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The Inuit of Labrador/Nunatsiavut, the Moravian Brethren, and Connections with French-speaking Switzerland Gaston R. Demarée1, Astrid E.J. Ogilvie2,*, and Yvon Csonka3 Abstract - In this paper, contacts between the Moravian Brethren of French-speaking Switzerland, the Moravian missionaries, and the Inuit Christian converts in Labrador are described. The role of the missionary journals, the annual collection of gifts for the missions, and, more specifically, the role of Jean-Louis Micheli, philanthropist and member of Eglise évangélique de Genève are considered. It will be shown that interactions between these varied elements have been instrumental in the development of a number of scientific fields, in particular: meteorology, climatology, and phenology, as well as ethnography, and that important contributions to these fields resulted. The Labrador origin of certain items in the collection of the Musée d’Ethnographie in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, whose provenance has appeared unclear, is suggested on the basis of these historical and cultural interactions between Labrador/Nunatsiavut, the missionaries, and the Moravian Brethren in French-speaking Switzerland.
Introduction The many names by which the Moravian Brethren were known reflect their activity in several countries. They were known as both the “Moravian Brethren” and the “Unity of the Brethren” in English, as l’Unité des Frères in French, as the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine or the Evangelische Brüder-Unität in German, as the Jednota Bratská in Czech and as the Unitas Fratrum in Latin. The Moravian Brethren are Protestant Christians with pre-reformation spiritual and intellectual origins that go back to the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus (ca. 1375–1415). Their name originates from the country of Moravia, from where, after their virtual extinction in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), Bohemian Hussite survivors migrated in the early 1700s to Saxony. Here, the charismatic Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf (1700–1760) gave them refuge. Zinzendorf was a religious and social reformer who helped to renew the Moravian Church. A Moravian colony soon took shape in the small German village that came to be called “Herrnhut” (Unter des Herrn Hut = under the watch of the Lord), not far from the present Czech and Polish borders. With the help and influence of the Count, a vast program of 333 foreign missions to the “heathen” was launched: the Caribbean (1732), Greenland (1733), Surinam (1735), South Africa (1737), as well as several other locations. It has been suggested that it was the pioneer of the Moravian Greenland mission, Matthäus Stach (1711–1787), who advocated missionary activity among the Inuit of the Labrador coast. However, it is more likely that it was Johann Christian Erhardt who first suggested an exploration in 1752 (Rollmann 2009). After several journeys of investiga1
tion, a first mission post was ultimately established at Nain in Labrador in the summer of 1771. Other stations followed rapidly. The contribution to various scientific fields by the Moravian missionaries in Labrador has been discussed by a number of authors. A few examples will serve to underline the significance of this contribution. In this regard, it may be noted that a European language dictionary of Inuktitut, the Inuit language, was published by the missionary Friedrich Erdmann (1810–1873) in 1864 (Inuktitut-German; Erdmann 1864). The first book specifically on Inuktitut grammar was written by the missionary Theodor Bourquin (1833–1914) in 1891 (Bourquin 1891, Nowak, 1999). Early botanical material provided by the missionaries Benjamin Gottlieb Kohlmeister (1756–1844) and Johann Georg Herzberg (1792–1864) was published by Pursh (1814) and Meyer (1830). See also Bravo (2007), on the subject of mission gardens during the period 1720 to 1820. Johann August Miertsching (1817–1875), who had been working as a Moravian missionary in Okak, Labrador, accompanied the expedition of Robert McClure on the Investigator from 1850 onwards as an Inuit language translator (Micheli 1857, Neatby 1967, Whiteley 1972). From the mideighteenth century onwards, the Moravian Brethren started to collect ethnographical objects from their foreign missions. These collections later formed the basis for ethnographical museums (Augustin 1997). An inventory of the meteorological observations of the Moravian missionaries in Labrador, and of the papers published in scientific journals based upon these observations, was recently made by Demarée and Ogilvie (2008).
