The Rossville scandal, 1846, James Evans, the Cree, and a mission on trial
Shirritt-Beaumont, Raymond Morris
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In February 1846 the Reverend James Evans, who had been for several years the senior missionary among the Cree at Norway House, Manitoba, was accused by members of his congregation of sexual impropriety with young Native women who had resided at various times in his home. The trial that followed is a central theme in 'The Rossville Scandal, 1846: James Evans, the Cree, and a Mission on Trial', which is a study, like past historical works, of the impact missionaries and Hudson's Bay Company officers had on events before, during, and after the trial. However, framed by a consideration of the larger debate concerning the broader meaning and significance of missionary/aboriginal encounters, analysis seeks to break new ground in its focus on the origins, culture, and possible motivation of Evans' accusers and the Cree community from which they came. Some conclusions are possible as a result of this investigation. Certainly the Rossville Cree were actors, not merely acted upon, in their encounter with the missionaries. They played a major role in the establishment and progress of the mission and acted decisively to defend their religious beliefs in the face of HBC opposition in 1845. In addition, some of them were also willing to resist perceived misconduct by their senior missionary in February 1846. The circumstances of Evans' trial may never be fully understood, nor his guilt or innocence proven with any finality, but not one member left the Church as a result of the allegations against him nor was anyone involved in the trial expelled from the congregation by the local elders. Evidently converted to the message rather than the messenger, the Rossville Cree had built their faith upon a rock and withstood the storm.