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An Historical Sketch of the Diocese of Saskatchewan of the Anglican Church of Canada

By W. F. Payton, Archdeacon Emeritus

Prince Albert: The Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan, 1974.

Chapter 21. Death of Archdeacon J. A. Mackay--Archdeacon W. E. J. Paul--Canon Edward Ahenakew

With the death of Archdeacon J. A. Mackay on November 26th, 1923, the Diocese was for the first time in its organized history without a leader specifically in charge of the Indian work. As has already been noted, his work was characterized from the beginning by tremendous zeal and devotion which is even yet remembered by many of the older members in the Indian parishes. The closing years of his life included his presiding at the special meeting of the Synod in 1921 for the purpose of electing a successor to Bishop Newnham. He made special arrangements for the Indian representatives to vote in Cree and the Rev. George Exton Lloyd was elected. At Bishop Lloyd's first Synod in 1922, Archdeacon Mackay presented the last report as Archdeacon before his death. It was at this Synod that tribute was paid to him on the 60th anniversary of his ordination and the 40th anniversary of his appointment as Archdeacon. During that time the Diocese had developed from a series of isolated mission posts to a Diocese which contained self-supporting parishes and many important and influential centres that were approaching that status. The Indian work similarly had grown tremendously and through it all Archdeacon Mackay's care and skillful guidance had provided a support which was sorely missed with his passing.

In the following year, the Diocese marked the 50th anniversary of its foundation, and Bishop Lloyd undertook to re-organize the Indian work into three sections. The Eastern section, including The Pas and Eastern missions, was placed under the supervision of the Rev. Alexander Fraser; the Western section, including Onion Lake and areas in that district, under the Rev. Edward Ahenakew; and the central section under the direction of Canon William Edmund Jeffrey Paul. Three years later Canon Paul was appointed Archdeacon of Saskatchewan at the Diocesan Synod, and it can truly be said that the mantle of his predecessor fell upon his shoulders; so completely did he give himself to his task and so successfully did he fulfill the rigorous demands of the position until his retirement in 1955.

Archdeacon Paul was the son of a county magistrate in Ireland, and his mother belonged to a well known Quaker family of Norfolk, England. Most of his boyhood was spent in the County of Wexford in the old family home, after the death of his grand-father Sir Robert Joshua Paul, Baronet. Here he learned riding, boating and fishing, and developed skills which were to be a great asset to him in his missionary work in Saskatchewan in his later life.

His education for the most part took place in England, where he attended Repton Public School and from there went with his brother to Trinity College, Cambridge. Here he took his B.A. and LL.B. Degrees, since it was thought that he would follow in his father's footsteps and become a resident magistrate. In addition to being brought up in a very religious home, Jeffrey Paul went with his father on a tour of Palestine when he became older, and the combination of these and other factors led him to consider offering himself for ordination. He was accepted as a candidate for the ministry by the Bishop of Cashel, Waterford, and Lismore. After further coaching in Theology and the practical work of the ministry, he was ordained as a Deacon in Waterford Cathedral on December 21st, 1908, and ordained Priest a year later.

[100] His first appointment was as a curate at Lismore in Waterford County, here he remained for about two years. So serious was his nature that he became dissatisfied with the type of ministry in which he found himself, involving as it did a great deal of social activity. He became aware of the need for young clergy in Canada as a result of reading the literature of the Colonial and Continental Church Society, and decided to leave Ireland and take up his work in Canada. He was accepted by Bishop Newnham in the Diocese of Saskatchewan and appointed to the Lloydminster Mission Belt in 1911.

The young minister and his work were described in an article of the Saskatchewan Monthly Magazine in June 1915 by a fellow minister writing of him and the Rev. G. F. Trench who served in the Diocese for many years prior to his return to England.