Royal Meteorological Institute, Ringlaan 3, 1180 Brussels, Belgium. 2INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Campus Box 450, Boulder, CO 80309-0450, USA. 3Federal Statistical Office, Demography and Migration, Espace de l’Europe 10, CH2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland. *Corresponding author - [email protected]
History of the Moravian Brethren in “La Suisse romande” Count Zinzendorf’s forebears had aligned themselves with the Protestants during the Reformation. Here it may be noted that his grandparents were interested in Pietism, a movement within Lutheranism that placed emphasis on individual piety, and Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705), known as the “Father of Pietism”, was allegedly Zinzendorf’s godfather. Zinzendorf received his schooling among the Pietists at the Halle Paedagogium and, together with his friend Friedrich von Watteville, decided during this period to engage in foreign missions. Here it may also be said that the Pietists of Halle were the Protestant pioneers in such endeavours (H. Rollmann, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada, pers. comm.). Dissatisfied with the dogma of orthodox Lutheranism, Zinzendorf was himself much attracted to the ideals of pietism. He attended the University of Wittenberg from 1716 to 1719. As well as working to help the persecuted Moravians, Zinzendorf established contacts with Swiss piétistes and visited Switzerland several times. From 1739 onwards, Moravian societies (also named Sozietäten) were founded in the Swiss romande, the name for French-speaking Switzerland in the western part of the country. The Moravians thus established numerous friends and allies within the Swiss protestant environment. In this context, a boarding school for girls was founded in Montmirail as early as 1766, and another one for boys at Lausanne in 1837. The latter school was transferred to the castle of Prangins near Geneva and remained there from 1873 to 1920 (Reichel 1991, 1998–2009). Journal de l’Unité des Frères The Journal de l’Unité des Frères or “Journal of the Unity of the Brethren”, subtitled “Monthly Bulletin of the Moravian Missions”, was published (1836–1955) as a monthly bulletin by the Frenchspeaking Swiss Moravian community. In the early years of the existence of the journal, it was named Extraits des Journaux de l’Église de l’Unité des Frères, or “Extracts from the Journals of the Church of the Brethren’s Unity”, referring possibly to the origin of its contributions. The journal was founded by pastor Lindner from Basle in 1835 and was subsequently edited/published by J.-P. Michaud, librarian at Neuchâtel (1835–1837), and by Ballivet and Fabre at Nismes (1837–1840). The journal was then placed under the patronage of a group of Brethren (Auguste Delachaux) at Le Locle from 1840 until 1859, from which location it was moved to Peseux and Montmirail (J.-F. Kramer) in 1860. From 1864 onwards, it was edited by Pastor Reichel at Montmirail, and later at Peseux. A later editor was Pastor Ernest
Arved Senft at Peseux, who was active in the 1880s (Girardin 1982, Senft 1888). The focal point for assistance to the Moravian missions in Labrador was located at the headquarters of the French-speaking Moravian community in Montmirail. Pastor Reichel, mentioned above, helped the cause by giving lectures on the missionary work in Labrador (Dubois ca. 1895–1900; Reichel 1866a, 1866b, 1869, 1882). It was the Moravian missions specifically in Labrador that became a primary focus for the collecting of funds and gifts by the activists within the missions in French-speaking Switzerland. In this regard, it may be noted that a letter from the Moravian missionaries in Labrador had been published as early as in the first years of the publication of the journal (Lettre des missionnaires d’Okak, au Labrador, adressée aux directeurs de l’Institut de Montmirail. Okak, le 6 septembre 1836 – Extraits des Journaux de l’Eglise de l’Unité des Frères. Second Volume, N° 19, Janvier 1837, pp. 333–335). In the report from the mission post Hopedale in Labrador dealing with the ship-year 1822–1823, the missionaries express their thanks for the goods received: “The ship has also brought us, besides our usual needs, a very pleasant present from several of our foreign Brethren and Sisters, and friends from in and around Basel (Switzerland). This consisted of a considerable stock of dried fruits and was accompanied by a gracious letter” (Nachrichten