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