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Indigenous Content in the Mennonite Archives of Ontario: Organizations


Listed here are records of Mennonite organizations in our collections having direct involvement with Indigenous peoples

Christian Peacemaker Teams (Canada)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) grew out of an international call in the 1980s to Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches to establish a non-violent, volunteer peacekeeping force. In 1990  in Ontario, a group in solidarity with the Innu people was organized; this group would eventually become CPT-Ontario in 1997. Subsequently, CPT-Ontario began responding to violence affecting Indigenous communities in Ontario. Its work soon spread to other provinces. CPT's work in Canada continues to be based around expressions of solidarity with Indigenous peoples. The Mennonite Archives of Ontario is the official repository for CPT (Canada).

The collection focuses predominantly on the 1990s and early 2000s. Prominent involvements of CPT (Canada) at that time were with the Chippewas of Nawash, Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (Ipperwash), Caldwell First Nation, Treaty 3 territory, Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishnabek (Grassy Narrows), the city of Kenora, Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church), Elsipogtog First Nation and various locations in British Columbia.

See the complete archival description and inventory here:  XV-90

The name of this organization changed to "Community Peacemaker Teams" in 2022.

Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCCO or MCC Ontario)

This program began in Canada in 1948 as a way for Mennonites to continue the practice of service to society developed during the Second World War through the alternatives to military service programs. At its peak in 1959, 98 young people were engaged in Summer Service across the country. Some of these placements brought Mennonites into contact with Indigenous communities or institutions with high Indigenous populations. See:

  • Summer Service Program, XIV-3.11
  • Harvey Taves Summer Service Program files, XIV-3.15.5 
  • Summer Service Program files, XIV-3.1.1
  • Newsletters of Summer Service units (Frank H. Epp files),  PF -MCC - Publications, 1952-.1953
  • Clearwater Lake Sanatorium photographs, XIV-3.11.5.
    These images are also available digitally in the Mennonite Archival Image Database. Clearwater was part of the racially-segregated "Indian Hospital" system in Canada. These photographs include images of patients. The Archives  has chosen to display and describe these photographs in order to contribute to knowledge about these institutions and the First Nations and Inuit people who experienced them. If you have any information about these photographs or questions about our use of them, please contact the Archivist.

In 1967, a Mennonite civil servant working for the Indian Affairs Community Development Program proposed that Mennonite Central Committee Canada explore becoming involved with community development in Indigenous communities. Economic development on Indigenous reserves was a new federal government program priority at the time. A study committee was formed by Mennonite Central Committee Ontario in spring 1968. After consultation with Indigenous leaders and visits to reserves mostly in Ontario, the committee concluded that a “flexible plan” be initiated to encourage professional Mennonites to fill needs in Indigenous communities, and to provide homes to Indigenous students from northern reserves attending schools in southern Ontario. 

Acting on the report, MCCO leaders corresponded with potential Mennonite volunteers to serve in Indigenous communities, primarily as teachers and medical workers. Some correspondence regarding billeting Indigenous students is also included. The files contain correspondence, minutes and various materials gathered by the committee to educate themselves on Indigenous issues. As part of a growing interest at MCC Ontario in Indigenous issues, MCCO leadership related to the Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada through receiving newsletters and reports, corresponding and attending meetings of this organization. Many government-produced documents about the concept and practice of community development in Indigenous communities are also included.

The following files are located in the Mennonite Central Committee Administrative records correspondence files (XIV-3.1.3):

  • 2/22 Indian-Eskimo Association, 1966
  • 3/21 Indian and Northern Affairs, 1965
  • 4/8 Indian-Eskimo Association, 1967
  • 5/8 Indian Study Committee
  • 6/22 Indian and Northern Affairs, 1969
  • 6/23 Indian Development, 1969
  • 8/23 Indian and National Affairs, 1970
  • 10/5 Indian and National Affairs, 1970-1971
  • 10/7 Indian Study Material 1964-1971
  • 12/9 Indian Community Development, 1969-1972
  • 14/12b Native Indian Concerns, 1973

See also Harvey Taves, Indian-Eskimo Association file XIV-3.15.9/5, and Arnold Gingrich, Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada file, 1966-67, Hist.Mss.

The Community Services Committee was responsible for MCC Ontario's programming in Indigenous communities for a brief period leading up to June 1983 when the Native Concerns Committee was formed.

