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Edited by Charles Lillard. Victoria, Sono Nis Press, c1984. 280pp, cloth, $16.95, ISBN 0-919203-48-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Donald Precosky

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

Charles Lillard, poet, editor, and student of west coast history has brought together selections from the writings of four missionaries: J.S. Green, Thomas Crosby, Charles Harrison, and William Ridley. Lillard sees these men as heroic and unselfish individuals concerned with the Indians' physical and spiritual well being. The selections support this characterization, although they also show these men trapped in some strange contradictions that grow out of their desire to do good.

In their struggle to save the Indians, the missionaries' biggest problem was not the natives' reluctance to pay them heed, but the immoral behaviour of other white "Christians" who sold liquor, bought Indian girls, practiced racial prejudice, and all-in-all provided examples of behaviour that denied all of the moral precepts they were trying to teach. A further irony is that in their zeal to "save" the Indians, they sought remedies that would, in fact, destroy them. Green, for example, finds himself hoping for the decline of the sea otter population so that the Indians would give up hunting and settle down to farming.

Finally, there are some horrendous examples of cultural imperialism. Crosby observes that "heathenism crushed out a mother's love and turns the heart to stone and changes a father into a foul indifferent fiend." In other words, Indians living in traditional circumstances are cruel and unloving parents.

This book makes for fascinating reading. It is appropriate for senior high school and undergraduate classes in Canadian history (as a primary source) and Canadian literature (as background material). It provides first-hand, detailed accounts of traditional Indian ways, and it gives examples of cultural imperialism at work.

Donald Precosky, College of New Caledonia, Prince George, B.C.
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