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Until he was about nine, Henry Bird Steinhauer was an Ojibwe—born
around 1820, in the area of Lake Simcoe, and probably named Sowengisik.
In 1828, he was baptized into the Christian faith, and his life
changed. In 1855, he traveled to London to be ordained and was then
posted to Alberta. There, he founded a mission at Whitefish Lake, which
would become his life’s work. But Steinhauer did not forget his
Aboriginal roots. He was troubled by what he described as the
“blighting and benighting” presence of white settlers in
the Northwest and by the fact that Aboriginal peoples were under
pressure to surrender their independence and their land. Although he
never renounced his Christian faith, in 1875 he severed his official
connections to the Missionary Society and increasingly asserted his
Aboriginal identity, acting as a political advisor to the peoples in
and around Whitefish Lake. The Praying Man—the first
full-length biography of Steinhauer—explores the tensions
inherent in the life of someone who owes allegiance to two cultures,
one of which seeks to dominate the other.
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