Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Mission Life in Cree-Ojibwe Country

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Mission Life in Cree-Ojibwe Country

Article excerpt

Jennifer S. H. Brown ed., Mission Life in Cree-Ojibwe Country. Edmonton: Athabaska University Press, 2014. 316 pages. ISBN 9781771990035. $29.95 paperback.

Mission Life in Cree-Ojibwe Country is certainly an unusual book, a hodgepodge I would call it if it were not so impressively organized. Ostensibly the memoirs of two early missionary family members in two stations to the north and east of Lake Winnipeg, it is also a memorial to Edgerton Ryerson Young's family constructed by a descendant, the editor Jennifer S. H. Brown. A very well-produced book, it is one of the "Our Lives" series from Athabaska that seeks to provide in particular, the backstory details of women behind the conventionally written histories.

Young himself is already a well-documented character, as he was a well-known author and public speaker after his mission experiences. Brown provides two narratives, one by his wife, Elizabeth, and one by his son, Eddie. Both go into detail about the expectations of a missionary's family life, and particularly about the contributions expected of a wife. Indeed, Brown adds to our understanding of the support system missionaries could call on, both in the field and from Eastern Canada as well as the U.K. Yet it was a demanding life in the North West for all concerned, especially for a family with children, and in 1876 the Youngs returned early to Ontario after 8 years in Norway House and Berens River.

These two narratives, both written long after the events discussed, supply the bulk of the book. The one by Elizabeth is heavily annotated and footnoted by the editor; this intervention is valuable explanatory commentary, but more heavily layered than I have ever seen before. Elizabeth's own writing - her diary entries - is supplemented by Brown's interjections to a degree that there is no continuous reading experience of the original. Nevertheless the original would not be comprehensible without Brown's steady directions. …

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