historical site stretches back millennium.
Taking a walk along the “reserve by the river bend” with Jeremiah Johnston, Du Vernet remarks that they “passed two Indian mounds, prehistoric, the Indians will not allow them to be opened.”
Manitou Rapids designated two adjacent Ojibwe reserves located on the north bank of the Rainy River, opposite of the rapids from which the reserves took their name and covering an area of 5,736 acres.
Joseph McLeod, born in 1840, was married to an Ojibwe woman named Annie, and together they had five children. Du Vernet called Joseph a “Christian Indian” and noted his participation in the Eucharistic service in Long Sault on, July 17.
Du Vernet seemed to be aware of both the medicine men’s spiritual power and their social importance, which perhaps went hand in hand in the Ojibwe social world. These medicine men were important keepers of culture and ceremony tasked with the duty to carry on tradition, which explains why Jeremiah Johnston and Du Vernet encountered so much resistance from them.
What does Du Vernet mean when he speaks about the “medicine tent” or “long tent”? Du Vernet mentions the “medicine tent” several times throughout his diary, often lamenting about how the Ojibwe Christians—despite missionary efforts to discourage the practice—continue to return to Ojibwe ceremony in the medicine tent or long tent.
In his diary, Du Vernet meets many Ojibwe people, seeing their culture and hearing their language first hand. The Ojibwe, also known as Anishinaabe, are Indigenous peoples whose traditional territories surround and radiate outward from the Great Lakes, on both sides of what is now the Canada-US border.
Du Vernet constantly refers to the Ojibwe peoples he encounters as “Indians” – his use of the word reflects the language and concepts of his day. Though the category of “Indian” was a legal designation in Canada because of the “Indian Act,” as a name for Indigenous people it originated in a profound error.
Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
there’s mercy with the Lord;
and he will surely give you rest,
by trusting in his Word.
Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
In the Anglican Church, the ordination service is a rite that imparts the spiritual power to serve as a minister, whether as an archdeacon or priest. The Book of Common Prayer provides the directions and materials for the ordination service, with the rite following five main parts.
Robert Phair was born in County Tyrone, Ireland in 1837. He trained for two years at the Church Missionary Society College in Islington, London, and was ordained as a Deacon in 1864.
Du Vernet spent his first evening in Rat Portage (modern day Kenora) with Robert John Nicholson Pither, the Indian Agent for the area. Mr. Pither was born in Montreal in 1824. He started working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1846, and in 1853 moved to Fort Frances. Here he was in charge of the trading post from 1853 to 1856 and 1858 to 1863.
Among Anishinaabe, a pow-wow is an event that incorporates singing, dancing, feasting, and the exchange of cultural knowledge. There are two types: traditional and competition pow-wows.
Both Christian and Ojibwe people use prayer as a means of spiritual communication. In Ojibwe spirituality, prayer is often considered a pathway for communication with the Creator, Kitchi Manitou.
Du Vernet brings up the topic of private property after conversing with James Taylor Rodgers, a lawyer and socialist from San Francisco. The two met on Du Vernet’s journey from Toronto.
The book of Psalms, of which Psalm 121 is a part, has been a collection of liturgical poems, hymns, and chants for Jewish people for thousands of years. Many psalms are attributed to ancient Jewish heroes like King David, but this one is unattributed.
The Rainy River is so central to Du Vernet’s diary that it almost becomes a character in itself. The River connects the towns and villages Du Vernet passed through, and Du Vernet never tired of describing its beauty.
Upon his arrival on July 22nd, Du Vernet could not help but comment on the late night beauty of Rat Portage. A scenic town at the northern end of the Lake of the Woods, Rat Portage owed its curious name to its Indigenous history.
James Taylor Rogers was an unusual lawyer for his day. A socialist with a well-articulated philosophy of evolution, who insisted on the sharing of the world’s resources, Rogers was also a Mason, active in a fraternal order called the Association of United Workmen.
The S.S. Keenora was a steamer built in 1897 to carry passengers and cargo. With her sixty-five-cabin capacity, the S.S. Keenora would travel up and down the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River, from Rat Portage to Little Forks.
John Sanders was an Anglican clergyman and translator. Born on March 17, 1845, Sanders’s mother was an Ojibwe woman, while his father was a white canoe builder. Growing up, Sanders spoke Ojibwe, but later learnt English and Cree.
When Du Vernet wrote his diary, he did so on a pad of paper from The Canadian Church Missionary Association. Printed above the name of the Association at the top of each sheet are two biblical references and a short quotation from John 4:35 in the King James Version of the New Testament.
After his travels along the Rainy River, Du Vernet found his way to East and West Selkirk, two towns just north of Winnipeg, separated by the Red River.
When the government of Canada and Ojibwe leaders signed Treaty 3 in 1873, the Rainy River District was incorporated into the province of Ontario as Crown Land.
Opposed to free market capitalism for the way that it concentrated wealth in the hands of a small minority of owners, socialists struggled for labour rights and for collective ownership of public goods, including railways and hydroelectricity.
St. Peter’s was a community of Cree and Saulteaux peoples in the Red River Valley, in what is today southern Manitoba. A band of Swampy Crees, led by Chief Peguis, and Saulteaux peoples established the community as an agricultural settlement in the early nineteenth century.
By the 1890s, the steamboat was the main way for Europeans to access the Rainy River. In fact, the Rainy River first became important to the Dominion Government of Canada precisely because it could be navigated by steamboats.
Native men often worked as steamer pilots on the Rainy River. On his tour, Du Vernet met Chief Blackbird, John Crowe, and John Cochrane, all of whom were employed as pilots. This was a salaried job.
Walking around Long Sault on Sunday July 17, Jeremiah Johnston and Du Vernet visit “grandfather’s place,” where nearby there is “sweating tent.” Du Vernet describes the “sweating tent” with a keen eye and in great detail.
On July 17, Du Vernet described Horace Theker, a settler who walked five miles to attend the church service in Long Sault. Theker had come to “a knowledge of the Saviour” when injured in a wood cutting accident many years ago; his considerable effort to attend the service “meant much” to Du Vernet.
Drums are used in many cultures throughout the world in cultural, spiritual, or religious ceremonies. Du Vernet first mentions drums – tom-tom – on July 17th.
A wigwam is a dome-shaped dwelling, built with young saplings for a frame. It is typically covered in bark, moss, or branches with leaves, depending on the season. Community builders left a hole in the center of the roof for the smoke of the fire to travel to the sky.
York Factory was the operational headquarters of the powerful Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). Situated in northern Manitoba, where the Hayes River meets the Hudson’s Bay, the Hudson’s Bay Company established York Factory in 1684 as a fur trading post.