Speaker Series Recap – The Beillevaire Letters (1879-1937)

On Tuesday, February 23, EDHS hosted a virtual Speaker Series presentation, The Beillevaire Letters (1879-1937). Dr. Juliette Champagne introduced an online audience of more than 70 to the letters of Father Hippolyte Beillevaire, a French priest who arrived in the Canadian North-West in 1880. He remained in Canada all his life, working with Indigenous people at Bear Hills, near Maskwacis, with the Métis along the Battle River, and as a beloved itinerant priest.  

Dr. Champagne is studying a collection of Beillevaire’s letters with a view to publishing them with English translations. She characterized his dispatches as “the most descriptive” of missionary letters of the time, with a wealth of detail on animals, winter clothing, travel, prairie fires, and the hopes and tragic human disruptions of the settlement period. The character of Beillevaire came through as Champagne detailed such mishaps as the time he tapped out his pipe while travelling by sleigh and set his fur coat on fire. Also, in his failure to impress Bishop Grandin, who led the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and had recruited Beillevaire, as Oblate material. Grandin’s opinion that Beillevaire wouldn’t cut it rested in part on an occasion where Beillevaire, an avid duck hunter, roasted his quarry over an open fire and enjoyed it thoroughly – on a day he should have been fasting.

The presentation gave an intriguing taste of things to come and we look forward to the products of Dr. Champagne’s labours.

Our next online Speaker Series presentation will be Tuesday, March 23. Amber Paquette will share reflections on her first term as the City of Edmonton’s Historian Laureate. To register for this free presentation, please check our website closer to the date.