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Kahkewaquonaby, Sacred Feathers (Peter Jones) April 10th, 2014

I’ve spent the past two weeks writing about the nineteenth-century Welsh-Ojibwe chief and missionary Peter Jones (known among the Ojibwe people as Kahkewaquonaby, or “Sacred Waving Feathers”).  When he was born in his mother’s wigwam on Burlington Heights in 1802, few people would have suspected that Jones would one day become a leader of his people, frustrate the authority of a lieutenant governor and an archdeacon, cross the ocean six times, and be presented to two British monarchs.  As a chapter in my book Literature, Ecology, Indigenous Rights (currently under preparation), my essay recounts Jones’s efforts, as Upper Canada’s first Aboriginal Methodist missionary, to convert his people to Christianity while at the same time teaching them to cultivate the land; and it chronicles his activist work on their behalf both in Canada and overseas.  Although Jones was not ultimately successful in securing the Mississauga people a reserve in the city that today bears their name, he worked hard to ensure their wellbeing and survival at a time when most white people believed that all Native Americans were destined for extinction.  His Life and Journals (1860) and his History of the Ojebway Indians (1861) provide fascinating accounts of Jones’s background and his life and times; both can be read online at  Donald Smith’s biographical accounts in Sacred Feathers (1987) and Mississauga Portraits (2013) provide authoritative and wonderfully engaging discussions of this remarkable man.

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