In May of 1868, Elizabeth Bingham Young and her new husband, Egerton Ryerson Young, began a long journey from Hamilton, Ontario, to the Methodist mission of Rossville. For the next eight years, Elizabeth supported her husband’s work at two mission houses, Norway House and then Berens River. Unprepared for the difficult conditions and the “eight months long” winter, and unimpressed with “eating fish twenty-one times a week,” the young Upper Canada wife rose to the challenge. In these remote outposts, she gave birth to three children, acted as a nurse and doctor, and applied both perseverance and determination to learning Cree, while also coping with poverty and short supplies within her community. Her account of mission life, as seen through the eyes of a woman, is the first of its kind to be archived and now to appear in print.
Accompanying Elizabeth’s memoir, and offering a counterpoint to it, are the reminiscences of her eldest son, “Eddie.” Born at Norway House in 1869 and nursed by a Cree woman from infancy, Eddie was immersed in local Cree and Ojibwe life, culture, and language, in many ways exemplifying the process of reverse acculturation often in evidence among the children of missionaries. Like those of his mother, Eddie’s memories capture the sensory and emotional texture of mission life, providing a portrait that is startling in its immediacy.
Skillfully woven together and meticulously annotated by Jennifer Brown, these two remarkable recollections of mission life are an invaluable addition to the fields of religious, missionary, and Aboriginal history. In their power to resurrect experience, they are also a fascination to read.
About the authors
Missionary wife of Egerton Ryerson Young.
Son of Egerton Ryerson Young and Elizabeth Bingham Young.
Jennifer S. H. Brown taught history at the University of Winnipeg for twenty-eight years and held a Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal history from 2004 to 2011. She served as director of the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, which focuses on Aboriginal peoples and the fur trade of the Hudson Bay watershed, from 1996 to 2010. She is the editor of the Rupert’s Land Record Society documentary series (McGill-Queen’s University Press), which publishes original materials on Aboriginal and fur trade history. She now resides in Denver, Colorado, where she continues her scholarly work.
"Her memoirs offer an exceedingly rare portrait of mission life as seen through the eyes of a woman."
“Brown’s editing and her insightful contextualization of first-hand 19th century historical material serve the reader well and add immeasurably to the joy of reading about these lively and endearing people. The grace with which this has been effected somewhat shields us from the difficulty of the task.”
Other titles by Jennifer S.H. Brown
An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land
Together We Survive
Ethnographic Intuitions, Friendships, and Conversations
Memories, Myths, and Dreams of an Ojibwe Leader
Telling Our Stories
Omushkego Legends and Histories from Hudson Bay
Reading Beyond Words
Contexts for Native History, Second Edition
The Orders of the Dreamed
George Nelson on Cree and Northern Ojibwa Religion and Myth, 1823
The New Peoples
Being and Becoming Métis
Strangers in Blood
Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country