William Duncan

Duncan's ideas and methods were widely imitated and he received international recognition.


Duncan, William

  William Duncan, lay missionary to the TSIMSHIAN (b at Bishop Burton, Eng 1832; d in Alaska 30 Aug 1918). Trained as a schoolmaster by the Church Missionary Society, Duncan came in 1858 to Fort Simpson, British Columbia. In 1862, during a devastating smallpox epidemic, he led several hundred natives to METLAKATLA PASS SITES, an ancestral Tsimshian village. Following in part the native church policy of Henry Venn, Secretary of CMS, he created a utopian Christian Indian settlement whose success and material prosperity attracted the Northwest Coast Indians.

Duncan's ideas and methods were widely imitated and he received international recognition. But the division within the Anglican Church at Victoria brought a new bishop to Metlakatla, who challenged Duncan's authority, his reluctance to offer communion to converts and his emphasis on secular progress. A bitter schism divided the village and in 1887 Duncan and many Tsimshian created a second and independent Christian utopia at New Metlakatla, Annette Island, Alaska.


Further Reading

  • P. Murray, The Devil and Mr. Duncan (1985); J. Usher, William Duncan of Metlakatla (1976).