aus der Brüder-Gemeine, 1824, Gnadau, Fünftes Heft, p. 741). It is clear that contact existed between the missionaries and their Inuit flock, and the Moravian community at Montmirail. This connection is proven by the insertion in the journal of letters from the Inuit Moravians to the Director, and to the girls of the school in Montmirail (e.g., a letter by a young girl [Elisabeth] of Nain in Labrador addressed to the pupils of the Institute of Montmirail, Switzerland, on August 16, 1837—Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 3e année, N° 35, mai 1838, p. 348). Similarly, a letter from a young Greenlandic boy (André) from Frederiksdal (Kujalleq) was addressed to the pupils at Montmirail (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 6e année, Février 1841, pp. 62–63). A letter written by Br. Carl Gottfried Albrecht, dated Okak 12 August 1862, expresses thanks to the missionary friends in French-speaking Switzerland: “The sympathy of our dear friends attesting to such kind manners with respect to our mission, excites us on the one hand to the warmest gratitude, and on the other hand, humbles us deeply. We have used part of the cash donation that our benefactors of Frenchspeaking Switzerland have sent us through your intervention in order to procure for our poor people reindeer skins which they use for beds; another part has been dedicated to food for widows, and to the
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relief of the sick” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 28e année, janvier 1863, pp. 31–34). A similar letter, dated Nain, August 24, 1862, was written by Br. Johann Traugott Vollprecht: “We thank you for the gifts that you have forwarded to us …” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 28e Année, janvier 1863, pp. 34–36). Every year a sale was organized by the Moravian community in French-speaking Switzerland in favor of the missions: “The annual sale in favour of the Moravian missions will take place at Le Locle, with the help of God, during the second week of December 1869. The friends of the missions willing to help this work are asked to address their parcels before 4 December to Mrs. Reichel at Montmirail, to Mrs. L. Reichel at Lausanne, Moravian Institute, or at Le Locle, either to Mrs Perret-Bréting, or to Mrs. V. Schütz, N° 135” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 34e année, N° 11, Novembre 1869, 3e couverture). Afterwards, the missionary journal communicated the result of the sale: “The sale and the lottery in favour of the missions that took part in December 1870 at Le Locle have produced an amount of 1750 francs. We sincerely thank our friends of the cantons of Neuchâtel, Vaud and Geneva for their cooperation. The Comité.” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 36e année, N° 2, Février 1871, 3e couverture). Residing on the shores of the Lac Léman (Lake of Geneva), several Christian families kept up a cor-
respondence with Brethren and Sister Moravians in Labrador, particularly when missionaries from French-speaking Switzerland went there on missionary work. An example is Marie Caroline Gysin (1842–1922), wife of Johann Heinrich Theodor Bourquin, who went to work in Labrador (1863– 1889). She wrote regarding her travel and arrival with the missionary ship Harmony in 1863 (see Fig. 1 for an image of the ship in the harbor at Nain): “When we were 7 miles from the coast the captain made fire two canon shots which were soon responded to by the canon from the shore. […] Goodbye! The Lord will be with you on the pleasant shore of the Lac Léman, and with us on the rocky and monotonous beaches of Labrador ...” (Cochin 1867). Jean-Louis Micheli and the Labrador Missions A leading figure in the context of the support to the Labrador missions of the Moravian Brethren was, without doubt, Jean-Louis Micheli (1812–1875), philanthropist and member of Eglise évangélique de Genève. Micheli was maire (mayor) of the commune of Jussy from 1842 to 1865. He was a member of the Société des missions évangéliques de Genève, where his activities placed him in frequent and cordial contacts with Professor Gautier (see the section below on the climatological observations). From March 1842, and for more than 20 years, he actively
Figure 1. Missions Moraves, Labrador, N° 1” printed at “Impr. Rotogravure S.A., Genève” showing the missionary ship Harmony in the harbor of the missionary station Nain, as stated on the back of the postcard.
