American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
Teaser Image

Anglicans

The Anglicans, the predominant Protestant denomination in Canada, played a major role in white–Indian relations, especially in western Canada.

Clergy as well as members of the Church of England (known generally as the Anglican Church) accompanied British imperial involvement throughout the world. In each country within the British empire, the colonial period laid the basis of an Anglican Church that emerged at independence as separate national churches reflecting different historical experiences but sharing common doctrinal principles. In the United States, Anglicanism was transformed into the Episcopal Church within a few years of national independence. Although this denomination retains membership in the worldwide community of Anglican churches, it developed an organizational structure different from England's model.

The closer ties between Canadian and English Anglicans are partly the reflection of the fact that Canada was a mission field of the Church of England until Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867. This later, peaceful attainment of independence for Canada, the absence of a single, unified Canadian Anglican Church until the 1890s, and closer ongoing relations between Canada and England combined to create a denomination that closely paralleled the practices of the Anglican Church in England. Practical physical unification of Canada occurred only with the establishment of Canada's transcontinental railway in 1885, which facilitated the creation of a national governing body for Canadian Anglicans in 1893. For all of these reasons, Anglicanism in Canada relied on missionary societies rather than on central, national coordination in its relations with the indigenous people of Canada until the late twentieth century.

A succession of mission societies dominated Anglican work with indigenous people. Prior to the American Revolution, Anglican missionary efforts throughout British North America rested in the hands of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), which worked with both white and Native peoples. When the United States became independent, SPG missionaries accompanied the exodus of Loyalists northward. Because the SPG sought to create self-sustaining churches, it began a withdrawal from Canada in the midnineteenth century in reaction to continuing Canadian reluctance to finance their own churches. This decision opened the door for the Church Missionary Society (CMS), whose interest was the implementation of a program to convert Native peoples. Their approach included the development of a cadre of ordained Indian clergy and education in residential boarding schools. The CMS left Canada in the early twentieth century when Canadians established the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada. Founded in 1902, it was Canada's first significant Anglican missionary society.

The reliance of missionary societies on government funding for residential schools was an intended result of the Davin Report of 1879. This report called for the "aggressive civilization" of Indian people and recognized that missionary societies had the experience to implement this plan. Government funding rather than charitable donation became the predominant financial source for the educational work of Anglican and many other missionary groups. In return for providing funds, the government hoped that the boarding schools would end the political problems inherent in the management of Indian affairs.

These residential schools had several impacts. The isolation of children from their families and traditional cultures, as well as the imposition of alien dress, routines, and ideas, often led to significant psychological damage. These practices were made public in a series of lawsuits in the 1990s that jointly blamed the government and the denominations that managed the residential schools. In 2003 Canadian Anglicans and the national government agreed to legally cap Anglican liability at $25 million (Canadian) for abuses in their residential schools.

The other major effort of Anglican missionaries was the creation of Native clergy. This effort was successful in the nineteenth century in the sense that Anglicans developed a number of indigenous clergy for Native churches. The efforts failed, however, when measured by the subsequent incorporation of these clergy into the national Anglican clerical hierarchy. Hayes cites several accomplished Native clergy in the early twentieth century who were clearly suited to serve as bishops. Two of these men, Robert MacDonald (1829–1913) and Thomas Vincent (1835–1907), were not elevated to the position of bishop in part because they were of mixed-blood heritage. Anglicans did not select a bishop of Indian heritage until the 1980s.

In the 1960s, Anglicans modified the denomination's relationship with indigenous people by replacing the emphasis on civilization and conversion with a social work–based program to alleviate poverty and related social problems. This effort, based on the Hendry Report, was formally published as Beyond Traplines. This report itself met much criticism because it portrayed Indians as people separate from the rest of the society. A second edition of the report in 1998 called for the full incorporation of indigenous people into the Anglican Church in all roles.

David S. Trask


Further Reading
Hayes, Alan. 2004. Anglicans in Canada Controversies and Identity in Historical Perspective. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.; Hendry, Charles. 1969. Rev. ed. 1998. Beyond Traplines: Does the Church Really Care? Toward an Assessment of the Work of the Anglican Church in Canada with Canada's Native Peoples. Toronto, ON: Anglican Church of Canada.; Rutherdale, Myra. 2002. Women and the White Man's God: Gender and Race in the Canadian Mission Field. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  Introduction
  Chronological Essays
  Issues
  Events
  Culture
  Governments
  People and Groups
  Documents
  Southwest Nations
  California Nations
  Northwest Coast Nations
  Great Basin Nations
  Plateau Nations
  Great Plains Nations
  Northeast Woodlands Nations
  Subarctic Nations
  Arctic Nations
  Resources
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer