The aborigines of our country were entitled to far more consideration than they ever received

A Methodist minister writes what he knows of Simcoe County aboriginal peoples from 1820 to 1890.

The Rev. Thomas Williams

Excerpt:

INTRODUCTION

These interesting sketches of pioneer life in Simcoe County  in the twenties and early thirties of the nineteenth century, from the pen of the Rev. Thomas Williams, appeared in the ORILLIA PACKET some years ago the first one in the issue of that journal for November 28th, 1890, and the rest at intervals for about a year. Mr. Williams was a native of London, England, and was a son of Richard Williams, who settled on lot 36 on the west, or Vespra, side of the Penetanguishene Road, near Craighurst, in the year 1822, when the subject of this sketch was not yet twelve years old…On the 16th July, 1845, Mr. Williams married Deborah, second daughter of Robert Keays, of the Township of London. After spending upwards of fifty years of happy wedded life together, they passed away within a few days of one another, Mrs. Williams surviving her husband only four days. They had a family of ten children, of whom eight survived their parents. p. 7

V.

So far in my narrative of things on the old portage I have not mentioned the Indians, yet they were with us the whole season in greater or less numbers. They were far more numerous at that time than now in the whole country. Up to that time there had been no effort to civilise or to Christianise them, except in very rare and isolated cases, if we except the institution among the Mohawks on the Grand River, near Brantford, sustained by the New England Company, and in charge of the Anglican Church. In Lower Canada the Romanists had some very old missions. The Indians in these parts had received no attention in that direction. They were following the ways of their fathers in everything of that nature, only perhaps in some things influenced unconsciously and without design by the habits, doings, and spirit of the people who were filling up their country and crowding them out of sight…

…I have heard people maintain that the Indian has no religion while in his old condition. We often meet such a declaration floating in the literature of the present day, and seeming to be very much credited. It has, however, no foundation in fact, but rises very naturally out of the ignorance of the persons making it, and their cherished sentiment towards them, as they mostly belong to the class who adopt the motto that “the only good Indian is the dead one.”… p. 19

…To me [First Nations] they were always an interesting people. I watched them and their doings with all the zest of a student. While here I picked up a smattering of their language, and being in the playing period of my life, their boys were my playfellows when I could find time for play ; and hearty, good-natured players they were never coarse or quarrelsome, very lithe and active, and hard to beat in the plays known to them. Once, or perhaps twice, in the course of that summer there was some drinking and drunkenness among them, but I cannot recall a single instance of such wrong-doing as would call for censure or punishment, while the example of the white people who associated with them could not be considered the best. I had the impression then, and was given to wondering very much over it, and it has been with me ever since, that, as a people, the aborigines of our country were entitled to far more consideration than they ever received, either from the Government or the sentiment of the people who were coming into the possession of the beautiful country from which they have very nearly faded away. p. 21-2

Pioneer Papers – No. 2, Simcoe County Pioneer and Historical Society, Barrie, 1908. or here.

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