  • Staff reports, XIV-3.7/3 
    Routine staff reports include brief reports on MCC Ontario's Indigenous programs in northern Ontario and Cape Croker. More substantial reports within this file are:
    •  “Northern Ontario Visit Report,”  June-July 1980.
      This report, produced by staff member Ron Lofthouse, includes descriptions of the Northern Light Gospel Mission and Believers Fellowship (Beachy Amish) mission at Red Lake and Cat Lake, as well as visits within the Cochrane, Kirkland Lake, Hearst and Timmins areas.  
    • “Report on Northern Trip II,” 1980.
      Includes visits to the Cochrane, Hearst, Attawapiskat and Kirkland Lake areas.
    • “Webequie Native Community: Special report,” 1981
    • “Report: MCC (Ontario) Consultation on Native Ministries,” February 1983
      The consultation took place in November 1982. See also the 1982 Community Services minutes.
  • Minutes, XIV-3.7/1
    Includes references to staffing programs in Indigenous communities. Some additional items of note are:
    • Correspondence from Wanepuhnud Corporation, Toronto, March 1982
    • “A Model for the James Bay Area,” March 1983
      This is a report on a visit to the Attawapiskat, Moosonee and Moose Factory areas.
    • Map of locations of Ontario Voluntary Service personnel, including Indigenous communities, 1981-1982.

Native Concerns, formed in 1983, later renamed Aboriginal Neighbours and now called Indigenous Neighbours, is MCC Ontario's most substantive program related to Indigenous issues. MCC Ontario Native Concerns directed programs east of Thunder Bay; programs to the west were administered by MCC Manitoba.

The committee's mandate included "community development projects, advocacy on significant issues, dialogue with native groups and promoting awareness within the [MCC] constituency.” Though one of the committee's first projects (1979)  was an agricultural initiative with the Band  Economic Development Committee at Cape Croker, advocacy and constituency education grew to become dominant features of the Native Concerns program.

Native Concerns organized Mennonite constituency tours and short term voluntary service placements in Indigenous communities, and arranged for Indigenous speakers in churches. Advocacy efforts included placing land claims researchers with Indigenous communities. Native Concerns responded to the death of protestor Dudley George at Ipperwash in 1995 by placing observer teams at the conflict site and advocating for just solutions to the conflict. Work on northern Ontario reserves and in communities increased to the point where the "Northern Neighbours" office opened in Timmins.

See the complete inventory and archival description here:  XIV-3.20.

See also two unpublished academic papers about this program:

See also newsletters of this program:


  • Mennonite Central Committee Canada
    • Annual reports of MCC (Canada), the parent organization of MCC Ontario, including reports of the national Native Concerns/Aboriginal Neighbours program, are located in the Milton Good Library, Per BX8128.W4 M37

Northern Light Gospel Mission

Northern Light Gospel Mission began as an independent Mennonite mission by Mennonites from Pennsylvania in 1953. The group established mission outposts among the Ojibwa in the greater Red Lake, Ontario area as well as three schools. Two were soon replaced by government-run schools, but Poplar Hill Development School had a longer existence, from 1962-1989. The organization later changed its name to Impact North Ministries. In 2006, Impact North Ministries folded, replaced with a new organization called Living Hope Native Ministries.

The Archives holds some records of this organization. At the time of writing, the official records are privately held.

  • Newsletters
    • Northern Light Gospel Mission Newsletter, BV2815.O6 N6
      This publication ran from 1947 to 1990. The Milton Good Library holds an incomplete set from 1955-1982, and a complete set from 1983-1990.
    • In Context, BV2815.O6 I53
      This is the newsletter of Impact North Ministries, 1991-2006. Copies are located in the Milton Good Library.
    • HopelinesBV2815.O6 H62
      This is the newsletter of Living Hope Native Ministries, which began  in 2006. Copies are located in the Milton Good Library,
  • "Fairwind's Drum" episode of the CBC Radio show Ideas, 1993 (transcript only), XV-10.2
    Includes excerpts from an interview with Gary Butikofer, who taught at Poplar Hill Development School in the 1970s.
  • North Light Missions, XV-10.2
    This file contains two brief pieces of correspondence.
  • Northern Light Gospel Mission, XIV-3.15.3/13
    Includes correspondence with Harvey Taves and Mennonite Central Committee Ontario.
  • Northern Light Gospel Mission file, 1976,  Hist.Mss.
    This file was maintained by Frank H. Epp.
  • Poplar Hill Development School:
    • New Horizons E96.6 .P64 (non-circulating)
      This is
      the Poplar Hill yearbook. The Milton Good Library holds copies for the years 1981, 1982, 1984-1986 and 1988.
    • ’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,”  CGC 800 Popl Cho-1 (non-circulating)
      A sound recording of Poplar Hill Residential School Indian Girls' Choir, 1964
  • Several published histories and memoirs of Mission workers are located in the Milton Good Library catalogue.
  • MCC Ontario, "Northern Ontario Visit Report,”  June-July 1980, XIV-3.7/3 
    This report, produced by staff member Ron Lofthouse, includes impressions of the Northern Light Gospel Mission
  • Promised Lands research notes, 1990s, Hist.Mss.1.138.3/1
    Includes news articles from the 1990s and an open letter to former students at Poplar Hill and residents of Red Lake Children's Home, October 1, 1997


