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150 Years of Missionary Service by the Anglican Church in Yukon

prepared by Veronica Malerby in 2011

This summer, 2011, marks a milestone in the history of the Anglican Church presence here in our beautiful territory of Yukon, for the first Anglican Missionary arrived. This summer marks our 150th Anniversary of Missionary Service in Yukon. Between the Anglican Diocese of Yukon and the Anglican Parish of Whitehorse, events are being planned to celebrate this milestone, so please stay tuned as events are announced, for we would like to see all participate in these events.

In the 150 years since the arrival of the first C.M.S. Missionary, from the Diocese of Rupert's Land, there have been 11 Bishops — excluding those from the Diocese of Rupert's Land who have overseen the missionary service in the present Diocese of Yukon as well as 196 known Clergy & Church Army officers, in addition to a handful- of other Clergy who served here briefly plus numerous Theological Students. These numbers increased when Diocese of Yukon took over administration duties in the northern part of the Diocese of Caledonia in northern British Columbia. Some Clergy from our eastern Diocese in Northwest Territories add to these numbers, for some have seen service of some type in connection with our Diocese. If you count all the Lay Readers/Ministers and all the staff who have served in the present Diocese, there are approximately 300. That mounts to a lot of ministry service in the territory.

The first Missionary to enter what is now the Anglican Diocese of Yukon, was a Church Missionary Society priest based in Fort Simpson, Northwest Canada, now Northwest Territories, which was then under the administration of the Diocese of Rupert's Land. At the time, this region was consider as part of British North America.

The Rev. William West Kirby was born in Lincolnshire, England in August 1827. Shortly after his marriage in 1852, Mr. and Mrs. Kirk by travelled to Canada, taking up residence in Red River Settlement, which is now known as Winnipeg, Manitoba. William was ordained deacon in 1854 and priest the following year, and appointed to St. Andrew's Parish, Winnipeg. He remained here until 1858/1859, when the Bishop of Rupert's Land gave him a new charge — that of going some 2,000 miles by open boat to Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories — to open a mission and also replacing Rev. Hunter who was in the region. In May 1861, Rev. Kirby, accompanied by two native boys, canoed up the Mackenzie River to visit the Eskimos in that region, and was thus the first missionary on the North American continent to cross over the Arctic Circle. He was the first Anglican (Church of England) missionary to visit Fort MacPherson. From there he travelled the Peel River and went on foot overland across the Rocky Mountains until he came upon La Pierre's House where he found himself amongst the Tukudh Indians. His destination was to visit Alaska — then considered part of Northwest Canada though in reality was Russian territory and later part of the United States of America. From La Pierre House, he proceeded down the Porcupine River until it merged into Yukon River, which is where a Hudson's Bay fort was located, known as Fort Yukon. His first service in Fort Yukon was in July of that same year. He remained there for the rest of the summer before returning to Fort Simpson.

The following year 1852, he returned to Fort Yukon for the summer. There were some five hundred Indians there, all placing themselves under his ministry. By 1871, Rev. Kirby was in Fort York, Hudson's Bay. In 1880/81, he found himself in New York and also for a time in Florida, United States of America. He remained in the ministry until shortly before his death — some 50 years after his marriage. The Ven. William West Kirby died in Sept. 1907, in Rye, New York State. Thus ended the faith fulservice of the first missionary to enter this territory of ours.

He was succeeded by Tie Rev. Robert M. MacDonald, who was born in Nov. 1829. He was sent from Winnipeg by the Bishop of Rupert's Land in 1862, to open a mission at Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories. It appears that by Sept. of that same year, Rev. McDonald found himself in Fort Yukon. Thus started Rev. MacDonald's long association with this territory.

He visited the various tribes of First Nations people on his travels on his way to Fort Yukon from Fort McPherson, learning their language and documenting it. He also chose the most intelligent men to act as Christian Leaders for their tribes. Then he taught them the Scripture, hymns, and prayers at Fort 'Yukon in the summers. Some of the early Christian First Nation Leaders where John Tshivetla, William Loofa, William Njootli, Edward Sittichinli, Amos Njootli, Julius Kendi, John Martin, Richard Martin, James Simon, "Big Joe” Kyikavichik, Ellen Bruce, and Effie Linklater. They are currently others who are serving the Church. During these 150 years, we cannot forget the ministry of our First Nations clergy, catechist and Lay Readers/Ministers. They continue to serve the church today, Thank you for your faithful service.

Out of the 11 Bishops this Diocese has seen since its actual formation in 1861, two have served as Archbishop — but only one of those two made Yukon his home base, that being Archbishop Buckle who retired as our Bishop last year. Both of these Archbishop's were the Metropolitans of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon. Archbishop Adams, our 5th Bishop, was the only Bishop not to reside in the Diocese, for his home base was Vernon, B.C. Our 8th Bishop was acting Metropolitan for a period. Another of our Bishops — our 6th Bishop, served as Acting Primate of Canada, a few years after retiring as our bishop and after his return to Canada after spending a few years in England. It should also be noted that our 2nd Bishop, while our Bishop, was elected to become the Archbishop of Rupert's Land— a post he held the remainder of his life until his sudden death a few year later. Only two of our former Bishop's have decided to retire in the Territory and one of those buried here. Another Bishop had his ashes buried here.

Out of the other Clergy of this Diocese, one should be recognized - the Rev. John Charles Hawksley. He was the Rector of St. Paul's Cathedral in Dawson City and organized both the Scouting (1913) and Guiding (1914) movements in this territory, though the first reference to Yukon Scouting was in Carcross when the school was looking into starting a scout group. The Centennial anniversaries of these organizations are fast approaching. Various churches in our Diocese, since 1913, have had close connections with Scouting in Yukon. Rev. Hawksley resigned from St. Paul's and became a Yukon Government (Indian) Agent, though he retained his clerical license to minister.

Among of the notable events in the Diocese of Yukon was the visit of the Archbishop ofCanterbury, in 1985. Other events include the various visits of the Primate of Canada, the North American Dean's Conference in 1991. There are also visits of various members of the Royal family through the years.

Some of the most recognized names of the clergy in this Diocese, mainly by their long faithful length of their service, include Bishop Bompas, Bishop Stringer, Archdeacon MacDonald, Archdeacon Privett, Archdeacon Snider, Archdeacon Grant, Canon Chappell, Canon McCullum, Canon Totty, (Dr. Deaconess Hellaby, Rev. John Martin and Rev. Richard Martin. Capt. Rev. Buck should also be noted, for he was a Captain and Chaplain in the great War originally under the command of Commissioner George Black and received the Military Cross. Capt. Buck resumed his service in the Diocese after his return from Europe.

This is just a small summery of what research has already been done to date – Veronica Malerby.