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Memorable Manitobans: Robert McDonald (1829-1913)

Missionary.

He was born on 7 November 1829, at Point Douglas, the second son of Neil and Ann Logan McDonald. He attended the Red River Academy until the age of fifteen, and spent the next four years working on his father’s farm. On 7 November 1876, he married Julia Kuttag, and they had nine children. At the age of nineteen he went to Norway House to teach at the Methodist mission.

In 1850 Bishop Anderson persuaded him to return to the Settlement and enter the ministry. He was ordained deacon in December 1852, and priest in June 1853. In October 1853, he took charge of the Islington Mission on the Winnipeg River. While there he mastered the Ojibway language and translated the minor prophets into Ojibway. In 1862 he was selected to establish a Church Missionary Society mission at Fort Yukon. In 1863 he translated the decalogue into Tukudh, the native language. The same year he discovered gold in the Yukon Valley and was later the first missionary to visit the Klondike. In 1870 he moved to Porcupine River, and in 1871 to Fort McPherson on the Peel River. He remained there until 1904 when he retired from the C. M. S. and settled in Winnipeg.

He was appointed Archdeacon of Mackenzie River in 1876. He translated into Tukudh the Book of Common Prayer, a hymnal and the New and Old Testament. In 1911 he published a grammar and dictionary in the Tukudh language. His translations have tended to unify the different tribes of the Tinjiyzoo nation. He died in Winnipeg on 29 August 1913, at his home, 57 McDonald Avenue. He was buried in St. John’s Cathedral cemetery.

His papers are in the Archives of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land on deposit in the Archives of Manitoba.

He is commemorated by Macdonald Avenue in Winnipeg.

Sources:

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Page revised: 25 October 2008

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