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took part in the direction of the evangelical primary school of the Croix-d’Or, later on established in the rue des Chanoines. In particular, he tried to interest the pupils of the Sunday school and of the evangelical school in the missionary activities. In the school was a depository, in effect a small museum, of objects received from Labrador (Ruffet 1875, Naville 1877:104). Following a revival of interest in the missionary work, in the summer of 1845, Micheli was asked to make a presentation at the Casino in Geneva on a subject related to the missions. The presentation took place in January 1846 and was so successful that the Bibliothèque universelle de Genève accepted his text for publication (Micheli 1846). Micheli also regularly published on the topic of the Moravian missions in local and regional religious journals such as the Semaine réligieuse, Éducation chrétienne (Micheli 1860, 1869). He was also successful in capturing the interest of Augustin Cochin (1823–1872), a French politician and writer, prominent among the “Liberal Catholics”. At a meeting with Cochin and his family on the shore of the Lac Léman, Micheli communicated information from documents concerning the activities of the Moravian missionaries in Labrador. This information was subsequently used in a paper by Cochin that also discussed the presence of objects from Labrador at the Universal Exhibition in Paris of 1867 (Cochin 1867). He refers in his paper to the objects from Newfoundland, and particularly to Inuit carvings of walrus ivory (Group V, Class XLVI, Leather and Skins, Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867, pp. 341–344). Encouraged by the success of his presentation in Geneva in 1846, Micheli gave another one at the school with which he was associated. The children were said to have listened with great interest. Their curiosity and compassion aroused, they responded by bringing gifts of toys, colored images, and dried fruits, accompanied by letters, for the Inuit children in Labrador. The Headmistress of the Moravian Institute in Lausanne helped with the expedition of the gifts. In the autumn of 1847, she forwarded to Micheli a small parcel containing some objects in bone and straw, as well as letters that had arrived from Labrador. In this way, the correspondence between J.L. Micheli and the Moravian missionaries began, and every year a crate was sent with gifts for the Inuit. This exchange ended only with Micheli’s death (Ruffet 1875). However, that the activity on behalf of the missions in Labrador was continued after Micheli’s death may be seen from the following message: “We ask the friends of Labrador who would care to add any object to the shipment which we intend to assemble this year, to send their gift before 20 April, either to Mrs. J.-L. Micheli, Granges 12, Geneva, or to the editor of the Journal at Peseux,
near Neuchâtel ...” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 51e année, N° 3, mars 1886). The message was written on the back cover of the journal. Micheli’s activity was remembered by the Moravian community in French-speaking Switzerland as follows: “For more than twenty years, Mr. Jean-Louis Micheli corresponded with all stations of Labrador, sent them rich parcels, appealed in favour of the interest of his Christian friends, and was very fond of them because he had adopted them as his children; he shared their happiness and their sorrows, and he could write them in all honesty, like Paul to his children in faith: I do not stop to mention you in my prayers day and night. Alas! The Harmony will spread the mourning and sadness from Hopedale to Rama, by bringing the news of the departure of the one who has thought about his friends of Labrador until his deathbed” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 40e année, N° 6, juin 1875, pp. 187–188). The Arctic collections at the Musée d’Ethnographie at Neuchâtel The Arctic collections of the Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel, Switzerland, have been described by Csonka (1988). Among the collections from the eastern Arctic are a number of objects which may be related to the presence of the Moravian Brethren in French-speaking Switzerland. However, it appears that the catalogue of the Museum does not distinguish adequately between items from Greenland and those from Labrador (Kaehr 2008). Certain miniatures in the collection are likely to be originals from Labrador. These are registered as a gift from Louis de Coulon (1804–1894), Director of the communal museums in Neuchâtel from 1829 until his death in 1894. It