Belcourt, George Anthony

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Missionary; b. Quebec, Canada, April 22, 1803; d. Magdalen Islands, May 31, 1874. He was born of French parents. After attending the Petit Seminaire of Nicolet, Canada, he was ordained on March 10, 1827, and assigned to parish work in the District of Montreal. Four years later he accompanied Bp. Joseph Provencher to the Winnipeg-St. Boniface area, where they labored together for 17 years. Learning the native language, Belcourt compiled a Native North American dictionary and endeavored to make settled agriculturists out of the nomadic native hunters. There were frequent misunderstandings with Provencher, who could not agree that a priest should teach farming along with Christianity. When Hudson's Bay Company officials also expressed their disapproval, Belcourt was recalled to Quebec in 1848. The following year he was sent by Bp. Mathias Loras to Pembina in North Dakota. There among the native Americans he taught catechism, started schools, erected buildings, encouraged agriculture, and even accompanied them on buffalo hunts. But Belcourt again found himself unable to work successfully with other priests, and he was forced to leave the diocese in 1859. The sisters he had founded were disbanded, his buildings were neglected, and his settlement at St. Joseph (Walhalla) failed to prosper. He spent his remaining years in parishes on Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands, where he lived in retirement until his death.

Bibliography: j. m. reardon, George Anthony Belcourt: Pioneer Catholic Missionary of the Northwest (St. Paul 1955).

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