Documenting the Dakota: Lucy Margaret Baker

One of the collections held by the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan that tells the story of the development of the Wahpeton reserve is the Lucy Margaret Baker fonds (F 375).  Lucy Margaret Baker was the first female missionary sent by the Presbyterian Church to work amongst the First Nations people in the Canadian North-West.  Lucy Baker first came to Prince Albert in 1878 to teach at the day school started by Reverend James Nisbet at Prince Albert.  Initially, her work in Prince Albert consisted of teaching the children of the Euro-Canadian settlers, as well as some of the Métis and Cree children from the settlement.  By 1895, Lucy Baker’s attention had shifted to the nearby Dakota reserve, and most of her work after this time focused on establishing a school for the Dakota children on their reserve.

The records in the Lucy Margaret Baker fonds offer a unique insight into Lucy Baker’s activities as a missionary teacher, and her efforts to teach the Dakota people at the Wahpeton reserve about Christianity and encourage them to adopt a Euro-Canadian lifestyle.  The language used in these records includes outdated terms and concepts that reflect the stereotypical views of First Nations people that were widespread amongst Euro-Canadian peoples at the time. Baker, like most missionary workers, likely believed that the only way to save the Dakota was to discourage their own cultural practices, and replace them with Euro-Canadian ones.

 

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