This Week in History


Peter Jones' Diary

This story was initially published in 2002

On April 5, 1832, Rev. Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) received a private audience with King William IV of Britain. A man of great influence, he moved easily between the Mississauga and European cultures, and his knowledge and missionary zeal made him popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rev. Peter Jones
© Victoria University Library (Toronto)

Peter Jones, or Kahkewaquonaby, meaning "sacred feathers," was born of a Welsh father and Ojibwa mother in a wigwam on Burlington Heights, Upper Canada in 1802. He grew up in the Credit River area, west of present-day Toronto, where his mother raised him among the Mississaugas, which consist of a number of bands belonging to the Ojibwa nation. He learned their religion and customs, and to hunt, fish and canoe. As a young man he went to live in nearby Stoney Creek with his father who sent him to school. There he learned to speak, read and write in English, and his father taught him to farm.

Determined to succeed in the colonial world, Jones intended to pursue an education and enter the fur trade. However, a Methodist camp meeting altered his plans and, in 1823 he converted to Christianity. He immediately became involved in building a local congregation at the Credit River Mission, teaching Sunday School and constructing a chapel. He devoted his life to missionary work and, by 1827, became a Methodist minister and the first Aboriginal missionary to the Ojibwa.

The Mississaugas were worried: more than half their population and almost all their hunting and fishing grounds were lost due to colonial settlement and dwindling resources. They looked to Jones for direction. He taught them farming and other European practices to ensure their survival. Their land claim at the Credit River was questioned, with the government considering their relocation. Jones was elected one of three chiefs of the Credit River band and actively promoted their land rights and interests, petitioning politicians both in Upper Canada and Britain. In London, England, he received an audience with the King and later with Queen Victoria.

A veiw of Credit River, Upper Canada, 1796
© Library and Archives Canada / Elizabeth P. Simcoe / C-13917

Jones preached both in North America and Britain, attracting large audiences. He wrote extensively, including his diary Life and Journals (1860), a significant record of his missionary work, and History of the Ojebway Indians (1861). Jones produced the first Ojibwa spelling book and, with his brother, prepared the earliest Bible translation in Ojibwa.

Kahkewaquonaby (Reverend Peter Jones), Mississauga chief, Methodist minister, author and translator, was designated a National Historic Person in 1996.

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