This Week in History
Hopedale and Hebron: Missions Accomplished!
For the week of Monday August 5, 2002
On August 9, 1771, 14 Moravian missionaries arrived in Unity Harbour on the northern coast of Labrador to convert the Inuit. In the years that followed, the clerics founded several missions along the coast, including Hopedale and Hebron. Until 1948, these brothers were solely responsible for educating the Inuit and providing health care in northern Labrador.
It was not until 1771 that 14 Moravian missionaries returned to the Labrador coast. They founded a mission in Nain, after the English government granted them 100 000 acres of land and the Newfoundland governor, Sir Hugh Palliser, guaranteed them his support. With financial assistance from the British, the brethren founded a second mission in Okkak. Then, in 1782, the Danish couple Jens and Maria Haven, who had participated in previous expeditions, founded a mission south of Nain called Hopedale, in honour of the first expedition. Also wishing to reach the Inuit in remote regions, the Moravian brethren founded several other missions in the 19th and 20th centuries, including Hebron, built between 1829 and 1831 in Kangershutsoak Bay, in northern Nain.
In addition to introducing the Inuit to the gospel, the Moravian missionaries provided people with health care as best they could. They even built a hospital in Okkak in 1903. The missionaries considered education to be very important, and so founded several schools and translated numerous works into the Inuit language, Inuktitut.
Of the eight Moravian missions established on the coast of Labrador between 1771 and 1904, only Hopedale and Hebron, both national historic sites of Canada, have been preserved.
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