Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


Ellen Badone


This dissertation will examine the motives and intentions of four native men, John Thunder, Peter Hunter, George Flett and John McKay, who participated in the missionary endeavour as native missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in Canada ministering to native people in southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan between 1866 and 1912. In examining the lives and careers of Thunder, Hunter, Flett and McKay, it becomes apparent that their goals and their perception of the missionary role were not necessarily those of the Foreign Mission Committee (FMC), the governing body concerned with the missionary work of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The dissertation follows and extends the theoretical framework delineated by historian Richard White (1991), who argues that in cross-cultural encounters a 'middle ground' may emerge, a common, mutually comprehensible world partaking of aspects of all cultures in the contact situation. It will be shown that the two Dakota men, John Thunder and Peter Hunter, used the office of missionary and the symbols of Christianity to communicate their needs to the dominant white society and to achieve their own goals on behalf of the Dakota people. Likewise, the Country-born men, John McKay and George Flett, appropriated the role of missionary in an attempt to maintain the atmosphere of negotiation and accommodation which characterized the middle ground of the Red River Settlement in which they were raised.

In contrast to prevailing views of missions as destructive of native culture and an imposition of the colonial agenda on native life, I demonstrate the various ways in which the missionary endeavour was perceived as valuable by the native people and how, as missionaries, each of these four native men had some degree of influence over the pace, level, and type of adaptation which they and their people would make to white society.

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