"In the first place they minister to the scattered settlers over a district as large as the average English county. In the Summer they are assisted by students from College--in the Winter they are alone. Winter and Summer alike, they drive, drive, drive. On Sunday they average between 30 and 40 miles of driving, and take three services in miniature churches, schoolhouses, shacks. A different district is travelled each Sunday of the month. They leave the base on Thursday, reach the scene of operation as quickly as possible, spend two days looking up the congregation for Sunday Service, then on Monday morning they turn homewards to the shack, which for four days has been frozen solid!"

In a barely veiled anonymity, the writer refers to the future Archdeacon as Paul in the following words: "If you drop off the train some evening at the right spot, you may find Paul waiting to meet you, and lead you to his shack which is on the back side of the desert between the cattle pen and the freight yard. Such a shack! Paul is not exactly untidy; he has merely been collecting things since College days, and tries to retain the result within four walls.

"Look at those walls whilst he cooks the eggs and bacon, and you will see pictures of College Eights, for Paul was some oarsman in his day.

"There never was such a captain of boats as Paul. He made everyone row, not because they liked it but because he was so tremendously keen, and even the slackers hated to disappoint him.

"It's the same Paul today, exhorting little congregations on the prairie to pull together in Godliness, getting the best out of his crews because he never spares himself. It is very typical of the man that he has just returned from a 24-mile drive in torrential rain to be present at a W.A. meeting at which no one turned up but himself--still he was jolly glad he went all the same--just for the principle of the thing!"

"He will tell you that he really understands cooking and horses. As a matter of fact, his cooking will ruin your sleep, and his driving many trains of strong horses. At the same time, though he has failed to attract great congregations, he has given the homesteaders a glimpse of Christ, and that's what he's there to do. To use his own words 'the prairies' view of the church is usually limited to a student, a bronco, a broken-down buggy and a desolate schoolhouse, and it's pretty hard for the man from the city church, who has had the luxuries of the city church showered upon him, to understand that it's worthwhile turning out on a Sunday for these, which is merely another way of saying that the prairie is a hard nut to crack from the church point of view.

"We can't give them Cathedral bodily comforts or a three manual organ, but we can give them men, men who count not their lives dear unto themselves, men of prayer, with great big hearts and the power to understand and sympathize."

[101] At the time that this article was written, the Rev. Jeffrey Paul was superintending Priest of the Battleford Mission Belt, with headquarters at Meota. Here he had been appointed in 1912, after his initial work at Lloydminster, and his work had increased to include 18 centres, with six students to help him with the work. During the years of the first World War, students were unavailable and he accepted the responsibility of fulfilling the many responsibilities of the whole mission by himself.

In 1918 he was appointed an Honorary Canon of St. Alban's Cathedral. He continued the work at Meota until 1921 when volunteers were called for in the Indian work by Bishop Newnham. Responding to the appeal, Canon Paul was appointed missionary of Sturgeon Lake Reserve with the newly developing white mission of Sturgeon Valley. Living on the Reserve with the schoolteacher, Canon Paul's work settled down to a little less active pace with five centres only to contend with from October until May. During the Summer months he went to the Stanley Mission and remained there until the end of September, ministering to the Indians at Stanley, Pelican Narrows and other outlying points. Here he applied himself diligently to the study of the Cree language which he mastered to a remarkable degree. He was sometimes teased of speaking Cree with a Cambridge accent, but there is no doubt that he was readily understood by all his congregations throughout the years of his ministry.

In January 1927 Canon Paul married Miss May Henley. Miss Henley had been for some time working at the Teacher's Hostel in Saskatoon in the work of the Sunday School by Post, and during the Summer time travelled with the Sunday School Vans. Mrs. Paul's enthusiasm for the church and its missionary work was as great as that of her husband, and for the rest of their joint ministry in Saskatchewan they worked as a team in all that was accomplished.

