Christianity, Missionaries and Plains Cree Politics, 1850s–1870s


From the Author's Introduction, Page 2:

"Informed by this revisionist scholarship, this article explores the uses of Christianity and missionaries by Plains Cree leaders in the area of the North Saskatchewan River valley between the late 1850s and the early 1870s. It argues that in the years immediately preceding Treaty Six (1876)—years marked by the collapse of the buffalo herds on the plains and conflict between the Cree and the bands of the Blackfoot Confederacy—there was significant division amongst Cree leaders about the value of missionaries. On the one hand, leaders around the areas of Edmonton and Fort Carlton sought to develop strong alliances with missionaries, seeing missionaries as useful allies in their bids to maintain leadership within their bands during an era of change. On the other hand, a different group of Cree, principally younger aspiring leaders from the Fort Pitt area, saw missionaries as threats to both the Cree buffalo hunting life and their own political aspirations. In outlining these patterns of responses, I emphasize that this divisiveness was not rooted in differing religious views per se, but rather in different beliefs about whether the missionary was an asset or a threat to a leader’s ability to provide for, and maintain their own authority within, their band. In making this argument I highlight something generally overlooked in scholarship about the prairie west: that even before treaties, reserves, and residential schooling, Christianity and missionaries were shaping the contours of Cree politics." (2).

Publication Information

Bradford, Tolly. "Christianity, Missionaries and Plains Cree Politics, 1850s–1870s." Manitoba History, no. 83 (2017): 2-13.

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