Uncommon Bonds - Labrador Inuit and Moravian Missionaries

Uncommon Bonds: Labrador Inuit and Moravian Missionaries is a three year partnership between the Nunatsiavut Government, Moravian Archives (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), Moravian Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University Libraries and the National Heritage Digitization Strategy focussing on the digitization and digital return of nearly 60,000 pages of archival resources concerning Labrador Inuit. The bulk of resources digitized during this project are arranged and described in the Labrador Mission Stations (MissLabr) record group at the Moravian Archives (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania).

Since the middle of the eighteenth century the Moravian Church has been engaged in missionary activity among the Inuit of northern Labrador. In 1771 the first Mission station was founded at Nain, which remained the headquarters for the Labrador Mission until after World War II. The main impulse for the missionary venture came from the Moravian Church [Brethren] in Germany and in England. The former provided the bulk of the personnel; the latter, through their missionary agency, the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, were chiefly responsible for the financing and supply of the Mission. It was also the Moravians in England who secured from the British Crown the necessary land grants for the Mission settlements. Following the settlement at Nain, other Mission stations were founded at Okak in 1776 and at Hopedale in 1782, to the north and south of Nain respectively. In the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries further Mission posts were established on the Coast of Labrador, extending from Makkovik in the south, near Hamilton Inlet, to Killinek, close to Cape Chidley in the north. At the present day the Moravians still maintain four Mission stations - Nain, Hopedale and Makkovik on the Coast, and an interior Mission at Happy Valley, near Goose Bay, where the Superintendent of the Labrador Province is now stationed.

The records of the Moravian mission in Labrador essentially cover the period from 1770 to the twentieth century. They are comprised in large part of the incoming and outgoing correspondence of the various mission stations, both correspondence to and from Europe, and intra-Labrador correspondence. In addition, there exist for some stations valuable diaries and annual reports, which chronicle life at the mission throughout the year. Other items of special importance are the church registers (only on microfilm) and the yearly accounts of goods ordered from Europe and goods shipped to Europe. The Moravian Church operated trading stores in conjunction with its mission work until 1926. Most of the Moravian records relate to the mission stations of Nain, Hopedale, and Hebron. The documents are generally in German, although some of the earliest and latest records are in English.

CLIRThe Uncommon Bonds project is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.