Thomas Crosby and the Tsimshian
Small Shoes for Feet Too Large
When the Methodist missionary Thomas Crosby arrived in Port Simpson in northwestern British Columbia in 1874, he did so at the invitation of the Tsimshian people. Earlier contact with the Anglican missionary William Duncan had convinced them that, although many aspects of his mission program were appealing, his brand of religion was too austere. Instead they preferred the more expressive version represented by the Methodist church. Realizing that it was in their interest to fit into the broader context of Canadian life, as they perceived it, the Tsimshian made the decision to ask the Methodist church for a missionary.
In Thomas Crobsy and the Tsimshian: Small Shoes for Feet Too Large, Clarence Bolt demonstrates that the Indians were conscious participants in the acculturation and conversion process – as long as this met their goals – and not merely passive receivers of the blessings as typically reported by the missionaries. In order to understand the complexities of Indian-European contact, Bolt argues, one must look at the reasons for the Indians' behaviour as well as those of the Europeans. He points out that the Indians actively influenced the manner in which their relationships with the white population developed, often resulting in a complex interaction in which the values of both groups rubbed off on each other.
As long as the conversion process unfolded as they wished, the Tsimshian supported their missionary. Once they realized, however, that the church could not solve such issues as the land questions and their increasing difficulty with paternalistic governments, they moved away from Crosby.
Thomas Crobsy and the Tsimshian: Small Shoes for Feet Too Large is unique as it examines the functioning of two missions to the same people in a single locale, demonstrating how a particular Indian group tried to protect its traditional land resource while at the same time seeking participation in the emerging white society of nineteenth-century British Columbia. Based on insights into the interaction between the Native population and the missionaries, Bolt, in the final part of the book, suggests a model for a better understanding of the interaction between European and Native cultures.
Explains how the Tsimshian people of northwest British Columbia took an active part in their contact with European society in the later 19th century, rejecting one missionary and requesting another, shaping their acculturation to further their own interest, and resisting it when it did not.
Bolt concentrates on the sociology of Indian-White relations, arguing Crosby's paternalism was not mainly to blame for the decline of his world-famous Port Simpson mission. The Tsmshian simply realized they weren't getting what they bargained for.
1 The Original People
2 The Arrival of Europeans: Early Contacts
3 Revivalism and Civilization: The Making of a Methodist Missionary
4 Tsimshian Acculturation: 'Religious' Life
5 Tsimshian Acculturation: 'Secular' Life
6 The Role of the Tsimshian in Conversion
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