a handful of conscientious objectors served as teachers in northern
Manitoba. Other teachers were either needed in their home communities
or, in the early years of the war, stripped of their teaching permits.
|Children at the Rosenhof school in 1931
||Going to school at Miami, Manitoba 1946
United Church, a large Canadian church, had established schools
and churches in many Native areas. Because these areas were isolated
often in northern Canada far away from any city working there
required dedication. Often, United Church ministers in these small
northern communities also taught school. When the Second World War
started, many of the United Church ministers volunteered to serve
in the army. Mennonite COs were among those recruited to take the
place of these ministers.
At times there was no school building and pupils need to be recruited.
Listen to Henry Gerbrandt tell of his experience.
Groening was one the teachers asked to go up north.
summer 1944 I was given a choice to return to forestry work or
go to teach on an Indian Reservation at Norway House. Seeing it
as an opportunity to broaden my experience, I opted to teach at
the Indian School. Nettie and I decided to get married so she
could join me. We were married August 13, 1944 and two weeks later
we were on our way to Norway House. I was to be the senior teacher
and Nettie would assist with children at the residential school.
Learning to know the Native people was a very good experience.
I was deeply impressed by some of their elders. The schools, however,
left much to be desired no records of previous work and no supervisor
or inspector to check up on our work. I often wished there would
have been someone to ask how to do things.
was disappointed in how the organized church and the Department
of Indian Affairs viewed the Native people. They were treated
like possessions and seemingly had no say in what was done. I
felt that the Native people should have had more say about their
education and welfare system, as well as more control of the justice
system. Taking young six to eight-year-olds out of their homes
for a whole year was very painful, since these children felt extremely
time in Norway House changed him forever.
retrospect, I gained a deep respect and love for our Native people.
For this reason, I served as chairman of the Mennonite Pioneer
Mission Board, later known as Native Ministries Board, for 12
years. We worked to improve teaching and health care, and at Paungassi,
helped build new homes for the entire settlement. [ASP,
Gerbrandt also served in northern Manitoba. He agrees that
the time spent in northern service had many positive effects.
believe it was [a good Christian witness]. Because of our work,
in all we were twenty-seven young men in this northern service,
the Mennonite Church began its northern mission work. Through
it also we bridged many gaps to the United and the Catholic churches.
As COs we worked with these groups. I visited the Catholic activities
and they did mine. I still find that some of those connections
have been good.
CO stand was not popular. The overall effect may have been positive,
but he had to endure some harassment along the way.
had more trouble getting my permit to teach as a conscientious
objector than I had getting that status [as a CO]. During my first
year I had no restrictions. During the second year I paid Red
Cross money, and the United Church, under whose umbrella I taught,
was very suspicious. I possibly endured more persecution from
co-ministers, teachers and doctors in the north than from official
used strange tactics. It was always rumored that I had German
connections. The Indians even believed a story that a German U-boat
had come up the Nelson River to get instructions from me. I received
a letter from the United Church Head Office that unless I discontinued
my German activities they would have to release me. This puzzled
me. Finally the source was discovered. A doctor, school principal,
and a minister had spread the stories to get rid of us. When the
United Church Head Office discovered the plot they forced these
men to come and apologize and kill the rumours on threat of being
dismissed. [MHC, 1015-4]
to Henry Gerbrandt tell of the accusations against him.
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