is known that three miniatures were given to the collection by the Rev. Pierre-H. La Trobe (Csonka 1988:167). This person can be identified as Peter La Trobe (1795–1863), brother of Charles Joseph La Trobe (1801–1875). Their father was Christian Ignatius La Trobe (1758–1836). Peter La Trobe was secretary of the Moravian Church, and, as such, coordinated all Moravian activity in areas under British control (which included Labrador). Charles Joseph La Trobe was the first Superintendent of the Port Phillip District in Australia from 1839 to 1850 and became Colonial Administrator of the new colony of Victoria in 1851. He married Sophie de Montmollin, an aristocratic Swiss lady, in 1835. He was responsible for the development of, amongst other things, the public library, an art gallery and a university (now named after him, see http://www.latrobe.edu.au/ about/history). On 31 December 1852, he resigned his position in Victoria. However, two years passed before he was replaced by the Colonial Office in
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London. Meanwhile, his wife and three younger children were sent to Switzerland. There his wife died in Neuchâtel on 30 January 1854. La Trobe left Melbourne in May 1854 to return home. He subsequently desired to marry his sister-in-law, Rose-Isabelle de Meuron, widow of Louis-Auguste de Meuron, who had taken care of his children since the death of their mother. Under British law this marriage was prohibited, and he thus found himself embroiled in legal, civil, and religious difficulties. However, he decided nonetheless to marry Rose-Isabelle, and the wedding took place at Neuchâtel on 3 October 1855 (Reilly 2003a, b). The reason for this digression regarding Charles Joseph La Trobe is that the authors advance the hypothesis that his brother Peter La Trobe donated the three miniatures to the museum on an occasion related to the wedding. Other objects in the collection were acquired through a public sales auction entitled Vente du Labrador, held for the purpose of benefitting the Labrador missions of the Moravian Brethren. This sale took place on Thursday, 21 December 1871, at 10 o’clock in the morning at the rue du Pommier, no. 10, Neuchâtel, as was announced in the Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel et du Vignoble neuchâtelois, 20.12.1871, p. 5. Some of the objects still have prices attached to them (R. Kaehr, Curator [now retired], Musée d'ethnographie de Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1988 pers. comm. to Y. Csonka). An ethnic Labrador costume in the collection was bought in 1912 through the help of the Reverend Auguste Brindeau, editor of the Journal de l’Unité des Frères, from Berthold Lenz, Moravian missionary in Labrador (Csonka 1988:182). Auguste Samuel Brindeau (1859–1936) was editor of the Journal de l’Unité des Frères at Neuchâtel from 1904 onwards, while Berthold August Lenz (1873–1960) was a missionary in Labrador spending a year away in Kleinwelka (near Bautzen, Saxony) during 1911/12 (Dienerblätter, Unitätsarchiv, Neu Herrnhut). According to the registers of the Musée d’Ethnographie at Neuchâtel (Csonka 1988), certain objects donated by Louis de Coulon (and one by Eugène Sire) are given a Greenlandic origin. Csonka (1988) expresses doubts concerning their origin and, for ethnographical reasons, ascribes the origin most probably to Labrador. Given the direct and frequent interactions between the Labrador Moravian missions, and the communities of the Moravian Brethren in Frenchspeaking Switzerland as demonstrated in this paper, this hypothesis seems very plausible. Information regarding Climate, Meteorology and Phenology The comprehensive meteorological observations made by the Moravian missionaries in Labrador
have been described in detail by Demarée and Ogilvie (2008). In this section, the authors note climatic information regarding Labrador which has specific origins in Switzerland. Of particular interest is a group of three papers dealing with the climate of Labrador. The author is Jean-Alfred Gautier (1793–1881), mathematician and founder of the Geneva observatory. Gautier writes that he obtained the climatological information from Jean-Louis Micheli (see above). Gautier notes that Micheli maintained a long-term correspondence with the Moravian missionaries in Labrador, and “even with christened and civilized Eskimos” (Gautier 1870:135–136). This channel of communication was used by Gautier to send thermometers, styled in the texts as a “mechanic” (mécanicien) and made by a Mr. Maurer at the Geneva observatory, to the missions in Labrador. The meteorological