By Jessica Zutz
Located on the NW shores of Pigeon Lake is Rundle’s Mission, a meeting place for many people over the course of its 175-year history. The site continues to be a meeting place for new generations and is finding ways to engage youth in living history, thanks in part to a Mission Transition grant from the Alberta and Northwest (ANW) Conference.
Today, Rundle’s Mission Society maintains and interprets the 23-acre Rundle’s Mission Historic Site, collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the Pigeon Lake area. The Society provides public programming, tours, presentations and education programs for students. Beautiful retreat accommodations are also offered, including a lodge, guesthouses and access to the lakeshore.
In 1840, British Methodist Missionary Rev. Robert Rundle arrived in western Canada at the request of the Hudson Bay Company. After living and working in the area, Rundle and Interpreter/Colleague Benjamin Sinclair selected a site in the Pigeon Lake area and the Mission was established in 1847. Rundle injured his arm falling from a horse and when his injury did not heal, he returned to England. A number of missionaries occupied the site intermittently over the next 50 years. n 1906 the mission closed and the land was subdivided and homesteaded. In the early 1950s, United Church minister Rev. Dr. Gerald Hutchinson moved to the area. Curious as to why the area was referred to as “Mission Beach,” Hutchinson began investigating and interviewing local seniors to discover the area’s significance. In 1965 the site was formally recognized as a National Historic Monument. In 1997 the Benjamin and Margaret Sinclair Alberta Historic site was established, featuring an outdoor living museum with 15 information panels that tell the story of Rundle’s Mission and area.
In 2013, Rundle’s Mission Society received a Mission Transition grant from the ANW Conference for the development of the Society’s school programs. Colleen Lomas, Manager of Rundle’s Mission Society, says the grant has helped to strengthen youth outreach programs and raise awareness about Rundle’s Mission. A significant impact of the grant is the removal of barriers to participation that some schools were experiencing. With the help of grant funds, school transportation costs to the site are subsidized and students are given the opportunity to experience the historic site first-hand. School programs at the Rundle’s Mission Historic Site follow grade four and grade seven Alberta Social Studies curriculum and teach students about the local history and community knowledge of the area. Lomas explains that grade four students have the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a child at Pigeon Lake in the 1850s. During the students’ visit they tour the site, try bannock, learn about Rundle and Chief Maskepetoon, examine artifacts, play games and hear stories about the area. Since receiving the grant, Rundle’s Mission has welcomed 72 children to the site.
Lomas says that grant funds have also assisted with the development of Rundle’s Mission classroom outreach programs. These programs bring the Mission’s history directly to Central Alberta students, filling classrooms with stories of life in the 1850’s through fun and interactive presentations. The funds have also supported re-printing of the Mission’s historical books and they have been donated to local libraries and schools as part of the Mission’s educational outreach.
Rundle’s Mission is embracing new opportunities to enhance the future of the site and the Society’s stewardship of local history. The Society has recently launched a new Facebook page and is developing a new website expected to debut in January. The Society is also planning a 2016 Historical Seminar, gathering experts to discuss the future of Rundle’s Mission. Rundle’s Mission Society encourages you to learn more about Rev. Rundle and the historical Mission site on their website and Lomas invites you to come visit and experience the history of the site in person.
The enhancement of educational youth programs at Rundle’s Mission was made possible by donations to the United Church of Canada’s Mission and Service Fund. To contribute to the work of the Mission and Service Fund, please visit the ANW Conference site.