Project North/Aboriginal Rights Coalition

One of several inter-church coalitions founded in Canada in the 1970s, Project North (1975) was a national justice and advocacy group of Canadian churches. Its goals were to raise awareness among its churches and support Indigenous land claims and issues with resource development in northern Canada. The organization became known as the "Aboriginal Rights Coalition" in 1989, and together with a number of other coalitions became "KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives" in 2001.   Since the beginning, Mennonites were involved through the membership of Mennonite Central Committee. Archival files on Project North and the Aboriginal Rights Coaition are scattered through a number of collections:

  • Canadian Council of Churches “Consultation on Indian Work,” 1964 (prior to the formation of Project North), XIV-3.15.9/1
  • Mennonite Central Committee Canada Project North file, XIV-2.10.1
    • Native/Church Leaders Consultation, 1978
    • Minutes and correspondence, 1980-1981
  • Frank H. Epp files in Hist.Mss.
    • Et - In - Dene Consultation, 1979
    • Et - In - PN Project North, 1963, 1977-79
  • An incomplete set of issues of the Project North Newsletter/Project North Journal (1977-1985) is located in the Milton Good Library, Per FC 3451.P7
  • Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, Native Concerns/Aboriginal Neighbours Project North file, 1976, 1978, 1986, 1988, XIV-3.20.3/1
  • Christian Peacemaker Teams Aboriginal Rights Coalition file, 2000, XV-90.13/3
  • Newton L. Gingrich files. "Native people," 1970-1979. Hist.Mss.1.58.2/100
    This file predominantly contains documents related to the Northern Native Rights Campaign of 1979, sponsored by Project North

Conference of Mennonites in Canada/Mennonite Church Canada

Mennonite mission work in Indigenous communities in northern Manitoba was initiated by Mennonite Pioneer Mission (MPM) in 1948. In 1957, MPM became a program of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. The name was changed to Native Ministries in 1973, and was later known as the Indigenous Relations program of Mennonite Church Canada. The Archives does not hold a complete set of records.

  • Mennonite Pioneer Mission/Native Ministries, 1958-1978, XII-4
  • Newsletters are located in the Milton Good Library, Per E77.T59
    • Totémak (1972-1979)
    • Intótemak = My friends (1979-2017)
  • "The Mennonite Pioneer Mission: A Venture of Faith," unpublished academic paper, 1960, Hist.Mss.14/98
  • See also coverage in national Mennonite newspapers
  • See also the occasional publication Indian Workers Newsletter, a newsletter of the General Conference Mennonite Church which includes some content on missions in Canada, 1955, 1973-1977, Per E98.M6 I5

Northern Youth Programs

This independent mission and youth outreach program began in 1967 when former Northern Light Gospel Mission workers Clair E. and Clara Schnupp moved to Dryden, Ontario. It formally incorporated in 1969. NYP operated Beaver Lake Camp, Wahbon Bay Academy (a high school for boys at Stirland Lake) Cristal Lake (school for girls, later merged with Wahbon Bay), Debwewin Bible Institute (at Beaver Lake) and  an urban ministry in Thunder Bay.

  • Newton L. Gingrich, Northern Youth Programs file, 1977-1979, Hist.Mss.
  • Newsletters:
  • See also Schnupp, Clair E., and David. Hertzler. A Heart for the North: the Story of Northern Youth Programs. Dryden, Ont: Northern Youth Programs, 2005. BV2815.O6 S3 2005


Conservative Mennonite Gospel Mission

In 1962, pastor William Kurtz of Lowman, Minnesota began a summer Bible school on the Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation (Sabaskong). The  Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario took up this work in 1965 under Fred Nighswander, forming the Conservative Mennonite Gospel Mission (CMGM). The mission has included several outreach programs to Indigenous people in the Rainy River area of northern Ontario. In the mid-1960s, CMGM leased a lot in Manitou Rapids (Rainy River First Nations)  where they built a church building and operated programs. Other Indigenous communities with CMGM programs have included Seine River First Nation.

  • Newsletters:
    • Ontario Informer, Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario, 1973- , BX8101 .O48
    • Newsletter, Conservative Mennonite Gospel Mission, 1992- , BV2545.A1 N37

Big Grassy Indian Mission/Morson Community Bible Fellowship

The Fellowship, located in Morson, Ontario, began services in 1955, through the activities of the Northern Light Gospel Mission. The congregation affiliated with the North Central Mennonite Conference until 2008 when it became part of the Harvest Fellowship of Churches and the Anabaptist Native Fellowship.

  • The North Central Conference Bulletin includes reports from this mission while it related to the conference.Per BX8101 .N63