records from the Moravian missions in Labrador forwarded to Gautier cover the period from September 1867 to July 1876, thus spanning a period of almost nine years. The derived monthly means of the meteorological observations were published by Gautier (1870, 1876, 1877). As noted above, starting in 1836, the Journal de l’Unité des Frères was published as a monthly bulletin by the French-speaking Swiss Moravian community. In the early volumes of the journal, there is some climatic information, but it is not extensive, and the source of the information is often not clear. In particular, it is difficult to distinguish between secondary climate descriptions that have been copied (with some delay) from other missionary journals, and those that were acquired through direct firsthand information from the Moravian missionaries in Labrador. However, by the end of the 1840s, more direct contact between the Moravian missionaries and the benefactors of the mission in Switzerland, and hence with the journal, was established, resulting in a better coverage of climate information. A note in the journal, published in 1870, announced a first publication by Gautier on the temperature in Labrador, and explains the channel for these observations: “Those among our readers who are interested in meteorological observations will be grateful for the following data concerning the Labrador coast. We owe them to the courtesy of Professor Gautier of Geneva who, three years ago, sent to our missionaries at Hopedale, and at Hebron, thermometers produced with care, and the necessary instructions to read them regularly twice or thrice a day. The results of these observations have been communicated, on 7 April , by Professor Gautier to the Society of Physics and natural Sciences of Geneva, in a detailed note […]. Let us first say that the thermometers have a centennial scale and that the means indicated are only yet approximate, given
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the small number of observation years” (Journal de l’Unité des Frères, 35e année, N° 9, septembre 1870, pp. 280–282). In 1875, Professor Gautier corresponded with Cleveland Abbe (1838–1916), an American meteorologist, who had a duplicate manuscript with the original observations (1776–1784) by Moravian missionaries in Labrador in his possession. It is known that Abbe wished to compare his observations with those belonging to Gautier (Gautier, ms.). Despite an extensive search, it is not known at present where either Gautier’s or Abbe’s manuscript concerning Labrador meteorological observations are located. However, there are certain weather observation reports in the Unity Archives in Herrnhut. On such reports, see also Macpherson 1987, Chenowith 1996, and Demarée and Ogilvie 2008. Other items containing climate information include an early missionary journal that was edited by the Basler Mission (Gazette des Missions évangéliques 1828), and the Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Geneva, which contains two anonymous contributions (Anonymous 1860, 1862) with fragmentary climatological information on Labrador. These data undoubtedly derive from a member of the newly created society who was in correspondence with the missions in Labrador. It may be assumed that J.L. Micheli is connected with these observations. Conclusions It is clear that there were numerous and extensive interactions between the Moravians of Frenchspeaking Switzerland on the one hand, and the Moravian missionaries in Labrador on the other. In these communications, the voice of the Inuit is faint compared with that of the other parties. However, it may be heard more loudly and articulately in the objects to be found in the museum collections. Along with the missionary work undertaken in Labrador, the interactions between very different cultures did have the effect of adding to scientific contributions in the fields of meteorology, climatology, and ethnography. Furthermore, there is sufficient historical evidence to attribute a Labrador origin to several items in the Musée d’Ethnographie at Neuchâtel that had been registered as being from Greenland. It would be highly desirable to deepen these findings. Acknowledgments Astrid Ogilvie and Gaston Demarée gratefully acknowledge: US National Science Foundation grants 0629500, 0638897, 0902134; the European Science Foundation BOREAS programme; and the assistance of the Universitätsarchiv, Herrnhut, Germany. They also thank the anonymous reviewers and Professor Hans Rollmann, for extremely useful criticisms of the paper.
29 Literature Cited
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