The Letters of Margaret Butcher

Missionary-Imperialism on the North Pacific Coast

Edited by Mary-Ellen Kelm
Categories: Social Science
Series: Legacies Shared
Publisher: University of Calgary Press
Paperback : 9781552381663, 312 pages, October 2006


Now what shall I tell you first? The days…have been so full of interests and fresh things that I know not where to begin. Suppose I say right here that I believe I shall be very happy here and also that it seems a post I can fit and having said that I’ll just write consecutively to give you as good an idea as possible of how we are placed. -- Margaret Butcher, September 4, 1916

From 1916 to 1919, Margaret Butcher served as a missionary nurse and teacher at the Elizabeth Long Memorial Home, a residential school in Kitamaat, British Columbia. This collection of letters, written to family and friends, offers a compelling glimpse at her experiences among the Haisla people. Butcher’s correspondence reflects the conventional wisdom of the day about racial hierarchy, native culture, and the need for assimilation. Nevertheless, the letters are an invaluable source of first-hand information on missionary work, residential schools, and the Haisla way of life in the early twentieth century. Editor Mary-Ellen Kelm bookends the collection with an introduction and conclusion that provide historical and historiographical context, exploring the concepts of race, gender, and cultural conflict as they played out on the north Pacific coast.