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Venerable Archdeacon S. H. Middleton

B.Sc., E.D., C.St.J., F.R.E.S., D.D

1884 - 1965
"Chief Mountain Country" pages 189 - 191

Without fear of contradiction, it can be stated that Venerable Archdeacon Middleton did more to lift up, civilize, educate and understand the local native popula- tion and to cultivate a good relationship between Indians and Whites in this vicinity than any man in our history.

The St. Paul's Anglican Church, which he headed in this parish, began its work with the Blood Indian Band in 1880 under Rev. S. Trivett. At that time a ration dis- tribution point was established by the government on the river north of Belly Buttes. Hundreds of angry, hungry Indians had abandoned their Treaty 7 reservation north of the Bow River and returned to Fort Macleod after the last buffalo were gone.

At first Rev. Trivett lived in a sod shanty with a dirt floor, but when it became apparent that Red Crow and his band would be staying, a church-school was built on the opposite side of the river from the large Indian en- campment and Lower Agency.

Thirteen years later the Roman Catholic Church, which had started their mission in 1889, got a similar school built at Standoff, and also a government hospital there to be administered by the Grey Nuns.

Not far from the Anglican school, which was by then under the direction of Bishop Pinkham, the Methodists also got a church-school established in connection with their mission. The latter did not stay long or even return, for reasons best explained years later by Canon Middleton as follows:

"During the early 1890's John McDougall (Methodist), Father Lacombe (Roman Catholic) and Bishop Pinkham (Anglican) all unwittingly met with each other when they paid a visit to their respective mis- sions on the Blood Reserve.

The old Macleod Hotel formed the rendezvous for these three prelates, awaiting the stagecoach to Calgary. Each began discussing his recent itinerary-and John McDougall expressed much dissatisfaction with the con- dition of his Methodist mission. Bishop Pinkham listened patiently, as was his manner, to the criticism made by his colleague. Turning to the Rev. John, he exclaimed; "Judging from your statements, you are by no means satisfied with the results from your own mission station amongst the Bloods. Your headquarters are too close to ours. I would suggest that you vacate your present posi- tion, and I will buy you out-lock, stock and barrel- for a thousand dollars." Mr. McDougall offered his hand and said: "Bishop, I accept your offer."

Then the godly triumvirate of missionary pioneers made a solemn pact, that on the southern reserves the Methodists would no longer pursue their energies, but would confine their ministrations to the north, and leave the south entirely to the Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

Those three stalwart gentlemen of the old school shook hands on the covenant made which, to this day has never been broken. A short time later they departed on the stagecoach for Calgary, little dreaming that their chance meeting had made history."

Though the Anglicans got established with their In- dian Mission School well ahead of the others, little real progress was made under Rev. Trivett's first three successors. But after the arrival of Rev. S. H. Middleton in 1909, things began to change. Being a great athlete and fine physical specimen, he quickly won the admiration of the Indians. More important, he set out at once to learn the Blackfoot language-not just a working knowledge but the ability to speak it as fluently and well as any Blood Indians. To do this he set aside all other duties for months to mingle in the camps and sit in the teepees listening to the old people tell stories of the past. It was a complete immersion course and with a brilliant, trained mind the project was a complete success. He also became a widely recognized authority on native history and culture, and won worshipful admiration from many, both Indians and Whites.

Anglican mission headquarters for the reserve, where Rev. Middleton came to begin his ministry, had in 1885 been moved up-stream about five miles to the Big Island in the Belly River. Here a school for Indian girls had also been established, with an attractive young lady mis- sionary teacher in charge since 1905. Her name was Catherine Underwood until changed in 1912 to Mrs. Middleton. To this union four children were born: Charlie (now deceased), Sophie (Mrs. Doug Allison of Waterton), Verdun (presently in Pennsvlvania) and Madeline (died in infancy). Catherine, who had learned the Blackfoot language before her husband, would be of great help to him as they travelled among the Indian camps. At three of the main camps, Bullshields, Red Crow, and Bull Horn regular church services were held.

By 1920 Rev. Middleton had organized a school cadet corps which would long be famous for its efficiency.

After the opening of the large St. Paul's residential school in 1924, he closed the one room schools at the camps and presided over this new institution. There was an enrollment of about 150 students, from which came much of the leadership on the reserve in later years. In 1924 he was made Honorary Canon of the Cathedral, and twenty years later was appointed to the position of Archdeacon. His energy and versatility amazed all who knew him. When the writer was with a party that climbed Mt. Cleveland in 1923 there were then but 14 names registered at the summit. Rev. S. H. Middleton was one of them.

He personally supervised construction of a beautiful little church near the St. Paul's school. That church was in recent years moved to its present location east of the Blood Indian Hospital. His Indian brass bands thrilled many an audience and often participated in parades, par- ticularly in Cardston and Lethbridge. The numerous sports events he continuously organized at the school produced a fine crop of athletes. Busy as he was with his job as principal of the school and head of the church, he gave a tremendous amount of public service to the com- munity and district. In 1929 he helped organize the Cardston Rotary Club, and was a charter member of it. He became its president in 1931 and later, through that organization, he and J. S. Low promoted the establish- ment of the now famous Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and published a small booklet about it.

His more famous publications include "History and Legends of Indians", "Lives of Indian Chiefs", "History of the Sun Dance", and "Kootenai Brown and Waterton Park." His reputation as writer, teacher and speaker was widespread. Among the papers now in possession of Sophie Middleton Allison are letters offering him high and lucrative positions, which he quietly turned down without mentioning the matter even to his immediate family. Confident that his calling from God was to help the Indians, he devoted his life to the cause until his health broke after forty years in that mission. His scholarly works as a journalist and author are still recognized as among the best of the reference materials available for native studies. His greatest loves were his church, the Indian people, athletics, and the beauties of nature.

Though a staunch and learned defender of his faith who held a very high position, he kept "the common touch" and never at any time would display a "holier- than-thou" attitude. In fact, the Venerable S. H. Middleton, though a dedicated missionary, would have defended with his last breath the right of any man to worship God according to the dictates of his own con sclence.

Thus he won the love and respect of all who knew him regardless of creed or color. A cherished heirloom Sophie would not part with is a letter from President Edward J Wood, dated July 18, 1935 in which he offers his long time close friend Canon Middleton free use of the L.D.S Tabernacle "whenever you wish" and adds "It is a good thing to dwell together in peace and good fellowship."

That year, too, the Canon received an award from King George V. But even above that he always prized the honor bestowed and the name chosen for him by th Bloods when they made him an honorary chieftain. The name was an ultimate superlative reserved for only the highest, be it mountain or man: "Nin Nase Tok Que."

His retirement in 1951, due to ill health, was truly, a great loss for the community at large as well as for his church and family.

He lies buried beside his wife in Waterton, where one of the three beautiful little churches he built still stands as a monument to his memory.

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Mary Tollestrup