Item Details

Oblates and Nation-building in Alberta

Issue: Vol 32 No. 2 (2013)

Journal: Religious Studies and Theology

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/rsth.v32i2.145


This article places the work of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, particularly residential schools, within the context of independence movements and nation-building of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As sociopolitical change became manifestly evident from early in the nineteenth century, Indians sought education for their children as a means of assisting them to adapt to the changing world. In Canada such education became part of public policy for a different reason: Assimilation was considered advantageous for nation-building –a perspective which persisted into the 1970s. Concern for Indian culture and survival was shown in the actions of Oblate priests early in their ministry as they sought to intercede at all levels of government on behalf of their constituents. Priests influenced by liberation theology of the 1970s and 1980s took a new approach to community building. The sociopolitical context changed as preparations leading up to the 1992 quincentennial of Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas unfolded and the work of the Oblates began to be viewed differently from both outside and inside the Society. During the 1990s public apologies were made to First Nations and Métis by governments and Churches. In the current post-apology context there are joint initiatives, such as the pilgrimage at Lac Sainte Anne, which reveal continuing efforts on the part of Oblate, First Nations and Métis communities to heal past trauma and move together into a shared future in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Author: Catherine Caufield

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