Moving into the mission house at Sturgeon Lake, they continued the work there and at New Reserve, Sturgeon Valley and Montreal Lake, together with the Summer work at Pelican Narrows. In June 1927, shortly after his marriage, Canon Paul was appointed Archdeacon of Saskatchewan which at first he was reluctant to undertake. His reluctance was overcome by the Bishop agreeing that he could continue to live at Sturgeon Lake, carrying on his additional work from that point with the help of students and lay readers to continue during his absence. However, that same year the mission house burned down and was destroyed, and Archdeacon and Mrs. Paul were then obliged to move into Prince Albert where they made their home until their retirement. In later years, living in a suite on the second floor of what has become the Synod Office, the hospitality of Archdeacon and Mrs. Paul was generously extended to their many friends, white and Indian, both from Overseas and from Canada. His saintly life and deep humility will never be forgotten by those who knew him. Although slight of build, he travelled ceaselessly in his work, accompanied by Mrs. Paul, being absent for as much as two months at a time when he visited the Northern missions of La Ronge and Stanley. Not only did he tax his strength, but also his private means, which he was known to expend on behalf of the church itself where buildings or other facilities were required, as well as on behalf of individuals whose need came to his attention. Mrs. Paul, for her part, shared gladly in all the privations of the journeys and busied herself among the women and children, organizing and encouraging the branches of the W.A. and the work of the Sunday School.

His courage and strength were never defeated, whether travelling by canoe during a storm, or driving through snow drifts in a car during the Winter. Indeed, it was said of him on one occasion that he possessed a "praying [101/102] shovel" because of his refusal to be daunted by snow drifts which would have turned many travellers back.

For his services to the church, Archdeacon Paul was honored by the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Divinity by St. John's College, Winnipeg in 1940. It was a well deserved honour, reflecting some of the respect which he had gained not only by his self-sacrificing labors in the Diocese of Saskatchewan, but also his leadership in the Provincial Synod at Winnipeg as chairman of the Indian work committee for many years.

Prior to his retirement, Archdeacon Paul's older brother died, upon which the Archdeacon succeeded to the title and became Sir Jeffrey Paul. In 1955 he was honoured by all branches of the church and its organizations in Prince Albert, and returned to his ancestral home in Ireland. It was the same year that the Saskatchewan Diocesan W. A. observed its 50th anniversary, and at the anniversary dinner held on June 2nd, presided over by the Diocesan President, Mrs. H. E. Ashmore, both Archdeacon Paul and his wife were accorded a great tribute for the work that they had completed in the Diocese, and suitable presentation was made to Mrs. Paul for the leadership that she had given in the work of the Woman's Auxiliary. Predeceased by his wife in 1957, Archdeacon Paul died in 1961.

Memorial windows to Archdeacon and Mrs. Paul were erected in St. Alban's Cathedral by their many friends as a token of the esteem and love in which they were held, and in gratitude for their self-sacrificing labors and devotion.

Closely associated with Archdeacon Paul throughout the years in the Indian work of the Diocese and in friendship, was the Reverend Edward Ahenakew. Throughout the long years of his ministry, he added lustre to an already distinguished name. Ruth Matheson Buck, in an article entitled "Story of the Ahenakews", published in Saskatchewan History in the Winter of 1964, has provided many interesting notations from an unfinished manuscript written by Canon Ahenakew during the years. In addition, Mrs. Buck has given a family tree which shows the relationship of Edward Ahenakew to three noted Chiefs--Starblanket, Red Pheasant, and Poundmaker.

Edward Ahenakew was born at Sandy Lake Reserve on June 11th, 1885. Here he was taught by Louis Ahenakew, an uncle whose educational foundation, coupled with Edward's ability, determined that he should proceed to higher education at the Emmanuel College Boarding School in Prince Albert. In 1903, at the age of 18, he passed his Junior Matriculation. For a year he worked with his father Baptiste Ahenakew on the Reserve farm where the family lived, and then taught school at John Smith Reserve for a year. Following this, he went to Wycliffe College and began his study in Theology, teaching and preaching during the Summer months at Sturgeon Lake and Fort a la Corne. With the establishment of Emmanuel College in Saskatoon, he transferred his theological studies there and graduated with the Degree of L.Th. and a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan. He was appointed a missionary at Cedar Lake on a temporary basis, and after his ordination to the Priesthood in 1912 was appointed to assist Rev. J. R. Matheson at Onion Lake. When Mr. Matheson suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to continue an active ministry, Edward Ahenakew became responsible for the seven or eight Reserves of the Mission which he served well and conscientiously.

