The Nativity mission near Fort Chipewyan, situated at about 6oo kilometres north of Île-à-la-Crosse, was founded by Father Henri Faraud in 1849. It was he who built the house and the chapel inaugurated on September 8, 1851. The place had been visited by Father Alexandre Taché in 1847 and for a few months in 1848-1849. Father Faraud remained there for about fifteen years. He was alone in 1849, then there were other priests and brothers, and especially Fathers Henri Grollier, Vital Grandin and Isidore Clut who arrived in that order in 1852, 1855 and 1857.
On May 13, 1862, the districts of Athabaska and Mackenzie were established as an apostolic vicariate (mission vicariate in 1864) with Father Faraud appointed as Vicar apostolic. He was ordained titular Bishop of Anemour on November 30, 1863. The ordination took place in Viviers in France. On August 15, 1867 he ordained Father Isodore as his auxiliary bishop with the title of Arindèle. That ordination took place in the mission of the Nativity. Bishop Faraud established his residence at Lake La Biche and Bishop Clut remained at Nativity. In 1901 the Nativity became part of the Athabaska mission and in 1927 of Mackenzie. In 1985 it was incorporated into Grandin Province.
The mission was visited by hundreds of Montagnais and Cree Indians. In his report to the general chapter of 1879 Bishop Clut wrote: “These Amerindians are generally good Christians. There is not even one pagan among them and that is true for a long time.” Father Faraud and his collaborators visited several outposts and some of these were some hundreds of kilometres distant: Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Fort MacMurray, Notre-Dame des Sept-Douleurs in Fond-du-Lac, Saint-Henri in Fort Vermilion, Saint-Andre in Fort Dunvegan, Saint-Isodore in Fort Smith, etc.
The Sisters of Charity from Montreal opened a boarding school. A new church was built in 1910. The mission had a printing press with syllabic letters, a sawmill and a workshop for boat building.
Some of the priests and brothers remained many years there: Father Alfred Chambeuil from 1893 to 1923, Bishop Célestin Joussard from 1916-1927, Brothers Hermas Charbonneau, François-Marie Hémon from 1860 to 1936, Louis Crenn from 1902 to 1969, that is for 67 years.
The mission celebrated its centenary in 1947. Commemorating the occasion, we find the following in Missions OMI: “Seeing the mission today, the house of the missionaries, the school, the Romanesque church and all the outbuildings, we cannot imagine the years of poverty that went before. The work is still maintained but with much sacrifice.” The Oblates left in 2006.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.