Jones, Peter

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Jones, Peter

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1802-1856

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Peter Jones, known in Ojibwa as Kahkewaquonaby, meaning “sacred feathers” or “sacred waving feathers”; also known as Desagondensta, in Mohawk, signifying “he stands people on their feet”, was a Mississauga Ojibwa chief, a member of the eagle totem, a farmer, a Methodist minister, an author, and a translator. He was born at Burlington Heights (Hamilton), Upper Canada, the son of Augustus Jones and Tuhbenahneequay. He married Eliza Field in 1833, and they had five sons, four of whom survived infancy. He died near Brantford, Upper Canada.

Jones lived among the Mississauga people, then among the Mohawk on the Grand River. At the age of fourteen his father sent him to school in a Saltfleet township, where he became known as Peter Jones. He was baptized at the age of eighteen, but by his own account, not converted until 1823. He taught Sunday School and preached occasionally. In 1825 he was invited by William Case to work as a Methodist, and was asked to keep a journal of his travels. He became the first Canadian native to keep a journal, the first native missionary to be appointed to serve the Ojibwa and, with his brother John, the first translator of Biblical literature into such native tongues as Ojibwa and Chippewa. He was responsible for the establishment of a native mission on the Credit River in 1825. He was received on trial for ministry in 1827, became a deacon in 1830, and an elder in 1833. He was elected chief of two Ojibwa bands. In 1831, Jones traveled to England on behalf of the Methodist Conference to raise funds for Indian missions, and also to represent native causes to British authorities. He preached in Methodist churches throughout Britain, arranged to have translations of the New Testament published, and was presented to King William IV. He was received by Queen Victoria in 1837 and delivered a petition from the Ojibwa requesting the title to Indian lands. In 1844 he was compelled to accept supernumerary status due to poor health. He continued to travel in Britain and France gathering funds for Indian missions. He also worked among the native people at Muncey and New Credit. After 1850 he was forced to retire by poor health. He built a home in Brantford with his wife, where he lived until his death. Eliza Jones later married again and was known as Eliza Carey.

Jones’ publications include: Removal of the River Credit Indians, an article in the Christian Guardian, concerning the relocation of his tribe (1848), The sermon and Speeches of the Rev. Peter Jones, alias, Kah-ke-wa-quon-a-by, the Converted Indian Chief, delivered on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, for the Leeds District (1831). His translations include: The First Book of Moses, called Genesis (1835) and A Collection of Chippeway and English hymns, for the use of the native Indians (1840). His Life and Journals of Kah-ke-wa-quo-nā-by (Rev. Peter Jones), Wesleyan Missionary (1860), and History of the Ojibway Indians: with especial reference to their conversion to Christianity (1861, editor: Eliza Jones) were published posthumously.

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. VIII, 1851 to 1860 / Francess G. Halpenny. – / Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

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Victoria University Library - Special Collections

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