Cree Syllabics Book of Common Prayer

Replica of the Book of Common Prayer located in St. Andrew’s Heritage Centre
Replica of the Book of Common Prayer in Cree located in St. Andrews Heritage Centre

In the mid 19th century, much of the Red River settlement was divided into parishes; parishes were distinct areas that were under the jurisdiction of one priest. The first reverend of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, was William Cockran. In 1855, James Hunter and his wife Jean Ross came to the parish and distributed their knowledge of Cree syllabics. This provided the Cree population with the Cree syllabics Book of Common Prayer and the Psalms that they could read.

As more people settled in this area by working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, there was a realization that many Indigenous Peoples, such as the Cree and Ojibwe, who attended the parish neither spoke, read, nor understood English. Due to the language barrier there was a push to find ways to provide Anglican teachings to the Indigenous and Metis populations in the parish of St. Andrew’s.

The Cree Syllabics alphabet was invented by James Evans in 1830.

James Hunter was a reverend who came to the Red River Settlement briefly in 1852, and returned in 1855. With the help of his second wife, Jean Ross, saw the need for religious material in indigenous languages and used the Cree syllabics to translate the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalms into Cree. The creation of this religious text in Cree allowed Cree parishioners the ability to practice new religion in a language that they could read and understand.

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