In 1916 Rev. John Matheson died, and for a time his wife continued her medical practice at Onion Lake until her appointment as Medical Inspector in the Winnipeg Public Schools in March 1918. In that same year, following the close of the Great War, there was a severe outbreak of influenza, which was invading not only Canada but Europe. As a result of the suffering of [102/103] the people on the Reserve, and mindful of the medical ministrations of Dr. Elizabeth Matheson, Edward Ahenakew was impelled to undertake the study of medicine in an effort to assist them in the same way that Dr. Matheson had.

He obtained three years leave of absence from Onion Lake and the Diocese, and enrolled as a medical student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He successfully completed the three-year course of study and attempted to arrange a two-year extension of his leave in order to complete the full medical course. However, he became seriously ill and was compelled to abandon his intention of resuming studies until such time as he recovered. His recovery was quite slow and in the end, upon the advice of the Bishop, he reluctantly decided to give up the thought of completing the medical training.

In an article entitled "A Militant Churchman" by W. Bleasdell Cameron in The Western Producer on March 30th, 1950 Mr. Cameron relates Canon Ahenakew's own explanation for his illness. "I had very little money", he said, "and was obliged to practise the most rigid economy. I had a small room in an apartment block over the river and I used to buy a good size piece of beef ready roasted; this I placed on the sill outside my window where it froze solid. I lived on this frozen meat and little else. When one piece was finished, I bought another.

"Well, after a time I began to feel not too well and it wasn't a great while after until I was down and out. One of the doctors examined me. 'Young man', he said, 'you're trying to kill yourself; what do you think you are, a polar bear trying to live on frozen meat!' He said my stomach was almost paralyzed so I left the University and did not go back. I was ill for a year though I never stopped working."

He went to Thunderchild's Reserve and continued to convalesce there while carrying on some of the work of the mission. Here he had the kindly ministrations of Mrs. Annie Brown, who had been the first W.A. missionary sent out from Toronto and had worked under the Rev. J. R. Matheson at Onion Lake. She had married the Rev. James Brown, an Indian clergyman, and had lived with him while he was in charge of the Stanley Mission. Upon his death, Mrs. Brown went to Thunderchild's and worked there for many years until she retired to Prince Albert. It was Mrs. Brown's helpful and kindly assistance which enabled Edward Ahenakew to regain his strength, and in 1922 he returned to the Onion Lake headquarters to carry on his ministry there.

From 1927 to 1929 he was the missionary at Little Pines Reserve and was appointed in 1935 as missionary at Fort a la Corne where he remained until his retirement in 1955. During his ministry he was responsible for building churches at Frog Lake, Thunderchild's and Little Pines--the latter he named the Mackay Memorial Church out of respect to Archdeacon J. A. Mackay who had been his friend and teacher.

In 1933 Edward Ahenakew was made a Canon of St. Alban's Cathedral, and in 1947 received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity in Emmanuel College. One of his outstanding accomplishments was the Cree-English section of the Cree-English dictionary which he did in collaboration with Archdeacon Faries, a dictionary published in 1938 containing 26,000 words. Cree Indians all over Canada received from him for many, many years the Cree Guide which was written in Cree syllables and sent by mail to any Cree Indians desiring it. This paper, published on a more or less monthly basis, was typed by Canon Ahenakew on stencils and mimeographed, and was a valuable source both of news and of devotional inspiration. Publication began in 1923 and went on until very shortly before Canon Ahenakew's death.

[104] He became President in Western Canada of the League of Indians of Canada when it was established in 1920. In the councils of the church he served in the Synod not only of the Diocese but on the Provincial and General Synods as they met from time to time. He was well known throughout the nation as a result of deputation work which he undertook many times in response to invitations from Dioceses, particularly in the East.

