Missionaries Among Miners, Migrants, and Blackfoot: The Van Tighem Brothers' Diaries.


424 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55238-189-2
DDC 971.23'020922




Edited by Mary Eggermont-Molenaar and Paul Callens
Reviewed by Frits Pannekoek

Frits Pannekoek is an associate professor of heritage studies, director
of information resources at the University of Calgary, and the author of
A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of


Containing the transcribed and translated diaries and letters of Leonard and Victor Van Tighem, Belgian Catholic Missionaries, in southern Alberta in the Fort MacLeodPincher Creek area from 1874 to 1917, the book will be of real interest to the community historians of the south of the province. The diaries, largely the codices or notation of daily occurrences mandated by the brothers’ respective orders (Oblate and Van Dale) are interspersed with their letters either to each other, to their friends, or to home. This means a somewhat disjointed read, since by taking this tack the integrity of the documents has been altered. However, what really matters is the world view and role of the two Belgian fathers in what was probably the single most destructive revolution in the lives of the Aboriginal peoples of southern Alberta, and the most exhilarating one for the new immigrant peoples.


The diaries reveal less of Aboriginal or immigrant life than one would have wished. Much that is revealed is cloaked in that always-hard-to-decipher language of religion. However, one gets a real sense of the growing and personal bond that existed between Victor, who served most of his career in Brockett, and the Peigan. Leonard served the largely Canadian and immigrant population of the Fort MacLeod–Lethbridge region.


Readers will be disappointed in the introductions to the two sections of the book. They focus largely on the context of the diaries rather than any attempt to help the readers make intellectual sense of them as primary sources. The opportunity to juxtapose the role of the Catholic missions to the European immigrants and to Canadians with that to the Blackfoot within the same timeframe and geographic boundaries was missed. However, the editors have done all a great service by translating and making the letters and diaries available not only to scholars, but to the people of southern Alberta.


“Missionaries Among Miners, Migrants, and Blackfoot: The Van Tighem Brothers' Diaries.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28393.