The influence and the regard in which he was held by the community at Kinistino, the nearest town to the Reserve at Fort a la Corne, was indicated a few years ago when the new public school was built, designed to include not only the white children of the town but also the children from the Reserve, and a wing was dedicated to the memory of Canon Ahenakew.

One of the great contributions that Canon Ahenakew made was through the catechists school both in Saskatchewan and also at Dauphin, Manitoba. In Saskatchewan the Diocesan Indian Lay Readers School at Emma Lake was held annually and its success was always assured by the presence of Canon Ahenakew to inspire and to encourage the men who attended the school from year to year. His great wisdom and understanding of the scriptures were of tremendous help to men who were beginning to assume some leadership among their own people.

In July 1961 Canon Ahenakew left the Diocesan School at Emma Lake to attend the school at Dauphin, Manitoba. Travelling by train, he became ill and was transferred to the hospital at Canora where his death took place on July 12th, 1961 at the age of 76.

Canon Ahenakew was a truly great man, a wonderful Christian, and his life was full of the radiance of Christian hope and love, and these qualities were reflected in everything that he did and said. His keen sense of humor enabled him to speak on many occasions when the situation became tense, and smooth out difficulties which would have been more difficult but for his interposition. The inspiration of his life and example will live for many years in the hearts and minds of those who knew him, and particularly in the lives of those members of his own race who were encouraged, consoled, strengthened and inspired by the ministry that he shared with them.

During the years following the Second World War, the Diocese was singularly fortunate in having the services of other gifted leaders among the Indian clergy. While they have since gone to other parts of Canada to enrich the life of both Church and nation, the Diocese of Saskatchewan will always be stronger for the significant contributions that they made to the life of the reserves and missions that they served, and to the work of the Diocese as a whole.

The Reverend Ahab Spence began his ordained ministry at Stanley Mission and then transferred to the Diocese of Saskatoon, becoming Archdeacon and having charge of Indian missions in that diocese. He was honoured by the University of Saskatchewan with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his unremitting efforts to promote understanding between the Indian race and the white people. Dr. Spence was then given a responsible post in Ottawa under government auspices to further develop sympathetic appreciation of the problems confronting the Indian people, and continues this valuable work still, since returning to Western Canada.

The Cuthand brothers, Adam and Stanley, have similarly shown leadership in this field both in Church and State. Adam has for some time been Archdeacon of Indian work in the Diocese of Rupert's Land and co-ordinates a self-help programme in Winnipeg. After leaving Saskatchewan, Canon Stanley Cuthand was for a number of years on the Blood Reserve near Calgary, and then became leader of Indian work in the Diocese of Qu'Appelle. Like Dr. Spence his efforts are now being channelled through government agencies, [104/105] as also the efforts of the Reverend Smith Atimoyoo who after leaving the Diocese of Saskatchewan became a valuable factor in the development of the Indian Friendship Centre at North Battleford, where his influence has grown with the years. All of these men were graduates of Emmanuel College, and the Church in Western Canada has every reason to be proud of their achievements, and thankful for the wider vision and clearer understanding that they have provided in increasing measure with the passing of the years.

Another Indian clergyman who has served the Diocese faithfully and well for the past twenty years is the Reverend Daniel Umpherville. Like Canon Edward Ahenakew, he profited greatly from the motherly care and guidance of Mrs. Annie Brown of Thunderchild's Reserve, whose protege he was. Graduating from Wycliffe College, Toronto, Mr. Umpherville was ordained Deacon in St. James' Church at John Smith's Reserve on July 4th, 1954 by Bishop Henry D. Martin, and ordained Priest at St. Alban's Cathedral on Trinity Sunday 1957. Since that time he has conducted an effective ministry, as well as teaching in the Reserve schools, chiefly at Thunderchild's Reserve, and at Onion Lake. At the present time he is taking further studies at the University of Saskatchewan to equip him for a more intensive ministry of counselling among the Indian people.

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